An Extraordinary “Oliver” Playing at Palisades High School

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Members of the cast of Oliver at Palisades High School.

Circling the News had not planned to write a review about “Oliver,” Palisades High School’s spring musical that only has four performances left. The editor felt she had already alerted readers to the show before its opening.

But after seeing the show on Saturday night, readers need to know what they are missing, if they don’t go.

Right now, it’s a bit of a drag to go to a show at the high school. Tickets have to be purchased online. One has to go through security and produce a Vax card, and then walk around the main office building to get to the venue.

So, by the time you get to the folding chairs in the “theater” there seems like there might be a lot of better things that one could be doing.

Then the lights go down, the overture starts, the curtain comes up and the audience is transported to Charles Dickens’ London.

The show is extraordinary – and full of energy and honest emotion – and if you can find a way to see it before it closes, you will experience – and be part of something wonderous.

From the 16-piece orchestra’s opening to the orphans singing and dancing to “Food, Glorious Food,” one realizes that this production is going to be something special.

Palisades High School’s shows take place in Mercer Hall— yes, it used to be a lunchroom. But the kids have taken an unseemly space and turned it into a Broadway theater. The singing, dancing, acting and energy have made this a once in the life-time experience for audience goers.

Directors Cheri and Monique Smith have a knack for casting, and Willa Browne, as Oliver, has an angel’s voice. When she sang “Where is Love?” it was simple, beautiful and endearing.

Oona Fitzmaurice, playing Nancy, sang “As Long as He Needs Me,” from the heart.

Each actor took the character and made it his/her own—Mr. Bumble and the Widow Corney (Jacob Accardo and Stella Becir) were an authentic couple.

Even the undertakers, Mr. and Mrs. Sowerberry (Theo King and Sara Samil), found a truth in their characters – and King has a wonderful voice. He did double duty as the Knife Grinder, singing “Who Will Buy?”

It was impossible to take one’s eyes off of The Artful Dodger (Henry Mueller) and when he and the crew sang “Consider Yourself” it was energetic and all out full -of-life.

Fagin (Desi Friedberg) is a real character—and it was hard to predict, what he might do next on stage. Bill Sikes (Nicolas Libonati), who is the brooding villain, carries just the right amount of menace.

This is truly an ensemble piece of energy and fun. The costuming is top-notch, and the staging is functional—and imaginative, given the small stage.

There are shows at 7 p.m. on March 31 and April 1 and April 2. There is a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m. on April 2.

Tickets may be purchased on https://gofan.go/App/SChool/CA18976 . Students $10, general admission $16 and VIP $25.

Anyone entering the high school must show a VAX card or proof of a negative Covid Test.

Oona Fitzmaurice and Nicolas Libonati play Nancy and Bill in “Oliver.”

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