Oliver! Is Delicious
ib 19. January 2006 zdroj Květy
As for musical, The Brno City Theatre has won long since the reputation of a top domestic scene and maybe the best one. It was confirmed with the recent premiere of the famous musical Oliver! written according to Dickens’s novel Oliver Twist.
It is not a new work – its premiere took place in London as early as 1960. But the Brno presentation stage managed by Stanislav Moša does not smell of archive patina or kitschy sentimentality. The story of the abandoned eight-year orphan (brilliant Marek Hurák) is presented by means of the modern music theatre for the entire family where brisk actions, witty texts, big choir scenes and impressive solo songs are not missing...
IT IS GETTING "TWISTED" ABOVE CZECH
Peter Stoličný 20. October 2005 zdroj Divadlo.SK
I have devised an interesting expression, haven’t I? The first piece of news about this phenomenon appeared as early as in the summer 2005. It included the information that the premiere of the film Oliver Twist by well-known Polish director Roman Polanski would be held in Prague in the autumn 2005. He chose Prague because a great part of exteriors was filmed there. In Prague, he found dark corners, embankments, narrow streets with eclectic architecture and, surprisingly, the atmosphere of the 19th century London.
The second piece of news is fresher: The Brno City Theatre put on the famous musical Oliver! by Lionel Bart in the Czech premiere on Saturday 24th September. Director, successful dramatic author and stage manager Stanislav Moša prepares high-quality performances regularly for his audiences. But what the implementation team presented this time cannot be compared with anything even in such a good theatre.
The well-know bard of music theatre, dr. Ivo Osolsobě, once wrote that “When a story cannot be told in a dialogue, it must be sung. When it cannot be even sung, it must be danced and when it cannot be expressed in dancing, it must return to a dialogue.” This necessity of triple message has already been built in the first-rate libretto written by Lionel Bart. Probably, the translation by experienced Jiří Josek increased the spryness of the texts. (No wonder, the translator has signed himself under almost all Shakespeare’s plays performed in the Czech Republic; he also translates plays by Saroyan, Albee, Simon; he translated the musicals Cabaret, Hair, Crazy Fanny and West Side Story.)
Stage manager Moša managed to simplify and stress this “theatre which speaks, sings and dances”. He can express himself in highly dramatic and musical symbols where every detail looks like measured on pharmaceutical scales, and the whole looks sometimes spontaneous and monumental, sometimes tender and intimate. The performance goes through incredible sinusoids and the spectator, constantly surprised by simple legibility and virtuosity only says to himself: “That is what I needed tonight...”
A separate chapter is formed by the singing, dramatic and motoric art of performers. From eight-year-old Oliver played by Marek Hurák, up to Wolf (Lukáš Kantor). The owner of orphanage, Mr Sowerberry (Erik Pardus) and his wife (Květoslava Ondráková) were equally beautifully comic and frightening. And criminal Bill Sikes (Stano Slovák) – it was a literal delicacy. He confirmed again that he belongs to the top-class actors of the ensemble and can manage cruel, sarcastic positions without useless expression. The role of Fagin (Jan Apolenář), boss of children’s gang of thieves, would deserve a separate description. Surely thanks to Moša’s interpretation, it is rather a comic figure, caricature of the original hero of Dickens’s novel.
The whole musical concept surely (and successfully) counted with a warm public acceptance. From theatre connoisseurs up to children. It is a certain “Cross Visual” where everybody can find his/her point of view and is satisfied, or better excited. Of course, it is also due to the rare integrity of the whole work. From the stage design by Jaroslav Milfajt, costumes by Andrea Kučerová, to choreography by Vladimír Kloubek and the sensitive study of music by young conductor Jiří Petrdlík.
As I am reading what I have written above, I am thinking what to criticize so that it does not sound so exaltedly. But I am thinking in vain. Except the problem where to park the car as near the musical scene as possible, I really cannot find any mistake in the performance of Oliver.
Well, dear Slovak theatre-lovers, the successful Košice Oliver has not already been on the repertory of the Košice State Theatre. Now you may meet this well-done performance in Brno. And if you have never visited the Music Scene of the Brno City Theatre, set out behind the river Moravia. Nowadays, it is the most modern musical theatre in Central Europe.
