In producing Lionel Bart's durable crowd-pleaser, there are choices: Go for a lively and bright family show, or emphasize Charles Dickens' darker tale of the underbelly of Victorian London. Executive producer-director Marsha Moode has chosen to go with the upbeat, and the result is an entertaining showcase for talented children and a host of Downey Civic Light Opera regulars.
First mention should be made of music direction by the very gifted conductor Eddy Clement, whose work in arranging and composing is first-rate. With choreographer Rikki Lugo's artful staging, the large cast delivers Bart's songs with enthusiasm.
The standout star of the show is the delightful Bill Lewis as an unrepentant yet charming Fagin. His rendition of "Reviewing the Situation" showcases his considerable acting skills, as well as his allure in the eyes of the scrubby orphans he presides over.
Also turning in a bravura performance is Charlotte Carpenter as the doomed Nancy. Feisty and with a powerful voice, she achieves a portrait of a woman torn between what she knows is right and what she must do to hold on to the volatile Bill Sykes (a commanding Luke Darnell). "As Long as He Needs Me" is drama at its best. In humorous roles, Alan Neal Hubbs and Ann Peck McBride portray Mr. Bumble and his ladylove, Widow Corney, with gusto. Moode's choice of a female Artful Dodger is easy to understand when watching the talented 14-year-old Tahlena Chikami win over little Oliver (Logan Karlen). A bit unseasoned as yet, Karlen makes up for it with charm and a big smile.
Presented by Downey Civic Light Opera at the Downey Theatre, 8435 E. Firestone Blvd., Downey. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2:30 p.m. Jun. 1-17. (562) 923-1714.