REVIEW: Oliver!


Sold out show impresses audience

With two sold out Saturday shows and a standing ovation at the 7pm show, this year’s Music of the Night production was a hands-down success.

Producer Jenn Laudadio and musical director Brent Bannerman have been working hard on this year’s production since in October of 2017 bringing together community members and continuing the legacy of supporting the Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School band program; support that the benefit musical has given for over twenty years now. The 55 Oliver! cast members met regularly to rehearse in the visual arts room at the Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School.

The production was an interpretation of Lionel Bart’s Oliver! which is a family favorite, inspired from the classic Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist. The various representations of murder, violence against women, child exploitation and underage drinking were a grim reminder of everyday life in a past, pick-pocketing society. To be fair, those behaviours are still prevalent today, although not tolerated to the same degree as in the fictional society of Oliver!

Professional theatre technician, Chris de la Cruz, was a valuable addition to the executive team this year. He played a vital role in masking Immaculata Hall’s rickety performance space as a grand theatrical space. Additionally, his contributions to the set design helped create a certain ambience that added depth to the viewing experience.  

Lighting focused the audience’s attention on specific elements of the scene, whether it be to spotlight Oliver singing, or to accentuate the set portraits on each side of the stage; lighting was a well-planned element of this production that formed the illusion of a professional theatrical space.

Meeting with Chris during intermission, I asked him about his experience working in town, on set design and construction for Oliver! He said, “Antigonish has been an incredibly supportive community with lots of spirit and energy. It’s a great experience to build, paint and design the set with students at Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School. We’ve got CJ and Ruthie killing it on the spotlights tonight.”

I caught up with Ruthie Stanley-Blackwell and CJ Huston-England after the show to ask them about their experience working on Oliver! under the leadership of Chris.

Ruthie answered “Chris taught me all the secret lighting techniques like how to make the set bigger and brighter, and clear as seen from far away. There is a lot of work behind every little detail, even the ones seen for a second.”

CJ added her own commentary, “Chris is an interesting mentor and smart guy. Laid-back, but strict. He knows how to get work done. In the end, I made a friend.”

A strong off-stage team contributed greatly to the actors’ drama on-stage. The lead roles played by Oliver Long and Cat MacIntyre as Oliver Twist and Nancy were exceptional.  

Oliver was in character from the musical’s introduction to conclusion. The young actor has a remarkable sense of embodying the character all the time. Not only in his delivery of lines, but in his facial expressions and body movement on-stage when listening intently to other characters speak or sing.

Cat’s voice sustained fabulously in the space. So much so that the audience eagerly anticipated her next note. Cat sung two musical numbers in act one and four musical numbers in act two. The audience left Immaculata Hall humming to the tune of Oom-Pah-Pah.

Tickets are $18 for general community members and $15 per student or senior citizen. Tickets can be purchased at Antigonish 5¢ to $1 or at the door in Immaculata Hall on show night.

Music of the Night presented the first production run of Oliver! in Immaculata Hall this past February 2-4. Catch the next production run of Oliver! at the same location between February 9-11.