P.S.: The inhabitants of Košice must remember the beautiful performance of this musical stage managed by Jozef Bednárik in 1997. It is interesting that no other Slovak theatre set about Oliver after the message about such a good-quality performance.
I Have No Choice But to Work
Jiří P. Kříž 3. October 2005 zdroj Právo
...And the professional dramatic performances of actors approximate perfection. From the numerous team stand out like solitaires Ján Jackuliak (alternating with Petr Gazdík) as the owner of the orphanage Mr. Bumble, Jan Apolenář (Ladislav Kolář) as slick Fagin, Dušan Vitázek (Stano Slovák) as criminal Bill Sikes or Jana Musilová (Helena Dvořáková) acting widow Corney in the caricatures of bad men and ladies of the 19th century London.
They are completed with brilliant solos of Markéta Sedláčková (Ivana Vaňková) playing poor light-o'-love Nancy and Mária Laľková (Radka Coufalová-Vidlák) in the part of her friend Bet.
Marek Hurák (Daniel Jirků, Karel Jeniš) prove bravely their ability in the immensely challenging title children’s role. Oliver’s pickpocket companion is played by native comedian Klára Šťastná and Lukáš Kantor...
Moša punchlined the performance correctly with Fagin’s statement cited in the title of the review. The magnificent musical finale was shifted to curtains. Another Brno musical delicacy!
New Musical in the Brno City Theatre
Vladimír Čech 2. October 2005 zdroj Kultura
Moša Offers Oliver! Like a Higher Principle
At first sight it may seem that Oliver Twist is a sentimental story of “a poor and overlooked orphan who reached happiness”. Dickens’s novel does not deny this attitude and the author must have counted with some tears of sensitive readers. When the British composer Lionel Bart decided to put a musical gown on this classical work, he could not neglect completely its persuasive romantic character. But simultaneously he encourages with the exclamation mark in the title of his opus Oliver! under which he is signed as the composer and librettist: watch more carefully, the imperative is an appeal to behave decently in any environment, in spite of being ridiculed first.
This idea is also stressed by Stanislav Moša, stage manager of the first Czech production of Oliver! which premiere was performed on the Music Scene of the Brno City Theatre last weekend. Moša finds the appeal topical just now, in the time of “sharp elbows” when predator egoism often suppresses inner high-mindedness. In this respect, Moša uses the peripeteia of the lonely nine-year-old boy as the invitation to contemplate of a higher principle of life. That is why Oliver Twist remains topical although the world premiere of its musical version took place almost fifty years ago – in New London Theatre on 30th June 1960.
The Brno Oliver! is a successful presentation in a high style. No savings were made as for the number of live instrumentalists and supers which may be proved by the fact that the application of the Brno City Theatre for the right to use the great symphonic score was a surprise for Great Britain. The stage design by Jaroslav Milfajt, sometimes detailed as in Fagin’s slum, sometimes using airy symbols of the city, is attractive too.
Andrea Kučerová designed costumes of which the atmosphere of Victorian England can be felt undoubtedly. Choreographer Vladimír Kloubek made numerous people move fantastically in the stirring whirl of dancing, so the three-hour performance is brisk and dynamic for the whole time. The performance abounds with the youthful vitality, perhaps every performer feels like playing, singing and dancing as much as he/she is able to.
The total dynamics of the second premiere was taken for on Sunday by Karel Cón with his characteristic enthusiasm at the conductor’s counter. The translation by Jiří Josek can be listened with delight and it sometimes provokes bursts of laughter.
Dramatic creations are very strong as the characters are stylized considerably – a civil tone can be hardly met here, everybody must act in the right sense of the word. Negative characters – perhaps except Bill Sikes (brilliant Dušan Vitázek) – gain spectator’s understanding and even sympathy. Their funny zealousness acquires features of parody or caricature of characters and this mirror can make a negative soul more human because it evokes smile. This is the case of Jan Apolenář as Fagin, self-serving bloodsucker. But the spectator is not angry with him as he is compellingly comic at the same time. His performance is the most remarkable in all respects.
