KEYSER - If you enjoy community theater, chances are you've seen “Oliver!,” the musical story of Charles Dickens' “Oliver Twist.”

By Liz Beavers
Tribune Managing Editor
KEYSER - If you enjoy community theater, chances are you’ve seen “Oliver!,” the musical story of Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist.”
The show - not an easy one to produce due to the large amount of children in the cast - is nevertheless a popular one and has been presented by at least two local theater groups over the past several years.
This week and next, it’s Potomac State College’s turn.
So if you have seen “Oliver!” already, why should you go see the PSC version?
The first and best answer that comes to mind is the quality of the singing voices. Whatever you do, don’t miss the chance to enjoy the amazing vocal talents displayed by the major characters in this version of “Oliver!” Defying the odds you would normally find in such a large cast, there is literally no one on stage in this production who does not present a polished, professional vocal performance.
You have Kevin Shreve as Mr. Bumble and Karen Hutcheson as his soon-to-be wife, the Widow Comey. There’s Lisa-Anna Maust as the tragic yet lovable Nancy and Jesse Wilson as her man, the evil Bill Sykes. And Stephen Gumtz is the conniving Fagin.
I could go on, and my apologies to those other non-ensemble cast members who also do an outstanding job. But these five have exceptional voices and stand out in such well-known songs as “Boy for Sale,” “Consider Yourself,” “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two,” and “I’d do Anything,” to mention a few.
As someone who cannot carry a tune, I am always in awe of anyone who can sing a halfway decent song. But these five will blow you away with their voices.
I would also be very remiss if I didn’t mention the lovely combination of voices from the actors in the street scene outside Mr. Brownlow’s home. When Oliver opens the window to hear Brielle Windle singing about her flowers for sale, or Trish Morgan as the strawberry seller, Gabby Long as the milk maid, and Brendon McCabe as the knife grinder, it is just a beautiful scene.
The second reason to see this version of “Oliver!” is the two leads - Donny Ness as Oliver and Guy Witt is the Artful Dodger.
I don’t know either of these young men, but they quickly won me over in their portrayal of these classic characters.
Donny is the perfect Oliver, an innocent young boy who has been knocked about in a nasty world but yet manages to keep his sweet demeanor, and Guy is just a lot of fun as Dodger, the street-wise firecracker who manages to slyly handle Fagin and Sykes in a way neither realizes.
The third reason to see this version of “Oliver!”: The music and choreography.
I have loved this play ever since I saw the movie back in 1968 at the Center Theater in LaVale. One of the reasons, of course, was the cute little guy who played Oliver. But more than that, the music is just infectious. Go see “Oliver!” and I guarantee you will leave the Church-McKee humming “Consider Yourself,” “”Be Back Soon,” or the title tune.
A live orchestra accompanies the actors on the Potomac State stage, creating a perfect storm for music that will get into your head and stay there for at least a couple of days after the show!
Earlier I mentioned the large cast - many of whom are children. There are not only some large-scale dances in this production (“Food Glorious Food” and “Oom-Pah-Pah,” for example) but the task of just getting all those people where they need to be on stage is a gargantuan one and my literary hat is off to the director and choreographer for their efforts in that direction.
And the fourth and last reason to go see this version of “Oliver?” It’s just a lot of fun. Despite the dark relationship between Bill Sykes and the abused Nancy, “Oliver!” is a fun show for the whole family that will get you humming and tapping your toes.
And, as they say, they all lived happily ever after.
“Oliver!” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. tonight and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, and again next Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
Tickets are available at the door.