When 21-year-old monk Oliver discovers he’s gay, he leaves the monastery and — following the advice of a closeted brother — heads for the promised land, West Hollywood. And you thought Lionel Bart had taken liberties with Charles Dickens!
Production, authorized by Bart, is the fourth annual fund-raiser for various AIDS-related charities under the Charity Parody banner; it’s also the most ambitious, set for 15 performances.
As its predecessors, “Twisted” takes off from the bones and melodies of a classic musical, updating the story and relocating the setting to L.A.’s predominantly gay community. It’s not so much a parody of “Oliver!” as a parody of contemporary life, set to the show’s music.
While many of the jokes reflecting various sensibilities and stereotypes will certainly register strongest (and sometimes only) with insiders, numerous situations in Ian Praiser and Peter Tolan’s new book are simply universal.
Once in West Hollywood, naive young Oliver falls in with Fagin (Joseph R. Sicari), his aide Dodger (Jeb Stuart) and a passel of men and women who live under Fagin’s care in “Bleak House” (the most obscure and literary reference in the show).
This Fagin doesn’t send his charges out as pickpockets, but as “homeless” street beggars and so on. Innocent-looking Oliver is chosen to become a Bible salesman.
Everybody gathers in a bar run by butch Norma (Lesley Boone), who employs her lover Nancy (Bree Burgess) and Bette (Laurie Walton), who dotes on Nancy; the characters are roughly analogous to Bart’s (and Dickens’) Bill Sikes, Nancy and Bit.
The current version retains Bart’s songs. Most of the changed lyrics bear some resemblance to the originals. Rod Battan’s lyrics are more often clever than not, though it might be significant that the only really raunchy songs are Nancy’s expression of her devotion to Norma, and Bette’s of the lengths she’d go for Nancy.
The play is beautifully cast — there are no bit players here — and expertly choreographed by Peggy Hickey, Heather Hoppus and K.W. Miller.
The sets by Patrick Hughes and Michael Deal reflect life in West Hollywood, and leader-synthesist Stormy Sacks gets an inordinately full sound out of his six-man band.
What with extensive use of body microphones, nobody in the audience (or in all Hollywood) will have any trouble understanding the words.