Monday, August 22, 2016

Charleston's Hottest Cocktail Chillingly Lives Up To The Hype--Served At The Market Pavilion Hotel

Teased by the salty scent of the bay and stroked by its balmy breezes, it is indisputably a cornerstone of the ever popular French Quarter. Built on land formerly below sea level, the 19th century European grand hotel style building rises to a height of four stories on the district's busiest crossroads, the Old City Market and East Bay Street. Many of the Revolutionary War-era bottles and historic artwork that adorn its public areas and guest rooms were pulled from the seabed of the very same waters that once held it in its pluff mud embrace.

Additionally, more than 300 pieces of original art, including oil paintings of former U.S. leaders, such as George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, are displayed throughout. Gas lanterns, mahogany foyers, crown moldings, French-style chaises, marble baths, and chandeliers hung from high ceilings recall the charm of early Charleston. While teeming with this impressive collection of historical artifacts, contemporary works have been gracefully intermingled for a successful marriage of what Charleston was once upon a time and what it is today, the number one destination in the world. This is the Market Pavilion Hotel.

On this August day, I was not at the Market Pavilion Hotel to experience its luxury accommodations. I was not there to dine at its prestigious Grill 225, famed for its steaks that are "hand-selected and wet-aged 42-50 days to ensure tender texture and unsurpassed flavor." I was not there to experience its rooftop oasis called the Pavilion Bar, complete with views of historic Charleston, a cascading pool, signature cocktails, eclectic cuisine offerings, and the city's most spectacular sunsets. I was there to revel in its "dramatic, sexy and delicious" Nitrotini--Charleston's only cocktail infused with liquid nitrogen. It is Charleston's coldest cocktail at 320 degrees below zero.

There are 33 different Nitrotinis on the menu. Jessica, the expert on duty, specially trained in the art, science and safety of the Nitrotini, helped me narrow the long list down to a couple selections by pointing out what were her personal favorites. It came down to a choice between the Champagne Nitrotini and the Pomegranate Nitrotini.

The Champagne Nitrotini is a blend of Louis Perdrier Champagne, Pomegranate schnapps and Cointreau orange liqueur, garnished with an orange slice at $18 and the Pomegranate Nitrotini is a blend of Pomegranate flavored vodka and schnapps with a splash of Pomegranate juice at $17. I tend to favor vodka as a personal choice in liquors and am fond of anything containing pomegranate. So, I went with the Pomegranate Nitrotini. Jessica artfully prepared the ingredients and carefully topped it off with the colorless, odorless, tasteless and inert liquid nitrogen cooling the concoction to a frosty -320 degrees Fahrenheit.

Immediately, the ghostly cloud of condensed water vapor reacting with the warmer air of the bar area steadily ascended above the glass and flooded over its edges onto the bar top as she set it in front of me with early jazz music playing in the background. The temptation, to immediately raise the drink to my lips, was almost irresistible, but that would have resulted in a stiff upper lip in the form of a horrific frost bite followed by the zenith of brain freezes. A warning tag on the glass instructed to simply wait 1-2 minutes for the cloud and invisible liquid nitrogen to evaporate entirely, and then enjoy responsibly, and I did just that.

Dramatic--it was absorbingly entertaining to watch the cool wisps of water vapor spill out into the air and across the bar top. Sexy--there was an alluring and titillating feel to the 'affair', pun intended. Delicious--I would say, absolutely. It is a cocktail that irrefutably lives up to the hype. In the final analysis, the Nitrotini is "Charleston's hottest cocktail minus 320 degrees" and is quite refreshing.

The Market Pavilion Hotel front bar at the East Bay Street entrance is the only place it is served (not available at the Pavilion bar on the rooftop). The spacious atmosphere of the bar area with busy East Bay Street and the majestic United States Custom House for a backdrop adds to the experience.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

"A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum"--Rome Like You Never Seen it Before

Friends, Romans, and Summervillians, lend me your ears. Director JC Conway and crew are up to some funny business at the James F. Dean Theatre in Summerville with Stephen Sondheim's uproariously rumpus, sumptuously pompous, and abnormally anomalous musical A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. Shall they be buried or shall they be praised?

