Dickens’s “Oliver” Gets a New “Twist” in 1920s New Orleans

By A. Scott Galloway

Boston and Twist (Matthew Johnson and Alaman Diadhiou, center) and the gang in a scene from “TWIST - An American Musical” at the Alliance Theatre.

TWIST — An American Musical is a spectacular and historically challenging theatre production opening at The Pasadena Playhouse on Sunday, June 26. The concept is taking Charles Dickens’s old English classic Oliver Twist and loosely adapting it for Depression-era America as set in 1920s New Orleans. Filled with dazzling modern dance and tap dancing showcases (in locales from late night juke joint jam sessions to trumpet led funeral processions), unforgettable songs and colorful characters, the play also depicts the harsh realities and intolerances of the American South in terms of racism and displaced children. The swingin’ production provides a golden opportunity to entertain and enlighten people about life after The Jazz Age.

TWIST tells the story of a young orphan boy born of a courageous white mother and an incredibly talented black father, who navigates the colorful and sometimes rough waters of street life and racial indifference in his quest to find his family and to find love. The score for TWIST features the musical pulse of New Orleans in the 1920s and is highlighted by a tapestry of soaring ballads, hot jazz, blues, gospel and tap-infused dance numbers that will take audiences along this magical journey.

Tamyra Gray as Della and Alaman Diadhiou as Twist in “TWIST - An American Musical” at The Pasadena Playhouse.

Directed and Choreographed by the highly acclaimed Debbie Allen with orchestration by the legendary Harold Wheeler (currently seen on the very successful television show, Dancing with the Stars), TWIST is making its West Coast debut with an amazing cast that includes Tamyra Gray (a Broadway baby also widely known from the inaugural season of TV’s American Idol), Tony-winner Cleavant Derricks (originator of the role “Jimmy Early” in Dreamgirls on Broadway), and two heart-stopping young men splitting the lead role of Twist: Alaman Diadhiou and Coco Monroe, plus 30 other supporting actors/ensemble – a winning song and dance team.

Director/Choreographer Debbie Allen says this about the show: “TWIST is the story of a boy lost in a river of racial hatred, greed and deceit, who is found on a road to hope, love and family, with a lot of great singing and dancing along the way.”

TWIST plays at The Pasadena Playhouse now through July 17. The Pasadena Playhouse is located at 39 South El Molino Avenue in Pasadena. The performance schedule is Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. There will also be two Wednesday matinees at 2 p.m. on July 6 and 13. Regular ticket price range is from $39.00— $69.00, with Premium Seating available for $100. All preview performances are $10 off the regular ticket price (except Premium Seating). Rush tickets are available for $20 one hour prior to the performance time and are subject to availability. Rush tickets must be purchased at The Pasadena Playhouse Box Office. Tickets are available by calling The Pasadena Playhouse at (626) 356-7529. Tickets are available 24 hours online at www.PasadenaPlayhouse.org.

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