'Oliver!' Debuts at the Pantages Theatre

The Theater Latté Da/Hennepin Theatre Trust collaboration (beloved local itinerant company meets downtown Minneapolis venue operator/presenter) has been a fortuitous bit of local genius the past couple of years. First there was Aida in 2013, then last year’s yep-they-nailed-it Cabaret, which was sufficiently pitch-perfect to fully dull the sting of missing Emma Stone’s Sally Bowles on Broadway.

Now the hot ticket for early 2015 will be Oliver!, everyone’s favorite musical about Dickensian economic injustice and Darwinian social conditions in Victorian England (now those would have been three characters to get together for tea on a fictional afternoon—throw in Marx and Jane Eyre and you have a three-act). Giving the proceedings a firm shake is this production’s inspiration—the industrial grit and retro sci-fi aesthetic of steampunk, which warps time and lends grime to this often violent and cruel story.  

This promises to be Latté Da’s biggest ever show in terms of cast size, if not overall ambition, and it’s no story of an overnight sensation—director and TLD honcho Peter Rothstein has been delivering world-class work for more than a decade, and the collaboration with HTT is just the sort of play-to-both-our-strengths cross-pollination of talent, money, and audiences that arts types love to speculate about but which so rarely actually comes to pass.

Sweetening the pot is the casting of all-around stage veteran Bradley Greenwald as Fagin, aging thief and renowned exploiter of children. I’d wait out in the cold anytime for a chance to hear Greenwald sing, as well as for his light, poignant touch as an actor—with a gift for finding the little grace notes in his characters without betraying their rough edges. It feels like a perfect fit, and bodes well for what could be a signature show on the local scene this year.

Theater Latté Da and Hennepin Theatre Trust’s musical production plays at Pantages Theatre from 2/4-3/1. • hennepintheatretrust.org