The similar humorous detached attitude can be seen in Ján Jackuliak’s performance of Mr. Bumble, Erik Pardus’s acting of Sowerberry, Jana Musilová’s part of widow Corney and Vladimíra Spurná’s Mrs Sowerberry. As for singing, Ivana Vaňková is particularly brilliant in the hard role of Nancy. The youngest actors are disciplined but they remain playful like children. Young Klára Šťastná as Wolf will surely remember her stage debut for her whole life as well as only eight-year-old Marek Hurák as Oliver.
Where To Go To See a Musical? Oliver!
Karla Hofmannová 27. September 2005 zdroj Rovnost
Protagonists are children, a spontaneous compact unit in an orphanage and a gang of thieves, they have their own world and justice. They admire frankness and courage of little Oliver acted by frail, eight-year-old Marek Hurák, who moves audiences with his helplessness, spiritual purity and immediateness. His stage debut was affected by stage fright, but the technical deficiencies of his performance enhanced the emotive impact on theatre-goers.
Jan Apolenář acting Fagin, leader of the children’s gang, became a star of the evening. He plays the role of villain, acting and singing brilliantly, with his professional top view and wit. Nancy acted by Ivana Vaňková is natural, her singing is rough, full and coloured. Nancy is the only figure who undergoes development on the stage from a light-minded girl through a suffering woman in love, up to a devoting protectress of the defenceless child.
From the pleiad of other figures of London underworld the comic pair of Mr. Bumble (Ján Jackuliak) and widow Corney (Jana Musilová) should be mentioned. Their rough and violent humour corresponds well to the environment. From children’s role, Klára Šťastná performing Wolf was brilliant.
Stanislav Moša’s stage management uses maximally all means attacking theatre-visitors: intimacy, emotionality, theatricality, contrast of dreariness and dirtiness with cleanness and sweetness. But Jaroslav Milfajt’s stage design based on George Cruikshank’s illustrations is the most impressive element. It is functional and of a clean style, it combines the style of London street with an elliptic division of the scene with stage cars. Impressive is fading of painted pictures resembling novel illustrations with live pictures, passing fluently to further action. The style of the scene is completed with costumes designed by Andrea Kučerová which are fresh, but underline the naturalism of stage management.
Oliver! Or Action Melodrama
Luboš Mareček 26. September 2005 zdroj Mf dnes
The Brno City Theatre Put On an Old Musical Hit at the Weekend
The famous English musical Oliver! which had its Czech premiere in the Brno City Theatre at the weekend belongs to granddads in its genre. The music title which flew round the world was applauded by the British queen as early as in 1960.
The classical musical written according to the famous Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist was created in the period when such jewels of the music theatre like My Fair Lady, West Side Story, or Funny Girl beaked out.
Oliver! offers ingredients attracting audiences. The brilliant music by Lionel Bart is completed with an action melodrama about a little orphan who gets a deserved family happiness at last. These mottos are increased in the Brno performance by Jiří Josek’s flexible and humorous translation as well as the lively and luxurious music.
Fortunately, stage-manager Stanislav Moša did not drown the touching title in a kitsch sentiment. He produced a strong music performance with all the important signs of a family show: a touching but action story, stormy mass scenes and impressive solo songs enriched with perfect music. And added to this eight-year-old Marek Hurák acting the leading role whose defenceless and child’s unpolished performance increases the score and reaches to the coveted sympathy.
However, it is not just the little boy who attracts your attention automatically and whose artless singing would need some more rehearsal. The theatre company from Lidická Street has their musical stars who provide for the feeling of a pleasantly spent evening. Jan Apolenář really shines in the role of likeable leader of children’s gang Fagin. His fully seized comic role confirms the old truth that a full-blooded actor does not need anything on the stage when Apolenář sings his song I am thinking of my situation only with a box of jewels on a completely empty monstrous stage. Other stars are represented by Markéta Sedláčková in a rather pathetic role of devoting prostitute Nancy and Lukáš Kantor acting cunning Wolf whose gestures and voice are literally flexible like rubber.
The Brno Oliver! offers not only an interesting trip to the preserve of old, solid musicals. In the time where the Czech musical has already recycled everything, with a poor quality, this is a cultured entertainment.
