America's Oldest · Founded 1808

Celebrate the holidays with OLIVER!

December 14, 2009

Hugh Panaro returns to the Walnut as Fagin. (photo: Mark Garvin).

Philadelphia, PA: The Walnut Street Theatre continues its landmark 201st season with a masterful new staging of Lionel Bart's OLIVER! One of the world's most beloved musicals, the production's magical score is full of Lionel Bart's irresistible songs including "Food Glorious Food," "Consider Yourself," "You've Got to Pick-a-Pocket or Two," "I'd Do Anything," "As Long As He Needs Me" and many more. Helmed by Barrymore Award-Winning Director Mark Clements and featuring Philly native and Broadway leading man Hugh Panaro as Fagin, OLIVER! begins previews on November 10, opens on November 18 and runs through January 10 on the WST Mainstage.

Based on Charles Dickens' classic Oliver Twist, OLIVER! is the story of a young orphan boy who wanted "more." From the orphanage to the mean streets of London, the ever-optimistic Oliver strives to survive through thick and thin. This proves no easy task as the boy encounters both saints and sinners on his journey. Dramatic, engagingly powerful and ultimately uplifting, OLIVER! is an unforgettable story of a remarkable boy looking for a place to call home.

Since its first staging almost fifty years ago, OLIVER! has enjoyed immense success over the years. The first Broadway production garnered 10 Tony Award nominations, winning three (including Best Original Score for Lionel Bart). The 1968 film version won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The show is responsible for launching the careers of many young actors, including Davy Jones and Phil Collins.

Directing OLIVER! is Walnut Street Theatre veteran and Barrymore Award winner Mark Clements. Mark's work has been acclaimed both here and in his native England, with such credits as the Off-Broadway production of The Thing About Men (winner - Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical) and the Off-Broadway and London productions of Speaking in Tongues (SSD&C and TMA Best Director Nominations). Mark's Walnut productions have been some of our most popular with critics and audiences alike, including last season's epic new interpretation of Les Misérables (2008 Barrymore Award winner for Best Overall Production of a Musical). Some of Mark's previous Walnut directorial credits include Of Mice and Men (Barrymore Award winner for best director and best overall production of a Play), Blood Money, The Rivals, Great Expectations and our recent production of Garson Kanin's Born Yesterday. Joining Mark in this endeavor are Musical Director Douglass G. Lutz (numerous shows over the past ten seasons) and Choreographer Mary Jane Houdina (42nd Street, Hairspray).

The bustling streets of Victorian London will be brought to life by a team of designers very familiar with the Walnut stage. Scenic Designer Todd Edward Ivins (Of Mice and Men, Les Misérables) is joined by Lighting Designer Jeff Nellis (Les Mis), Sound Designer Nick Kourtides (The Producers) and Costume Designer Colleen Grady (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Producers, Hairspray, and many others).

With regards to the cast, "immense" doesn't even begin to cover it! Breaking it down, OLIVER! boasts a company of over 70 performers. This includes 31 adults, two teams of 20 children (40 kids in all, double cast) and one dog!

The array of talent brought together for OLIVER! is nothing short of staggering. Broadway veteran and Philly native Hugh Panaro returns to the Walnut as Fagin. Hugh last appeared at the Walnut in his Barrymore Award-winning turn as Jean Valjean in our 2008 blockbuster production of Les Misérables. He has toured Europe with Barbara Streisand, taken on Broadway in Les Mis, Phantom of the Opera and Lestat, and now returns home again to where it all started (the Walnut's 1986 production of A Little Night Music, his first professional production).

Hugh is joined by such Walnut favorites as Robert Abdoo (42nd Street), Maggie Anderson (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), Josie Andrews (Carousel) as Bet, Bill Bateman (42nd Street), Kelley Faulkner (State Fair), Scott Greer (Les Mis), Joe Jackson (State Fair), Anthony Lawton (Of Mice and Men) as Bill Sykes, Sonny Leo (Forbidden Broadway's Greatest Hits), Mary Martello (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Beauty and the Beast), Rob McClure (The Producers), John Peakes (Quartet), Michael Philip O'Brien (Man of La Mancha), Erin Reilly (Mr. Bailey's Minder), Rebecca Robbins (Beauty and the Beast), Peter Schmitz (Carousel), Beth Wheeler (State Fair) and Denise Whelan (Man of La Mancha). Joining them are newcomers Chelsey Clark, Kolina Janneck, Freddie Kimmel, and Troy Woodcroft. Janine DiVita, formerly of the Broadway company of Grease! (Betty Rizzo) rounds out the cast as Nancy.

In addition to the adults, a veritable army of child actors will be on hand for OLIVER! Gregory Smith of Media, PA and Sam Preston of Franklinville, NJ are double cast in the title role; Brandon O'Rourke of Philadelphia and RJ Fattori of Glen Mills, PA are featured as the Artful Dodger. The rest of the children's ensemble includes three dozen children, all local to the Philadelphia region. They include: Jonathan Block, Timothy K. Johnson, Jahad Martin, Will McQuoid, Matthew O'Connor and Tommy Van Dean of Philadelphia; Gavin Becker of Villanova; Nicole R. Bosurgi of Turnersville, NJ; Gaby and Greg Bradbury of Ardmore, PA; Willa Capper and Arin Edelstein of Elkins Park, PA; Jacob Horner, Justin Cade Accardi and Danielle Leigh Rosenthal of Cherry Hill, NJ; Uvay Trivedi of Columbus, NJ; Casey T. Curcio of Marlton, NJ; Timmy Webb and Allison Sparrow of Haddonfield, NJ; Julyza Commodore of Newark, DE; Alexander Carr of Ringoes, NJ; Reese Diaz of Coplay, PA; Matt Ludovico of Logan Twp., NJ; Neil Goldenthal and Amadea Smith of Wayne, PA; Favian Harris of Coatesville, NJ; Colin O'Malley of Huntington Valley, PA; Conrad Sager of Kimberton, PA; Jillian Suprenant of West Chester, PA; Mary Rose Pomykacz of Lebanon, NJ; Seth Silverman of Penn Valley, PA; Daniel Flick of Gladwyne, PA; Evan Robert Smith of Gwynedd Valley, PA; Tyler McClellan of Doylestown, PA; Anthony Scarpone-Lambert of Chalfont, PA and Richard Fusco of Blue Bell, PA.

Last but not least, the cast is rounded out by Buddy, a hearing impaired American Bulldog owned by James Buchanin of Broomall, PA. Buddy is a rescue dog, adopted by James after Buddy's original owners found out he was deaf. James has trained Buddy to respond exceptionally well to hand commands. Buddy will appear in OLIVER! as Bullseye, an intimidating companion to the intimidating Bill Sykes (Anthony Lawton).

OLIVER! runs at the Walnut September 10 through January 10.