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The current Lionel Bart tunefest, "Oliver," was Barry Kaplan's choice for the 1964 Senior Show. This marked the first time in five summers at Ranger, that Director Kaplan picked a show that was on Broadway at the time of its presentation here. The enthusiastic response given to the play was a tribute to Barry's judgment.
"Oliver" is the second musical this summer to come out of an earlier literary work. Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew" provided the background for "Kiss Me Kate," while Dickens' immortal "Oliver Twist" was the source of this latter show. Revolving about the character of Oliver, a young orphan boy, the story follows these tribulations en route to finding security and love. It is mixed with sadness, spice, and a conclusion that is satisfying and credible. In brief, the tale is this:

Oliver is one of a group of orphans who live in Mr. Bumble's workhouse. When he sees that the boy is too much of an upstart, thereby dangerous to the organization of the workhouse, Mr. Bumble sends Oliver away to find a new life. Oliver soon comes upon the Artful Dodger, one of a group of boys who have come under the tutelage of an accomplished pick pocket called Fagin. Oliver quickly becomes part of the group. He subsequently joins the boys on a thieving expedition into London. There he is captured, been released and put into the custody of a rich old man. Fagin and the boys then plot to kidnap Oliver from the home of the elderly gentleman. The London police, however, discover the plot and prevent its execution. Oliver remains with the old man. He is finally safe and at the end of his search.

The characters in "Oliver" are usually difficult to portray. Nevertheless, it was the exceptionally high caliber of acting that stood out. Louis Shrier made a very fiendish and a very convincing Fagin, while Sue Malmet nearly brought the audience to its feet with her performance as Nancy, the bar maid who sticks with Fagin, the boys, and Bill Sikes, played well by Steve Lang. Richie Smallman's Dodger was very enjoyable, as was Joel Kramer's Oliver. On the musical side, Lionel Bart's highly appealing score, coupled with fine singing, edit immensely to the show. Especially noteworthy were: "Its a Fine Life", "Who Will Buy", "As Long as He Needs Me", and "Consider Yourself". As usual, Howie Greenberg's backdrop was convincing and did much to preserve the plays atmosphere.

If there were any major lacking in Oliver, it was the partial over shadowing of the story by a rapid and continuous succession of songs. Nevertheless, there are very few who would deny the entertainment and the theatrical heights that "Oliver" brought to Ranger.

Ira Liebowitz