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum is a book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbartis turned into a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. It is a historically wacky story set in a Roman neighborhood of three homes. The house of Senex is in the center. He lives there with wife Domina, son Hero, and several slaves, including head slave Hysterium and the musicals main character Pseudolus. One of the neighboring houses is owned by Marcus Lycus. He is a buyer and seller of beautiful women. The third home belongs to the aged Erronius. He is abroad searching for his long-lost children, who were stolen in infancy by pirates.

Pseudolus is fortuitously presented with an opportunity. His young, boneheaded master, Hero, confides to him he has fallen in love with the golden haired beauty that lives next door in the house of Lychus, who happens to be a virgin courtesan by the name of Philia that has a problem with the numbers three and five. Pseudolus promises to help him win Philia's love in exchange for his own freedom, and the romp takes off. Pseudolus' road to freedom becomes fraught with doubt, temptation, deception, chastisement, and a surprising twist in the end.

Debuting with Pseudolus (Joseph Demerly) and incrementally incorporating the full cast, the opening number of the play, "Comedy Night", blew the roof of the house. It was a momentous start. From there, Demerly's high octane energy gloriously propelled the musical romp all the way to its "Finale". A multifaceted talent, Demerly is no stranger to "Forum" having done it on three other occasions playing different characters.

Alan Rosenfeld (Senex), Corey Geddings (Hysterium), and Jamie Young (Marcus Lycus) put in noteworthy performances. The three of them teamed up with Demerly in one of the plays more delightful and humorous songs as they fantasized the fringe benefits of "Everybody Ought to Have a Maid". In addition, larger-than-life Geddings, sporting a blonde wig and masquerading as a much bigger Philia, drew a special hurrah from the audience for his scene-stealing rendition of "Lovely" (elegantly sang earlier in the play by Anna-Noelle Kassing) and Jamie Young's snaky, slimy, lecherous procurer of courtesans character was nicely portrayed with a splash of comedic paranoia.

The rest of the supporting cast included Lisa Grooms as the battle-ax wife of Senex, Domina, and Christian Mahon as the lovesick Hero. Anna-Noelle Kassing as the young, beautiful, and dumb virgin courtesan-in-training, Philia, provided some crisp vocals. Daniel Rich's voluminous volcanic voice erupted throughout the theater as the pompous and braggart soldier, Miles Gloriosus, and Barry Gordon as the befuddled old man who is the Roman equivalent of Mr. Magoo taking it around one more time.

Kudos to Robert Venne, Tabatha Doetsch, and Alan Garner as the Proteans. whose load also included portraying slaves, citizens, soldiers, and eunuchs. Likewise to Sarah Morrison, whose accompanying piano music was flawless.

It is Rome like you never seen it before and makes you wonder how they ever conquered the then civilized world. The set is eye-popping, functional to the action, and a brightly painted stage on which a thousand dramas can be played. The costumes designed by Nicole Harrison were historically convincing and colorful. And, like any decent Roman farse, there is a bevy of beautiful dancing girls and plenty of sight gags, puns, and laughs.

Returning to the earlier question: Shall they be buried or shall they be praised? I have put in my twenty mina worth. What say you? Check it out for yourself and put in your 500 mina worth.

Now showing from August 5th to 21st. Purchase your tickets.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Dolphin Discovery Sunset Cruise With Barrier Island Eco Tours--A Relaxing Cruise To A Timeless Charleston Wonder

There were storms in the area, but from my experience, the sun always shines on the Isle of Palms. As I crossed the Daniel Island bridge, I could see the rain falling out over Charleston, but looking to the direction of the IOP my belief was confirmed--blue skies filled the horizon. I was traveling to the Isle of Palms Marina where I would board Barrier Island Eco Tours 49 passenger pontoon boat called the Caretta for a two and a half hour Dolphin Discovery Sunset Cruise to Capers Island. It was scheduled to leave dock at 6:00 pm.

Upon my arrival, I checked in at Eco Tour's booth, received my parking pass and picked up a couple of snacks to take on the cruise. Since it was 5:30 pm, I had an half hour to kill. While I awaited the signal to board, I sat on the red stained, wooden deck of the market and soaked in the late-afternoon marina atmosphere and humid, salty air of this popular backwater gathering place overlooking Morgan Creek. From the size of the gathering and awaiting crowd, it was going to be a full cruise.

