The Lyric Theatre production of “Oliver! The Musical” opens tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Brownwood.
The classic musical, based on the Charles Dickens novel “Oliver Twist,” will run Friday, Saturday and Sunday through July 16. The story follows young Oliver Twist (Carson Hill), an orphan boy in England who is sold from his workhouse when he has the audacity to ask for more food. Twist walks to London and falls in with a group of pickpockets and thieves, led by the Artful Dodger (Cristopher Freeland) and the scheming Fagin (Austin Bynum).
Featuring classic tunes like “Food, Glorious Food,” “Where is Love?” and “Consider Yourself,” the musical features a cast of 46 actors and was directed by Howard Payne theatre department head Dr. Nancy Jo Humfeld.
“To put 46 cast members on stage, especially a stage our size, is really a prodigious task,” Humfeld said.
The “Oliver!” cast gave a preview performance on Thursday evening for local first responders. “They are really ready for an audience,” Humfeld said. “There’s just a lot of fun, fun music and neat characters and so forth. It’s a little dark — you expect Charles Dickens to be a little dark — but it is redemptive. That’s a really nice aspect of the show.”
Humfeld had high praise for Hill and his performance as the titular Oliver. “He is a brilliant young man, but he’s also extremely talented and very sweet to work with,” she said.
She said the biggest challenge of working with such a large ensemble is getting them all together at once — in fact, Thursday marked the first time that all 46 cast members graced the stage at once. “It’s the biggest challenge. You have all of the end-of-year school stuff, church stuff, camp, vacation — everything in the world can interfere with rehearsal.”
“To me, that’s part of community theater,” said Lyric managing director Eric Evans. “You’ve got a variety of people who come from a variety of backgrounds, but they’ve come together to create one of the best ensembles we’ve ever put together here.
“I’m exceptionally pleased with them. There’s so many new people on stage this weekend, and it’s exciting,” Evans said.
The “Oliver!” cast also features Caleb Freeland, Connor Freeland, Judah Hamilton, Sam Harvey, Michael McNeely, Roman Mills, Isaac Moreno, Drew Reynolds, Kaedon Robertson, Braeden Terry and James Williams as Workhouse Boys; Megan Bynum, Emily Haynes, Carlee Richardson and Sandra Richardson as Workhouse Assistants; James Hamilton, Stephen Haynes, Derek Smith and Nicholas Yeakley as Governors; Jeff Woods as Mr. Bumble; Shannon Lee as Widow Corney; Jen Williams Evetts as the Matron; Keith Taylor as Mr. Sowerberry; Billie Harvey as Mrs. Sowerberry; Kenedi Deal as Charlotte; Josh Lawson as Noah; Jennifer Reeves as Nancy; McKenna Towell as Bet; Doug House as Mr. Brownlow; Terry Cantrell as the Tavernkeeper; Priscilla Monson as Mrs. Bedwin; Niki Brown as the Milkmaid; Ben Cox as Dr. Grimwig; Ashton Jones as the Maid; Alex Dobson as the Boy; Caitlyn Tidwell as Old Sally; and Tarry Cantwell and Megan Bynum as Bow Street Runners.
Performances are Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. through July 16. Tickets are available online at www.brownwoodlyrictheatre.com.