nytheatre.com review by Kat Chamberlain
July 15, 2007
There have been many shows that I liked but might have missed if I had just gone by their titles. But once in a while a title comes along that is perfect for the show. Twist is definitely one of them.
A twist on Oliver Twist, this goth, pop-rock, queer musical, described in its press release as weaving "Victorian Erotica, dark comedy and gender-bending into Dickens's famous tale," is indeed all of these things. I am more than impressed that the show manages to create its own recipe, and that it cooks all the weird ingredients into one tempting course. It might be an acquired taste, but it goes down rather easily.
Twist is a beautiful and impressionable boy-man who is not particularly afraid of being "bound and tied." He is first orphaned, then grows up in a workhouse before being auctioned off to an undertaker. He runs away and gets grabbed by a colorful gang of street hustlers, headed by Fagin, a drag queen in some of the most stunning costumes one can find. Twist becomes really tight—pun intended—with another handsome young man who is Fagin's favorite play-thing till now, Dodger. Twist is also watched after like a little brother by a sassy prostitute named Nancy. Finally Twist is taken in by the nice Lady Downlow, and he finds a home with her and happiness with Dodger.
Twist is one otherworldly little thing. He embraces his horrid encounters and surroundings with wide eyes and a ready smile. You never get the sense that he pities himself. People are drawn to him by his combination of naughtiness and open vulnerability. But I am getting too much into the character, which is not the point of the show at all. Rather, it is to shock and have fun.
However, the show treats all things seedy and lewd with such good-natured matter-of-fact-ness, I simply couldn't help but laugh and adore. It's hard to keep a straight face when the evil headmaster of the workhouse scolds with indignation, "Supper? It's Tuesday!"
Another high point of the show is without question the tunes. The music by Paul Leschen and lyrics by Gila Sand are wacky and clever, with endless innuendos and double entendres set to catchy melodies. There are a few that are sweet and even wistful. But with titles such as "Sucker' and "Whipping," they are destined to become cult favorites.
The acting is rightfully over-the-top. Reymundo Santiago's Twist features a graceful dancer with an uncanny allure. Travis Morin's Dodger is delightfully sly—and you will love him in the end. The star is arguably Garrit Guadan's Fagin, who, like most actors in the show, plays a second role as well. He is in-your-face fabulous. But my favorite is Shoshanna Richman's Nancy, whose every gesture and glance makes a study in finesse. I could watch her forever.
This show is some wicked fun. "Please, sir, may I have some more?" young Twist repeatedly says in the show; by the closing note I would indeed enjoy another taste of this unusual treat. I think Dickens would, too.