Oliver (Bellevue Little Theatre)

Lisa & I saw Oliver last Friday evening, and I have to say the newspaper reviews were pretty much spot on.  The show was really good, we would have enjoyed it even if our daughter hadn’t been in it.  She, of course, was far and away the best singer in the cast; there was some mighty fine acting going on as well.  Denny Maddux did a fantastic job as Fagin, especially. Tim Vallier plays Bill Sykes, and does it so well you can barely understand the thick Cockney accent…  but you’ll hate his guts just the same.

There are a lot of younger actors in this production, and they do an outstanding job.  The picks for Oliver and the Artful Dodger (Max Hauze and Brock McCullough) were right on the money.  There really weren’t any flat spots in the show – other than the scene changes, done in full view of the audience by the cast & crew.  For a moment there I thought we might be watching a Snap! production, but Fagin & Sykes weren’t eyeing each other lustfully.

If you can get a ticket, do so.  You won’t be sorry.

The Great American Trailer Park Musical

The torrid tale of a group of trailer park neighbors whose lives are disrupted by a home-wrecking stripper, a big storm, a false pregnancy (or is it?), a crazed ex-boyfriend, a marginally functional electric chair…  did I miss anything?  This is high drama worthy of, well, at least Jerry Springer, and you’ll never look at your Magic Markers and Pam cooking spray the same way again.

OK, I admit it.  I usually only see community theater productions that my daughter Allison appears in.  Still, when I do go I’m usually really glad I did and enjoy them for the play or musical itself, not just seeing my daughter shine (which she always does).  Some of these productions are really, really good.  Das Barbecue was hilarious, as was Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Lucky Stiff and others.  I have to say that if you have never been to a production at Bellevue Little Theater, Omaha Community Playhouse or one of the others, you really should.  It’s not terribly expensive, the crowd is generally casual, and you’ll likely have a really good time.  Last night we attended a pre-opening night show of the latest show at the BLT,  The Great American Trailer Park Musical.  It was a hoot…  I got a decent workout just laughing.

Uniformity of talent is usually not the real strong point in these productions; some people are great actors and actresses, but so-so singers.  Some can dance like mad, but can’t act all that well; some can sing but can’t dance, etc.  (I say this with the disclaimer that I am good at NONE of these, and have a tremendous amount of respect for anyone who can get up on stage and do what these people do, and do it for free.)  In this case, the whole theme is cheesy enough that any variations in talent are immaterial – plus the cast are all pretty good to begin with!  The acting was good, with a couple of real standouts.  There was no one who couldn’t sing; the quality was pretty uniformly good with (of course) one clear standout.

I suspect the tech crew is still dialing in the audio details, and there was one place where stage hands making a scenery change kind of distracted from the tale.  Since it was pre-opening night (I think it was “tech night” or the final dress rehearsal), I would expect the actual public performances to go even better.

All in all, I would recommend this musical to anyone who appreciates comedy.   Call the theater, get your tickets, and prepare for an hour and 45 minutes (no intermission) of real, honest-to-goodness fun.