Review: 'Oliver' at Terryville Congregational Church

Nancy Sasso Janis

  • OnStage Connecticut Critic

“It’s a fine life!”

Nineteen year old Jonathan Zalaski made his Warner Theatre debut in ‘Oliver!’ six years ago. Since then, he recently did a great job with the role of Lucas Beineke in the Warner’s well-received ‘The Addams Family’ and he just completed his sophomore year at Central CT State University with, not surprisingly, a major in theatre. He also is the production manager of the theatre company at Terryville Congregational Church where he has directed ‘Cinderella’s Glass Slipper,’ ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ and last year’s ‘Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka’ in the sanctuary of the church. The productions have evolved in scope along with the growth of the company in a very short time and over 80 people are involved in this year’s production of ‘Oliver!’ 

‘Willy Wonka’ had to be performed with just piano accompaniment due to the fact that they were unable to fit even a small number of musicians into the space and ensure that the singers could be heard. This year, Music Director/Conductor Jim Luurtsema came up with a ingenious way of having the 16 musicians sit in a different room, streaming his conducting on a monitor at the rear of the church for the cast, and piping the music into the church over speakers. It worked flawlessly and made me so glad that he had a found a solution that sounded like a really good professional track. Anne DeMichiel was also Music Director and Alison Reed was Executive Producer.

Mr. Zalaski designed the set to fit the tight quarters and somehow not appear cramped, and he has a knack for using the church space most efficiently so that the audience doesn’t miss anything. Orphans entering with empty wooden bowls through the aisle for “Food, Glorious Food” was very effective. Ensemble member Michele Alicky served as Assistant Director. Choreography by Kayla Mastracchio always fits the space and even the youngest members of the cast are well-rehearsed enough to pull off every step. Tori Campbell’s lighting design was hard to appreciate at a matinee, but the super costumes by Allison Graboski were something very easy to appreciate.

The young members of the children’s ensemble were cute and clearly prepared for their appearances. TCC’s minister Rev. Zachary Mabe appeared in his fourth TCC show as Dr. Grimwig and Kathleen P. Harris made her TCC debut as Mrs. Bedwin. College student  Andrew Chase played the scary Bill Sykes with conviction and Jillian Boland, a voice student of Marianna Vagnini-Dadamo, gave a heartfelt performance as Bet. Jonathan David was a young Charlie Bates and Katharine Cartwright sang beautifully as Charlotte and the Rose Seller. 

Nicholas Barber was appropriately somber as undertaker Mr. Sowerberry and Terryville HS graduate Jolene Bourgoin sang well as his wife. Pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Terryville Lisa Watson-Hill had a great English accent and plenty of attitude as the Widow Corney. Payton Turpin, last seen as Shem in Goshen’s ‘Two by Two,’  was quite wonderful as Mr. Bumble. Mr. Zalaski somehow had time to have a superb cameo as Noah Claypole and Nathan Suarez (who usually does tech) had a great singing voice for his role as The Artful Dodger. 

As Oliver Twist, young Ethan Wollman had a wonderfully big tenor voice for his solos and acted well. This young actor is a fifth grade grad who will attend WAMS in the fall. In the role of Fagin, Jakob Buckley was a great singer and had a smooth charm, not to mention a great costume. Kayla Mastracchio was such a professional as Nancy; this young lady used her great belt for “As Long As He Needs Me,” and her lead on “Oom-Pah-Pah.” She is now a senior at CCSU studying to be an English teacher with a music minor. 

‘Oliver!’ continues next weekend at Terryville Congregational Church. Tickets are available online at

Photo of Jacok Buckley as Fagin by Sarah Kozma