As we boarded the Caretta, Captain Mike warmly greeted me and every person that crossed the gang plank. I took an outside seat along the rails for optimum picture taking and was joined by two other cruisers. The declining sun was still quit hot. As the boat gently rocked in the creek's ebbing current, the tour's naturalist, Sarah, welcomed everyone aboard. She delivered some opening words and ended the introductions with, "So, let's get the air conditioning going." With that said, Captain Mike fired up the engines and we eased away from the docks. The slight back water breeze and forward motion of the boat offered a welcomed cooling reprieve.

As we slowly motored in the no-wake zone, everyone on board one-by-one shared their places of origin with Germany the farthest. Sarah talked about the meaning of a tidal creek and how the level of Charleston's estuaries rise and lower on an average of six feet and added, "It does that twice in a twenty-four hour period."

Our first stop, after leaving the no-wake zone, was a nearby tributary where Sarah employed the assistance of the younger cruisers in pulling up some of Eco Tours' crab traps marked by floating buoys. Each of them enthusiastically took hold of the attached rope and dragged the trap on board. The first trap came up empty, except for two spade fish. It seemed the crabs discovered a way of escape through a damaged section of the cage to freedom. However, the second trap offered up the desired prize. She pointed out the various names people identify the captured crab by, but in South Carolina, it is known as the blue crab--a Charleston delicacy. After a few facts about It habits and identifying its sex, we headed to the open waters of a area called the Shark Hole--a deep hole, approximately 90 feet, scoured out by the constant current flowing in and out of the Atlantic channel between Dewees Island and the IOP.

Sarah asked what wildlife we hoped to see on our way to Capers Island, and of course dolphin, the bottlenose variety, was on top of the list. After all, this was a dolphin discovery cruise. She related some particulars about the dolphin. For example, South Carolina estuaries are the only place you can view the feeding frenzy called strand-feeding. One other interesting tidbit I learned from her informative narrative was that the dolphin is a highly protected marine species in South Carolina. You are not permitted to feed, catch, or hold a dolphin in captivity. Not even the South Carolina Aquarium display dolphins in their numerous exhibits. "In the wild, they are neither afraid of you or interested in you," she stated.

"Other wildlife you may see on our way to Capers is the loggerhead turtle, the opportunistic brown pelican--known for diving face first into the water to scoop up its dinner or patiently waiting for the dolphin to stir up some lunch, and a variety of other birds," Sarah informed. We scanned the sparkling waters for something to break the surface of the water. The boats expert dolphin-spotter named Hobbs, a mixed breed dog, alerted the group, but the sighting was brief. It was now time to leave the Shark Hole and head to Capers. With a thrust of the engines and spray of salty water in my face, we headed to the south-end of the island.

It was low tide. The sand that is usually covered by water was now exposed making the beach more expansive. The subtle rays of the declining sun washing over the island's sandy beachhead gave the terrain a soft glow. Not too far in the distance, the grayed timber of Boneyard Beach rose out of the sand like bleached skeletons left over from the age of the dinosaurs. The dead trees are a testimony to the Atlantic Ocean's relentless erosive power. I walked under their barren branches and photographed their fallen monarchs. The walk back to the Caretta was even more inspiring. Posing on the horizon, brushed over with the orange tint of the skylines changing evening palette, the darkened silhouette of the Caretta awaited our presence for a relaxing ride back to the Morgan Creek docks to the music and panorama of the living IOP estuary.

Unless you own a boat or know someone who does, some of Charleston's more secluded natural wonders are out of reach. Barrier Island Eco Tours Dolphin Discovery Sunset Cruise to Capers offers you the opportunity to see one of them firsthand. The cruise aboard their Caretta is a relaxing evening jaunt to one of Charleston's most beguiling and picturesque barrier Islands. While you are enjoying the scenery, the naturalist on board shares with you their knowledge of what you are observing giving you a greater appreciation for the wildlife and the estuaries that make Charleston the number one destination in the world. Our naturalist for the evening delivered an informative presentation laced with a good balance of humor and included the younger ones in the activities. Somewhat disappointing, we did not see much in the way of dolphin activity. Possibly, it was the low tide, but that is the nature of things when it comes to wildlife in their natural habitats. It is a matter of timing. Capers Island did not disappoint. The low tide and setting sun enhanced the timeless beauty of the island's Boneyard Beach.

