KAYSVILLE It’s always exciting when local companies put their own spin on a classic of musical theater.  Hopebox Theatre has done just that with their new production of  Oliver! . This staging is infused with the steampunk alternative aesthetic of the Victorian Era and it is a fresh and visceral look at this famous story.

Lionel Bart wrote the book, music, and lyrics for this musical adaptation of the novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. It first premiered on Broadway in 1962 and in 1968 it was made into a feature film that went on to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. It tells the story of the poor orphan Oliver and his struggles to survive in 1830s Victorian England. Director Jan Williams uses this reimagined steam-powered world design, such that the show feels reinvented and highly worth attending.

Under the direction of Williams, the steampunk aesthetic is the foundational framework of the production. Sadie Saunders Day designed incredible costumes that blend beautifully into the design. Each elaborate costume piece looks like the design and construction required immense time and effort. Even relatively minor characters are fully adorned from the hat to the appropriate stockings. For example, the minor character Mrs. Bedwin is given a beautiful two-piece skirt suit that must have taken hours of work to assemble. Likewise, the impressive effort behind the costumes is further displayed with a beautiful gold dress for Mrs. Corney designed with a bustle and layers of fabric. The overall look is completed with steampunk goggles and large tophats for accessorizing the costumes and is really fun.

The steampunk aesthetic fits in the venue of the Hopebox because the seating feels like the audience fits with the industrial underground setting almost like a tunnel. Set designer Curtis Dalton lines the walls with steampunk cogs and clocks and the stage has the type of lights that look like those of an underground mine by light designer Anna Reich.

Another facet that makes this production special is the live five-member band including drums, guitar, and piano. The company takes on the challenge of balancing the sound of the live music and performers. The live music adds to the show and is a pleasant change over a prerecorded track. I applaud the ambition to include live music by any company. The band was appropriately decked out in the steampunk apparel including the instruments altered to look like they came from the same design scheme. The band also fit into the performance of the show as they would interact with the actors such as chatting and dancing with performers throughout the show.

The production is double cast and this performance featured the Teal Cast at Hopebox. Graysen Eagle delivers a sweet innocent voice for Oliver especially in “Where is Love?” and Declan McAlhany is full of energy for “Consider Yourself” as the Artful Dodger. James Boley is appropriately boorish as Bill Sikes and Ben Stoneman is a very likable Fagin. Stoneman has the highlight musically of the show with “Reviewing the Situation”. He skillfully uses the whole stage and is fully involved in performing the pivotal number.

Courtney Fairbourn plays Nancy and is tasked with a challenging role for modern audiences to stomach as the character continually returns to an abusive relationship. She even defends this decision with the ballad “As Long as He Needs Me” about how the right thing for Nancy to do is return to Bill.  The character and plot are a difficult part of the musical and Fairbourn does what she can to bring humanity to the character even if one still leaves frustrated with how it is written.

There were issues with the microphones and sound balance with the band that felt like mostly opening night jitters. These complaints, however, felt minor compared to the advantage of having the live band. Additionally, the Hopebox has a slightly obstructed view of seats in section B, so prospective audiences should look to get a seat in the other sections when possible. Fortunately, the theatre moved me to a better seat away from this obstructed view.

I rarely am so won over by the visual aesthetics of a piece but this production of Oliver! was so bold and creative with the steampunk elements that it really impressed me.  Even audiences who normally don’t love Oliver! will appreciate the unique presentation of this particular production. The attention to detail is incredible and is a terrific spin on this classic musical. Audiences can come to enjoy the live band and catchy tunes in a vision of steampunk Victorian England. You can’t miss it!

Oliver! plays Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 PM through July 13th, with 2PM Saturday matinees, at the Hopebox Theatre (1700 South Frontage Road, Kaysville). Tickets are $16-22. For more information, visit hopeboxtheatre.com.