Photographer: Benny Kahane 

L-r: Tom Amsellem as Dodger, Eric Isaacson as Fagin, Ishai Frankel as Oliver.

Consider yourself at home.
Consider yourself one of the family.
We've taken to you so strong.
It's clear we're going to get along.

In February and March the veteran English-speaking musical theater company, the Light Opera Group of the Negev (LOGON), will be giving 10 performances of the British musical, Oliver! around the country.

Based on the novel Oliver Twist, Oliver! was the first musical adaptation of a famous work by the legendary 19th century writer, Charles Dickens, to become a stage hit. As luck would have it, LOGON'S production falls precisely in the month and year marking the bicentenary of the birth of Dickens - a year in which there will be international celebrations of his life and work.

Lionel Bart wrote the script, music and lyrics of Oliver! which premiered in the West End in 1960. It had long successful runs in London and on Broadway and was made into a musical film in 1968. The show includes several musical standards, including "Food, Glorious Food", "Where is Love," "As Long as He Needs Me, "You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two," and "Consider Yourself."

Dickens' original novel was an expression of outrage and protest against man's inhumanity to man. It tells the tale of an orphan boy who runs away from the oppressive workhouse, is sold into de facto slavery, escapes to London and finds himself in the clutches of a wily fence who exploits homeless children. He is also arrested, becomes entangled and threatened by an East End villain and witnesses a brutal murder.

Not exactly cheerful fare. But, as its enormous popularity for more than four decades has shown, Lionel Bart's Oliver! has been adapted so that the story is uplifting and tuneful entertainment.

One of the most controversial characters in English literature appears in the novel – the dark, unappealing and crafty old Jew – Fagin – for which Dickens was accused of being anti-Semitic. The late Lionel Bart, who was himself Jewish, fashioned his Fagin as far more comic than villainous. Several famous British comic actors have performed in the role, including Ron Moody and Rowan Atkinson.

Eric Isaacson, who played Henry Higgins in LOGON's 2009 production of My Fair Lady, is Fagin in LOGON's production. Isaacson has given some thought to playing the character that, in Dickens’s novel, is an unremittingly evil Jew. "In Lionel Bart’s musical and the 1968 film, Fagin has a human side," he comments. "To quote from one of his songs: 'A man’s got a heart, hasn’t he?' Uniquely in Israel, Fagin the Jew is either an irrelevancy, or a reason for identifying with his intermittent displays of caring and human frailty. Here in Israel, the criminal side of his character is ascribed to part of the reality of poverty and survival in 19th Century London," Isaacson adds.

LOGON, celebrating its 31st year, has a unique place, not only in the south, but throughout the country, producing a different Broadway musical every year, which it performs throughout the country. In this season’s production there are 44 performers on stage. LOGON’s veteran players are joined on stage by 17 children who travel from many towns in the Negev in order to be able to take part in this show.

LOGON will present Oliver! at venues across Israel, between February 23 and March 22.

PERFORMANCES SPONSORED BY ESRA:

Modiin Heichal Hatarbut: Sunday March 11. Tickets ESRA Modiin: 050 825 1923; 052 747 2151

Kfar Saba Heichal Hatarbut: Monday March 19. Tickets ESRA Raanana 09 748 2957

For information about other performances, call 08 641 4081, or go to www.negevlightopera.com.  

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