Building on its nearly four decades of producing community theater for the entire family, The Beit Hillel Theater Workshop at Hebrew University is presenting its next production, Oliver!, during Hanukkah from December 19-26.
The workshop merges experienced actors and novices, native Israelis and implanted English-speaking immigrants, high school and university students, and older adults in a community theater experience that is educational, professional and fun, according to Beit Hillel’s producer and director Michael Berl.
Oliver! joins the classic theater that Beit Hillel has produced, including their versions of Fiddler on the Roof, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat, Phantom of the Opera, A Chorus Line, Aida and Hello Dolly.
Turning classical stories into colorful productions
Oliver! is the musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’s 1838 novel Oliver Twist, about a destitute orphan, a group of pickpockets, their fiendish leader, and the woman who tries to save him from a life of crime.
It was nominated for 10 Tony Awards and awarded three. At the 1968 Academy Awards, Oliver! was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won six.
“There were three finalists for this season’s Hanukkah production. Each would have been a great choice,” said Berl. “Why Oliver!? It was the most challenging of the three. The storyline is unusual, focusing on the life of mistreated orphans and features young actors alongside established veterans. The music and production numbers required multi-faceted abilities. The text required English speakers and Israelis to master 2 dialects of British English. The set required a complex design. The production required period costumes from the 1800s for this production. This gifted cast labored long and hard to master British annunciation, music, harmony and dances.”
The cast of 26 includes Daniel Lewin as Fagin and Dalia Herszaft as Nancy.
“I wanted to be part of Oliver! because it is a fun classic with amazing music and interesting characters to portray,” said Lewin, appearing in his fourth Beit Hillel production. “I joined this workshop because I have worked with Beit Hillel before and I always have a great experience working alongside the cast and crew at Hillel. My biggest motivation for theater is the fact that when I step onto that stage, it gives me the opportunity to be expressive and escape for a while from real-life matters. It’s therapeutic.”
Herszaft added that Oliver! has always been one of her favorite musicals.
“I am totally enamored by the songs and storyline. I’ve taken part in numerous amateur productions in London and upon moving to Israel in 2021 I was in a production of Heathers,” she said.
For both Lewin and Herszaft, being in Oliver! and part of Beit Hillel brings to life the oft-repeated phrase from the show – consider yourselves one of the family.
For more information, visit: www.eventer.co.il/user/oliver.