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On Theater: Dickens tale comes to playhouse

If January is just around the corner, you can bet the farm that the Huntington Beach Playhouse is assembling a musical to start its new season. You can likewise wager that Larry Watts will be directing it and Adriana Sanchez will be singing.

Last January, the playhouse inaugurated the 2010 season with “Gypsy,” and the year before saw “The Sound of Music” setting the pace — both shows helmed by Watts and featuring the golden voice of Sanchez in the central role. Back in 2007, Watts directed “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” sans Sanchez, to start the season.

Comes now “Oliver!”, Lionel Bart’s musical adaptation of the vintage Charles Dickens novel “Oliver Twist,” the movie version of which won the Best Picture Oscar in 1968. The show opens Jan. 7 and will play through Jan. 30.

The title character, whose request for “more” gets him into a big jam, will be portrayed by young Austin Kelly, with Daniel Zimmerman playing his buddy and tutor in the art of pickpocketry, the Artful Dodger. Both report to Fagin, a wily conniver who’ll be enacted in Huntington Beach by Stefan Berglund.


Brian McFadden takes on the role of Bill Sikes, one of Dickens’ nastiest characters, while his soft-hearted girlfriend Nancy — who sings the memorable “As Long as He Needs Me” — will be played by Sanchez.

Other featured roles in “Oliver!” will be played by Gavin Quan (Bumble), Jessica Schlenz (Widow Corney), John Francis (Mr. Sowerberry), Mary Hall (Mrs. Sowerberry), Mark Berglund (Noah Claypole), Lauren Cicerone (Charlotte) and Jeanean Naqvi (Bet).

Many theaters would double-cast Fagin’s young proteges and the workhouse boys, but not the Huntington Beach Playhouse, which has Austin Padilla, Shea Durazzo, Griffen Runnels, Jacob Holmes and Joseph Holmes playing the young pickpockets. Oliver’s mates in the workhouse will be Grant Durazzo, DJ Price, Will Kelly, Charlie Sabovich and Matthew McCarthy.

Musical director Mike Walker will take charge of such familiar numbers as “Consider Yourself,” “I’d Do Anything” and “As Long as He Needs Me.” Claudia Berglund is handling the assignment of creating the period English costumes.


With a show this elaborate, it’s good to have a plethora of producers. In this production, Bev and Daniel Lucero and Chris and Mike Grisey fill this bill.

“Oliver!” will fill the stage of the Library Theater, 7111 Talbert Ave., Huntington Beach, Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 3 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $18 to $20 and may be reserved by calling the playhouse box office at (714) 375-0696.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Independent.