If you’d do anything to see Oliver, the Tony Award winning musical by Lionel Bart, you’re in luck. On June 11 at The Shubert Theatre the Irish Rep’s 2012 Annual Benefit Gala will stage (for one night only) the musical version of Charles Dickens classic 1850 tale.
Set in the time of the Industrial Revolution and giving us a softened but still terrifying historical snapshot of the kind of sanctimonious prigs who beat, belittled and bullied the children of the poor in the workhouses and orphanages of the period, this sugar coated confection has an unavoidably sour center.
But face it 1850’s London was no barrel of laughs, especially if you were one of the countless poor clogging the cities back streets. To survive in an era before the welfare state you either lived on your meager wages or on your wits.
Since this is their annual fundraiser the Rep is offering Dinner and Theatre packages tailored to every pocket. Alternatively you can just see the performance if that’s your preference, but be advised the Rep’s Annual Gala is a star studded affair and if you’re at all interested in the arts or celebrity spotting it’s not to be missed.
If you don’t already know the Rep itself has been the signature performance venue for classic and contemporary Irish theatre since 1988. It’s mission was and still remains to bring the works of Irish and Irish American masters to the American public, to provide a context to present the contemporary Irish and Irish American experience and to develop new works.
That it has succeeded in this mission beyond even its own expectations it a tribute to its two guiding lights, Artistic Director Charlotte Moore and Producing Director Ciaran O’Reilly.
The current season has seen the Rep stage an unforgettable production of Brian Friel’s Dancing At Lughnasa directed by Moore and a shattering production of Eugene O’Neill’s Beyond The Horizon directed by O’Reilly. But it’s summer now and time for lighter fare which is why Oliver fits the bill for the theatre’s benefit night.
Brian Stokes Mitchell, a Tony winner himself for Kiss Me Kate will start as that swaggering rotter Fagin. James Barbour will star as Bill Sykes and Broadway regular Melissa Errico will star as the ill-fated Nancy. It seems like torture that this classic show will feature a full orchestra and chorus, including the Keystone State Boychoir from Philadelphia, and will only run for one night but that’s show business.
Last year the Rep wowed gala attendees with a star studded performance on Broadway of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s Camelot, starring Jeremy Irons, Melissa Errico and James Barbour.
Irons, who is currently appearing as Pope Alexander VI in The Borgias, is a longtime supporter of the Irish Rep (and an honorary Irishman himself, having lived for decades in County Cork) was a sensation in the role of King Arthur and each year the one night only event enjoys the kind of society buzz that’s reserved for the most important cultural events of the year.
As fans know Oliver begins with an innocent orphan boy escaping the cruel workhouse to join a roving band of pick-pockets and street urchins who work for the most cunning pick-pocket of them all, the wily Fagin.
Fagin rules the impoverished streets under London Bridge with an iron fist. Nancy, the beautiful young graduate of Fagin’s Academy, and her villainous lover Bill Sykes fight over the new boy with fateful consequences.
The score includes a rare chance to hear longtime audience favorites like 'Food, Glorious Food!,' 'As Long As He Needs Me,' 'Consider Yourself At Home' and 'I’d Do Anything For You!'
Given the Rep’s output, including its artistic and commercial success and its continuing commitment to Irish and Irish American theatre, Moore and O’Reilly were entirely deserving winners of last years Eugene O’Neill Lifetime Achievement Award from the Irish American Writers and Artists. The award is given annually to “an Irish American writer or artist who has created a body of work that places them among the great artists and entertainers of all time,” which is no exaggeration of their accomplishment.
Oliver will be staged for one night only on Monday, June 11 at 7:00 P.M. at
The Shubert Theatre, 225 West 44th Street followed by dinner at Sardi’s. For tickets visit www.irishrep.org.