Offered Sunday-Friday from 6:00-8:30pm, Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Offered Sunday, Wednesday and Friday year round. Times vary with sunset.

$36 for adults, $26 for children 12 and under, 2 and under are free
Purchase tickets

Barrier Island Eco-Tours 50 41st Avenue
Isle of Palms, SC

Sunday, July 17, 2016

A Serene Bed And Breakfast Nestled Under The Moss Covered Trees Of Wentworth Street With A Ghost Story

I found this bed and breakfast while walking Wentworth Street toward beautiful Wentworth Mansion to take pictures. If it wasn't for its modest sign pinpointing its location, I would not have discovered it. Many of the houses in this part of Harleston Village on Wentworth Street are of comparable style built of brick, stucco, or clapboard, except for the few large mansions. 1837 Bed and Breakfast is a fine example of a Charleston single house one room wide, with gable end to the street and tiered piazzas. It’s not known for a celebrated history, but like many homes in Charleston, it has an attention-grabbing but sad ghost story associated with it.

It was built by cotton planter Henry Cobia in the 1800's, and I am guessing more specifically 1837, but this is more implied than a stated fact. Henry Cobia is also credited with building the house at 128 Wentworth Street circa 1840. Built in the Federal-style, the house has three floors. It is accompanied by a two-story brick carriage/kitchen house. It was converted to a bed and breakfast in 1984.

The main house has a total of six guest rooms--three on the second and three on the third floor. Rooms on these floors entail walking up one or two flights of stairs. Each floor has open piazzas. Common rooms, such as the kitchen, dining room, and parlor are on the first floor.

Room 202
The carriage/kitchen house has two individual rooms on the ground floor with open beam ceilings and a one bedroom suite on the second floor, which is up one flight of spiral stairs and also has a small, private balcony. Originally separated from the main house as a safety precaution to protect it from accidental cooking fires, which was a common construction practice in the early years of Charleston, it was attached to the main house at the turn of the century.

Room 102
Each room is decorated with period furniture featuring queen canopy rice beds, armoires, local artwork, and oriental rugs. All rooms have private entrances and private baths. Amenities include cable TV in each room, free wireless internet service, and refrigerators. There is free one car per room on-site parking for small cars. A sumptuous, complimentary breakfast is prepared every morning and served starting at 8:30 am--for each days offerings go to daily breakfasts. It is reasonably priced with rooms ranging from $139 to $259 a night in the main house and $129 to $275 a night in the carriage house.

1837 is highly spoken of by most of its previous guests, but has one peculiarity--guests and employees have reported seeing a little boy playing around the halls, then disappearing from sight. The employees have affectionately named him, George. Now, some may view this as unsettling and others may view it as alluring, but according to the staff, apparently friendly George just engages in harmless mischief.

These are the sorrowful events that have become the supernatural story of 1837. Like many cotton planters, Henry Cobia owned slaves. During the 1830s, a male and female slave lived in a room on the third floor of the house along with their nine-year-old son. In 1843, due to financial difficulty, Cobia was forced to sell several of his slaves, which included the boy's parents. The next day, the little boy walked down to a dock on Charleston Bay and asked a man where his parents were taken. He was told that they had been transported to a ship that was currently docked in the middle of Charleston Harbor. Motivated by the hope that he might be reunited with his parents, the boy stole a rowboat and rowed in the direction of his parents' ship. All at once, the little boat capsized, and the boy drowned.

A concierge of the bed and breakfast states that George's mischief includes opening doors, rocking chairs and turning lights on and off. Most of the disturbances take the form of mattress shaking or the radio turns on in the middle of the night.

As described by the concierge and reported in an article by Dr. Alan Brown, a paranormal investigator, one of the funniest incidents at the 1837 Bed and Breakfast took place in May 2002: "We had a lady come down at breakfast, and she said, 'Did we have an earthquake last night?' And I said, 'I don't think so.' She said her bed was moving. I said, 'Was the chandelier moving too?' She said, 'No.' I said, 'Well, that's not an earthquake.' I didn't tell her about the ghost. Chances are that it was George acting up again. She asked me to call the earthquake people, and I did, and they said we didn't have an earthquake. She accused them of covering it up."

