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About ten years ago I saw my first production of OLIVER!, and it was less than mediocre.  I was not too keen on seeing The Human Race Theatre Company’s (HRTC) current production of OLIVER!, due to my initial experience with the show, but was intrigued by the director’s concept, and use of ten actors.

I have never been disappointed in a HRTC production, but I was not expecting to be absolutely blown away this evening. This production’s concept was conceived, and directed by Alan Souza, and choreographed by Spencer Liff (SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE).  I wish I could say I was speechless, but at intermission I was chattering away about the incredibly innovative, crisp, creative and exhausting staging and choreography.  Thrilling!

With so many theatre companies, you show up expecting to see the company’s typical production.  Since seeing my first HRTC production, ROMANCE, ROMANCE, twenty years ago, I’ve never been disappointed.  I always return home, excited and refreshed.

There were remarkable performances from this troupe of ten actors, and not one was lacking.  However, three performers ‘wow’d’ me this evening: music director and performer, Helen Gregory; Kettering’s own, Chris Shea; and a HRTC founder and regular, Scott Stoney.

Helen… Helen… Helen… the piano was actually blocked into the staging, and brilliantly executed!  Helen only gave up the ivories once, and that was so she could sing and dance while Scott Stoney took over (and well done, Scott!).  I have never seen acrobatics at the piano, but Helen made her multi-layered role amusing and impressive.  This performance alone was worth the entire evening for me!

Chris Shea has grown tremendously as an actor through the years, and tonight, he was hitting the mark each moment, and with each character change throughout the production.  He is a delight to watch, and I am confident he will continue to grow, even more, as an actor.  Kudos!

From Shakespeare to Schwartz, and everything in between, and beyond, Scott Stoney just made my night! In this production of OLIVER!, Scott plays Mr. Bumble and several other characters.  I’ve always loved what Scott brings to lead roles, but tonight, as Mr. Bumble, he completely won me over.  Scott was hilarious, adorable, and so much fun.  This man can do it all – lead roles and character roles and make them more 3-dimensional than anyone else I know.

One more performer needs to be mentioned… Sara Shepherd, as Nancy (and others), gave a moving, gut-wrenching delivery of “As Long As He Needs Me.”  I seldom get chills, but her choices were fantastic!  I did not hear the song – I felt it!  Superb! Superb!

The musical numbers were unbelievably staged, and I am still rocking from the thrill of seeing them tonight.  Within ten minutes, I had forgotten I was not fond of the show, forgotten my headache/sinus infection, and had stopped worrying about bringing my teenage son out on a chilly night just as he is recovering from the creeping crud.

I know this is an incredibly busy time of the year, but this is one production you do not want to miss.

Thank you, Human Race Theatre Company!  This was a damned fine treat for my holiday season!

What do others think of OLIVER! at The Human Race Theatre Company?

Russell Florence’s Review in the Dayton Metro Paper

Jim Bucher’s Beat on WDTN

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