David Kroča 1. December -1 zdroj Český rozhlas 3/Vltava
The musical Oliver! put on the stage of the Brno City Theatre was endowed with several flavours. One of them is sweetness of the melodramatic story about a little orphan who is returned to kind family arms, but simultaneously, it tastes after salty tears swallowed sometimes unmercifully by heroes.
Stage-manager Stanislav Moša tells the story of the miserable way of the legendary hero without adornments and false sentiment. Since the opening scene in the orphanage where Oliver dares to ask rebelliously for some more porridge, it is clear that the protagonist will not be protected at all. Oliver’s grim service in the funeral house and the following stay in the gang of pickpockets brought the opportunity to play an action performance boasting of mass scenes as well as clean sang solos in the cone of light on an empty stage. The key topic of a helpless and abandoned child, coming back repeatedly in the action, reveals its topical overlap to the present. Scenographer Jaroslav Milfajt respects period decorations stylized into the appearance of old novel illustrations, but he gives a true picture of the contrast between the lovely salon and the grey city street. Another merit of the performance is the untraditional choreography rehearsed by Vladimír Kloubek who managed to move naturally not only the theatre ensemble but also twenty children of very good dancing and signing dispositions.
The performance of eight-year-old Marek Hurák playing the title role is unforgettable. At the first night, the audience’s attention was mainly attracted by his sincere and natural acting. Masterful singing and dancing was presented by Klára Šťastná who got her opportunity in the role of cunning thief Wolf. However, the real star of the first night was a member of the domestic ensemble Jan Apolenář acting Fagin, leader of the gang of thieves. His natural and temperament acting culminated with the song I am thinking of my situation when Apolenář as a comic unbalanced niggard really dominated an empty stage. Ivana Vaňková, playing the role of devoted prostitute Nancy was also impressive in her singing. Her song I want to stay by him brought a piece of raw life experience in the fairy-tale story.
The musical Oliver! brings on the Brno stage a pleasant meeting with a stirring story, brilliant music and performances of real musical professionals. Thus, stage-manager Moša managed to study another family performance which would surely not bore any generation of theatre-visitors.
Oliver! Where is Love Hidden?!
Jana Svozilová 1. December -1 zdroj Kult
The musical Oliver! by Lionel Bart, which London premiere took place in the year 1960, welcomed theatre-goers to the Music Scene of the Brno City Theatre on 24th September 2005. The resulting effect of almost fairy-tale musical, which story comes out of Charles Dickens’s novel Oliver Twist, was created under the stage management by Stanislav Moša.
Casting for children’s roles, which are numerous in the musical, was participated by 80 little dashers. Now thirty of them try to put themselves in their roles. The theatre has three Olivers, each of whom interprets his task a little differently. But from the children’s roles I was most impressed with the figure of Fox presented by twelve-year-old Klárka Šťastná who attracted my attention with her spontaneousness and professional approach. Her Fox is not so mean as in case of alternating Lukáš Kantor, the malice of the figure is suppressed with warmth and child’s innocence.
Negative figures are depicted with an exaggeration – they become comic panoptical figurines. For example Fagin acted by Jan Apolenář will make you smile many times. But the total enlightened character of the dramatic production is disturbed with the scene when Bill Sikes (Stano Slovák / Dušan Vitázek) kills prostitute Nancy (Markéta Sedláčková / Ivana Vaňková) with a club. His act is punished at the end to balance this deviation from the moderate course of action.
The fairy-tale story, full of traps of evil which are defeated in the conclusion, is a typically family performance. The compositions which sound during the night are nice, catching and can be easily remembered. Spectators are attracted at first sight with so-called live pictures elaborate in details. The Brno City Theatre has an ensemble which is able to rise to any occasion and the musical Oliver has confirmed these words again.
Brno Oliver! Is Particular about Its Exclamation Mark
Vladimír Čech 1. December -1 zdroj Kam
To place an exclamation mark at the end of any work of art is always a little risky – it usually threatens that a reviewer omits it. But the Brno City Theatre which put Oliver! on its Music Scene in the Czech premiere (24th and 25th September 2005) is apparently particular about this punctuation symbol. Then it is up to any critic of the production or carefulness of editorial staff whether the exclamation mark will remain or disappear.