1837 Bed and Breakfast is the Charleston package made up of old southern charm with ghostly implications. It is located in a quiet area of the city, but not far from King Street and Charleston Place. According to most reviews, its staff is hospitable and attentive. It was awarded the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence in 2015 and highlighted on History and Travel Channel. New York Times called it "A perfect place to unwind."

126 Wentworth Street
Charleston, SC 29401
Phone: (843) 723-7166

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

One Man's Sold Dream Becomes Another Man's Great Gain--Wentworth Mansion

The Second Empire Style bricked behemoth, characterized by its mansard roof and dormers,
benevolently stands four stories above Charleston's intersecting streets of Wentworth and Smith. To get a complete photograph of the impressive mansion, I had to cross over to the other side of Wentworth and Smith where I took an angled shot for the best panorama. Beyond the mansion’s encircling black wrought iron enclosure, the beautifully landscaped grounds beckoned me to enter through its front gate. I accepted the enticement and stepped over the threshold into the present past.

Constructed by the finest artisans of the day, the nearly 24,000 square foot architectural treasure was completed just in time to have its infrastructure rocked and its constitution tested. In August of 1886, The Great Earthquake of Charleston struck with violent fury. While bricks rained down onto the streets of the Holy City, the magnificent Wentworth home of wealthy cotton merchant, Francis Silas Rodgers, emerged from the upheaval virtually unscathed. It is considered one of the finest homes in Charleston.

Francis Rodgers had a dream. Not the kind you conceive in your sleep and awaken from, but more along the lines of a concept. With a family of 13, Rodgers had envisioned that the mansion be used to live in by his children and their children. He employed architect Daniel G. Wayne to bring it to reality.

Rodgers spared no expense in the building of his lavish mansion. The exterior was covered in Philadelphia pressed brick and the windows and quoins were finished in stone. Interior features included inlaid floors, two grand matching chandeliers from Europe, marble mantles carved by sculptor Emile T. Viett, elaborate wooden staircases, a double parlor, Lewis Comfort Tiffany glass panels, and a rooftop cupola with panoramic views of the city. A bas-relief cornice above the dining room window depicts a cotton plant, representative of Rodgers' business.

The family flourished, but 34 years later his heirs sold it for $100,000 to the Scottish Rite Cathedral Association, who in 1940, sold it to the Atlantic Coast Life Insurance Company. The insurance company used it as their office headquarters until 1996, when Richard Widman had a dream of his own, purchased the unappreciated mansion, and changed its destiny.

Widman renovated the mansion with the noble resolve of preserving its famed historic features. Modern conveniences were added like gas-lit fireplaces, king-size sleigh beds, whirlpool tubs, and double glass-walled, walk-in showers, and air conditioning. After 18 months and 7 million dollars, the grand historic mansion opened as a 21-room, award- winning luxury hotel offering guests a true taste of Southern hospitality in an unsurpassed setting. Wentworth Mansion is a must-see for history buffs and a one-of-a-kind authentic Charleston experience where patrons are emerged into luxury living and good ole Southern hospitality at its best. The year was 1998 and this was only the first phase of Widman's plans.

In 2000, Widman converted the carriage house behind the home, which once housed the stables and carriages, into Circa 1886, today a AAA Four Diamond, Forbes Four Star award-winning restaurant. In 2004, the structure that was originally used as the stable for the Mansion was renovated to house the Spa at Wentworth Mansion. The 1,000 square foot spa offers patrons a full range of treatments.

Wentworth Mansion has been named the #1 Small, City Hotel in the U.S. 2015 in the 2015 Travel and Leisure World's Best Awards, #2 Best Hotel in Charleston of the Top 25 Best Hotels in the US in the 2015 Condé Nast Traveler Readers Choice Awards, and One of the Top 50 Hotels in the U.S. in the 2015 US News.

Amenities: Southern breakfast served from 7:30-10:30 a.m. at Circa 1886 restaurant; afternoon tea and lemonade from 2-4 p.m.; evening wine tasting and hors d’oeuvres from 5-6 p.m.

Specials and packages.

