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Hard-Knock Life

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In Oliver!, half-starved English orphans tote bowls of gruel while bursting into songs like “Food Glorious Food.” If that seems to be unlikely musical material, consider too that it’s based on Charles Dickens’ extra-dark tale about child abuse in Victorian London. Double downer! “It’s about making the world safe for a child, despite all these terrible obstacles,” says Fred Sternfeld, director of Cain Park’s production. The award-winning play has delighted audiences since the ’60s. Its combination of desolation (kids struggle for survival by dabbling in petty crime) and hope (all ends well for the titular lad and his pals) appeals to Sternfeld, who juggles 25 child and 29 adult actors onstage. “I feel like a captain of a great crew,” he laughs. While Dickens’ timeless characters -- including pickpocket Artful Dodger and criminal mastermind Fagin -- remain the play’s focus, Sternfeld says there’s more to Oliver! than just cinder-covered kids. “It’s very moving,” he says. “People are being entertained, but at the same time, they’re learning about some serious issues that still exist today.”
Thursdays-Sundays, 8 p.m. Starts: June 21. Continues through July 8

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