When the British composer Lionel Bart decided to dress the famous classical Dickens’s novel Oliver Twist in a musical robe, he could not negate completely the sentimental position of the original “how a poor orphan became lucky”. But the imperative behind the incredible happy ending of the story invites to decent, almost noble behaviour in any milieu. Not excluding the London underworld of Victorian England. Such behaviour must be coded in genes considerably, however it is more important that it can be projected and bring benefit in following generations.
Just this idea is stressed by stage manager Stanislav Moša for whom it is particularly topical at present, in the time of sharp elbows when predacious egoism often suppresses or completely destroys a noble spirit. From this point of view, Moša tries to think of the fate of the abandoned skinny nine-year-old boy in the sense of a higher principle of life. On the other hand, do not think that the majority of spectators would watch the performance with similarly focused eyes, or that any white-collar unscrupulous egoist would change himself during the performance.
However, this surely does not decrease the topicality of Moša’s intent, in this sense Oliver! remains relevant, although the world premiere of the musical version took place in the New London Theatre almost fifty years ago – 30th June 1960, and Oliver! is completely Bart’s child – he begot it as a composer and librettist in one person. Music is pleasing, often very pleasing, though you will hardly sing the melodies after the first listening. Operetta lovers will surely welcome the fact that the score is flavoured with operetta’s essences.
Oliver! is not a chamber musical. There can hardly be done any significant savings in the number of actors on the stage. Just the number of instrumentalists in the orchestra pit could be reduced. There is even an “official version” for such a solution. In spite of that, Brno negotiated the use of the original in Great Britain, which raised surprise. So the South Moravian Metropolis affords thirty-three musicians, who were conducted by Karel Cón at the second premiere on Sunday, so that it fizzes properly from the orchestra “sepulchre”.
Great stylization is evident in actor’s performances. Negative figures are humanized thanks to their funny exaltation or parody with operetta savour, and spectators rather smile over such caricatures than condemn them really. An exception is the greatest fiend Bill Sikes acted by fully corresponding Dušan Vitázek and nobody in the auditorium feels sorrow for him when he is shot dead by a policeman at the end. However, the most significant figure is bloodsucker Fagin interpreted admirably by Jan Apolenář. He is slick, goes snaking along and does everything to avoid his deserved fate. His endeavour is so strong and comic that he must meet maximum understanding of audiences and their response in the form of a noisy laughter.
Ján Jackuliak profiles his Mr. Bumble with a remarkable dose of mellifluous falsity intentionally thick-sown with hints of operetta ham acting (who would say it about him!) and the others - Erik Pardus as Sowerberry, Vladimíra Spurná as Mrs Sowerberry and Jana Musilová acting widow Corney – hold more or less to the well-tried pattern. The vocal part of Nancy is very difficult, and if Ivana Vaňková deserves a high appreciation for it, she can hardly wish more.
One of the reasons why Oliver! is produced rarely are requirements to the volume of children’s choir and the claims on children’s protagonists. You may have a thousand of first-rate Fagins, but you cannot play the title without a single corresponding protagonist of Oliver. But it was possible to chose of eighty children who came to casting. Finally, three Olivers were chosen at the age of 8, 10 and 12 years. The youngest of them, Marek Hurák, decorated both the premieres with his child’s innocence. The difficult role of Fox was brilliantly played by Klára Šťastná, who gave an impression as if she got her art to move naturally on the stage from barrators.
The almost three-hour performance has a swing, fast course of events and push off. Vladimír Kloubek was able to use all youthful vitality of the ensemble in his choreographic design. The zest of playing, singing and dancing is evident in everybody on the stage. And there are over 20 children and 40 adults. Although Oliver! remains, as for the costumes, more or less a rag-and-bone store as Stanislav Moša says, the rags and the slums had to be made special to avoid boring greyness, in short to have what to look at. Andrea Kučerová (costumes) impressed the style of Victorian England to the rags as well as stage designer Jaroslav Milfajt did to the London underworld. Milfajt can sometimes be punctilious, sometimes several symbolic lines or curves are enough for the right atmosphere.
The Brno Oliver! is very kind thanks to Lionel Bart, it does not grate ears, no vulgar words can be heard there and somebody may say after all that it is – in spite of all noble ideas – just the play when “the smile is sprinkled with tears”.