Average rates depending on room selection: August--$440-$595, January--$359-$800, April--$460-$610.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Kaminsky's Dessert Cafe In Charleston--The Go-To Place For A Happy Ending

Sitting at the beautifully laid-out table setting, sipping on a High Tea concocted with a balanced blend of Rum, Earl Grey infused sweet vermouth, rhubarb bitters, strawberries, and basil, the perfectly integrated "S" floating in my just delivered butternut squash bisque with a pecan crumble was a fitting reminder of our outstanding dining choice for the evening. For beyond the glass windows of its front entrance, out on busy East Bay Street, the establishments recognizable yellow overhead sign and blue awning unmistakably affirms the rationale behind the "S". We were dining at the highly celebrated eclectic Charleston restaurant named Slightly North Of Broad or quite simply and more fondly referred to as S.N.O.B..

Slightly North Of Broad is just one of a plethora of world class restaurants located throughout the Charleston peninsula, Upper and Lower. However, on this beautiful Charleston night, in the historic French Quarter, it was the clear choice by way of requests from three of our party of five who had not previously had the pleasure of dining at the S.N.O.B., and it did not disappoint.

The company was delightful, my drink cheerful and my soup tasteful. It was the perfect introduction to my selected entre--Local Grouper with Charleston Gold rice, bok choy, shiitake mushrooms, white miso, and toasted benne, which after its consumption, culminated into the major reason for this article--dessert. Without a doubt, the offerings on S.N.O.B.’s dessert menu would have been rich and succulent, but with no disrespect to S.N.O.B., we had other plans.

Just a short stroll from S.N.O.B. down East Bay Street to the Old City Market and about halfway up its adjoining North Market Street, you will arrive at the doorsteps of a dessert café that is adored by locals and sought after by visitors. Its name is Kaminsky’s and it has been a dessert institution in Charleston since 1992.

It was a late visit and North Market Street was alive with patrons. There was a bit of a wait, which was expected. We passed the time conversing with fellow expectant customers huddled around the cafe's steps, until we got the call. As we entered through its door, to the right, there was a glass case housing a selection of its signature desserts and beyond a dessert bar where a large chalkboard hung overhead with a list of the days special offerings. To the left, scattered about were a hodge-podge of tables and chairs for seating, which added to the cafe's endearing quirky vibe. With an interior of brick and wood, Kaminsky’s Old Charleston charm was underscored by a ceiling-high painted wall emblazoned with its name. Its people friendly atmosphere was as rich as its dessert collection.

Kaminsky’s desserts are prepared fresh each day with selections changing daily. It offers dozens of cakes and pies by the slice, as well as milkshakes, floats, ice cream and cobblers, with everything available a la mode. In addition to its vast array of specialty coffees, it also offers a full beer, wine and liquor selection featuring eleven of Kaminsky's highly sought Dessert Martinis--all for $8.00. On our visit, I chose one of the menu's "Kam Crew" favorites, the White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle--smooth. Others in our party chose Key Lime Pie and Kahlua Expresso. To peruse the complete list, go to Dessert Martinis.

Kaminsky's was a satisfying conclusion to a spectacular evening in Downtown Charleston. For some of us, it was a first-time visit. It is a great place to have a conversation and share a few laughs while spooning over a vast array of delicious and seductive desserts and sipping on a collection of imaginative dessert martinis unique to this one-of-a-kind café.

Kaminsky's Dessert Cafe
78 N Market St, Charleston, SC
(843) 853-8270

Monday - Wednesday: 1pm - 1am
Thursday : Noon - 1am
Friday - Saturday: Noon- 2am
Sunday: Noon - 1am

Sunday, June 5, 2016

"Oliver" Will Warmly Pick The Pockets Of Your Heart--Now Showing At the James F. Dean Theatre

First published as a serial from 1837 to 1839, Oliver Twist became Charles Dickens second novel in 1838. A story about an orphan named Oliver, the boy starts his life in a cruel workhouse where he is branded as a troublemaker after asking for more gruel and then sold into an apprenticeship with an undertaker. He escapes from there and travels to London and meets the Artful Dodger, a member of a gang of juvenile pickpockets led by the elderly criminal Fagin. As the story progresses, a bit of a "twist" is revealed--a turn in the plot that may have influenced Dickens in the naming of his main character.

Actually there are varying explanations for the name Oliver Twist. In the story, Mr. Bumble randomly picked the name Oliver for the orphaned child and used an alphabetical system to come up with Twist. Twist could also be a play on the words "all of a twist." However, Oliver and his name may have been based on a young workhouse boy Dickens knew while growing up named Peter Tolliver.

