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Secret Theatre tinkers with classic ’60s show

Bailey Seeker (c.) and cast members from Secret Theatre's "Oliver! The Musical" perform one of the show's big musical numbers. Photo courtesy Catherine Vitale
TimesLedger Newspapers

Although the Secret Theatre’s new production is titled “Oliver! The Musical,” it could rightfully be called “Nancy! A Star is Born.”

In her first major post-collegiate role, Bailey Seeker as the doomed Nancy in Lionel Bart’s musical adaptation of Dickens’ “Oliver Twist” walks off with the show without breaking a sweat.

Her glorious singing voice, which stops the show in the Act I finale “As Long as He Needs Me,” coupled with her boundless energy make her the focal point of each scene in which she appears.

She turns in a performance that is funny, sweet and full of life, which is none too easy when playing an ill-fated prostitute. Seeker’s Nancy clearly loves life and is eager to share that joy with anyone as she does to perfection in the numbers “It’s a Fine Life” and “Oom-Pah-Pah.”

That latter tune celebrates her time spent drinking in the Three Cripples tavern and making love with her abusive partner Bill Sykes — a menacing Gregory Isaac, who also possesses a top-notch singing voice that unfortunately gets little stage time.

Nancy’s fun is contagious, which makes her pending doom that much sadder.

Also clearly having a lot of fun are Haley Selmon as Bumble and Anna Grace Carter as Widow Corney, the two ill-humored characters who run the workhouse where we first meet Oliver.

Although Bumble is usually played by a man, Selmon’s turn as the inept public servant more interested in sating her own needs than caring for her charges brings the humor in her scenes to a new level. As Bumble shifts into lecherous mode with Widow Corney and Mrs. Sowerberry — Hannah Dowdy making the most of her one scene in the funeral parlor where Oliver is first forced to work — it’s hilarious to watch these women swoon for Bumble the buffoon, especially because he is now a she.

Other standouts include Amanda Dupuy, who makes a very believable pre-teen boy as Oliver and owns her version of “Where Is Love?,” and Richard Mazda, founder of the Secret, who succeeds in making Fagin funny, creepy and a little bit sad all at once.

Of course, funny, creepy and a little bit sad could easily describe director Lenny Banovez’s take on the entire production.

The show, subtitled “A Steampunk Twist on a classic,” incorporates steampunk — a genre of sci-fi where steam-powered machinery dictates the look and feel of the narrative — into the costumes and sets. Think ripped fishnet stockings, goggles and over-the-top hairstyles and you get a sense of this show.

Banovez, who scored a big hit recently with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” where actors learned which role they would play each evening through a lotto-like drawing, proves he can master musical-comedy as easily Shakespeare.

But the evening belongs to Seeker, who recently graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Catch her now in LIC, because before too long, you’ll be shelling out $150 a pop to see her perform across the East River.

Reach news editor Kevin Zimmerman at 718-260-4541 or by e-mail at kzimmerman@cnglocal.com

If you Go

“Oliver! The Musical”

When: Through Dec. 22

Where: The Secret Theatre, 44-02 23rd St., Long Island City

Cost: $25/adults, $15/children, $70/family four-pack

Contact: 718-392-0722

Website: www.secrettheatre.com

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