Watertown Lyric Theater reminded the north country last weekend of its central role in our culture and its ability to be a steaming cauldron of learning and pleasure for local thespians young and old.
When Lyric Theater called upon its go-to director for 30-plus years, Daniel R. Davis, to join forces with Kevin R. Kitto to present the musical Oliver during the North Country Arts Councils 65th Fall Art Show opening weekend, success was guaranteed. Mr. Kitto put together a cast of 32 children and 55 adults that is right, 87 people on stage for the show accompanied by a small orchestra to produce four shows that captivated the opening night crowd of ticket holders who had just spent a pleasant hour appreciating the work produced by more than 60 Jefferson Country artists who displayed hundreds of their special items from jewelry, oils, watercolors, sculptures and photographs.
Mr. Davis and Mr. Kitto, who actually joined the cast on stage several times, spent three months preparing the sets, practicing the choreography, watching the youngsters learn the story and their roles, and casting the critical on-stage actors and actresses.
Their performance was outstanding. The set filled the Dulles State Office Building stage but minimized scene changes, resulting in a fast-paced, exciting performance for the enthusiastic audience.
Ten-year-old Philip Marra played Oliver and was at ease on stage from the opening scene. Barry Pratt, whose voice and face are well known to audiences at the Clayton Opera House, captured the essence of Fagan. Watching Mr. Pratt must have been instructive for all participants who aspire for a leading role.
Mr. Davis and Mr. Kitto also provided a wonderful learning experience to the youngsters they attracted to the stage. The joy in their faces as they danced and sang will reverberate forward for years as these budding performers move into ever-more advanced school productions at their home schools. High school musical and performance teachers could not ask for a better training academy.
The Arts Councils art show remains open at the State Office Building until Nov. 16. It is worth a lunch hour visit to appreciate the pieces on display. Be sure to study Best of Shaw award earned by Lynnette Bucci of Dexter.
Watertown and Jefferson County are fortunate that these two arts organizations joined forces to create a special weekend for a broad audience and an energetic group of performers and talented artists. A standing ovation to all and a request for a reprise are in order.