In 1960, the story was loosely turned into an English musical called Oliver with music and lyrics by Lionel Bart. It premiered in the West End of London and enjoyed a successful long run. In 1963, David Merrick brought Oliver to Broadway. Since, there have been numerous tours and revivals, and now has found its way to the humble stage of the James F. Dean Theatre.

The Flowertown Players successful and entertaining opening night production of Oliver was a coordinated group effort of 30 youngsters and adults nicely choreographed and musically orchestrated by director Jenney Aubrey and Company. With a Victorian London skyline painted across the upper portion of the stage for a backdrop, Kem Welch's realistically appointed set, constructed by Chrissy and Ernie Eliason, fostered the crucial atmosphere for this period piece based off of the inspirations and recollections of England's beloved writer of the 1800's.

As the story of Oliver's life and travels were paraded across the stage from the workhouse scene to the streets and establishments of Gothic London, the constantly changing scenes were managed with precision by Ashley-Ann Woods and Crew.

Aiding visually to the play, Nicole Harrison's cleverly designed costumes from the workhouse orphans to Mr. Brownlow are imaginative and fittingly portray the dress and styles of London's 1800's social hierarchy as Charles Dickens would have seen it.

The capable cast of performers infused Oliver with high energy and dedicated passion. It is unmistakably obvious each and everyone of them thoroughly enjoy doing the show and go all out to sell the plays song and dance routines.

Jonah Streff, in his first singing role with the Flowertown Players, is the epitome of Oliver. Meaning, if I were to picture in my mind what the real Oliver would have looked liked according to the imagines of Dickens, Jonah would be it, and of course, the costume greatly helped in this regard. He hit the right notes in his rendition of "Where is Love?", when Oliver was forced to sleep on a coffin and his collaboration with Sam Daniel, The Artful Dodger, in "Consider Yourself", when he is invited by the kindly pickpocket to come and live in Fagin's lair--definitely a play favorite and admirably executed by Sam Daniel.

Fagin (Bill Terranouk) is an elderly criminal who oversees the gang of young pickpockets. When Oliver is brought to him, he teaches the boy their ways. Cloaked in a tattered overcoat and haloed in a briny appearance, Bill Terranouk, in a crusty grumble, delivered his signature songs of the play "You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two" and "Reviewing the Situation."

Some of the more unsavory characters Oliver interacts with include Mr. Bumble, the workhouse manager, played by Fred Maidment and Widow Corney, played by Kate Berrio, both heartless and greedy individuals. Fred and Kate are paired in one of the more humorous songs of the play, "I Shall Scream", where Kate showcased her expressive facial skills ranging from flirtatious to standoffish. Then, sold by Mr. Bumble, Oliver comes in contact with the equally unpleasant Mr. and Mrs. Sowerberry (Charles Soderlund and Gretchen Gabriel). But the most odious of the characters is the brutal Bill Sykes (Jason Olson), introduced into the play by the song "My Name". He commits the worst of offenses, murder.

Not all the characters Oliver confronts are interested in what they can do to him rather than what they can do for him. Mr. Brownlow (Chad Estel), a victim of the young pickpockets, and Bet (Casey Dorman) ultimately seek Oliver's best interests. Mr. Brownlow is a key part of the twist in the story line.

Finally, there is the unfortunate Nancy, who also has a tender heart. Unfortunate because she loves Bill Sykes and tender because she ultimately seeks to do right by Oliver and makes the ultimate sacrifice. Nancy is played by Sarah Daniel, who is no stranger to the stage and is the lead singer in a local Summerville band. She partakes in two of the plays favorite songs--the lighthearted "Oom Pah Pah" and the highly emotional "As Long As He Needs Me." One, bringing out her playful side and the other, her passionate side--highlighted by powerful vocals.

Honorable mentions goes to Ben Soule for his portrayal of Charley Bates. Ben was a delight to watch and his enthusiasm was indisputable as was the entire group of young actors in the opening number of "Food Glorious Food."

Oliver is the Flowertown Players at their best. It will warmly pick the pockets of your heart and leave you repeating the orphan boy's opening words "Please, sir, I want some more."

Showing June 3-19. Purchase tickets for Oliver.