Richard Jenkins on Making Oliver!

Seeing Oliver! is a little like spending time with its director, Richard Jenkins. Both are accessible, slyly funny, and can make an hour feel like a minute.

Seeing Oliver! at Trinity Repertory Company is a little like spending time with its director, Richard Jenkins. Both are accessible, slyly funny, and can make an hour feel like a minute. And when you’ve left them, days later as you’re driving to work, they’re back in your head.

Drably dressed orphans, piled up and sleeping on a stairway; I’d do anything for you, dear, anything.

Jenkins, who forgets people’s names and has to look them up in his phone, who jiggles his knee through photoshoots and says things like “After forty years in Rhode Island, I still feel like a Midwesterner.” Who yet manages to be unexpected. Guess, for instance, whom he’d most like to meet.

“Barack Obama. I would just love to talk to him,” he says. “I’d love to hear what he really thinks. You know.”

Here's a glimpse into what Jenkins really thinks about Oliver!, which, by the way, is playing for exactly two more weeks. Jenkins sat down to talk with his wife, the choreographer Sharon Jenkins, who designed the stunning routines that help make this production so remarkable.


Richard: What terrified us was the casting. Where were we going to find an Oliver? He’s nine in the play. Were we going to settle for finding someone who was fourteen but looked younger? And then there’s the Artful Dodger — you need someone who can dance as well as sing. Then Phineas [Peters, who plays Oliver] and Noah [Parets, who plays Artful Dodger] walked in.

Sharon: It’s a huge burden for kids that age. They’re wonderful.

Richard: Once we had them, we knew we’d be okay. Stephen Berenson as Fagin — that also helped me start to breathe. And Tim [Timothy John Smith], he’s the Bill Sykes I always wanted but didn’t think I could have. He’s truly intimidating, a thug, and at the same time, you can see the relationship with Nancy. In this day and age, it’s a tough sell to have someone hit someone and then have her sing a love song about him. But Rachael [Warren] — she was born to play that part. You can’t tell me there’s a better actress out there.

And then we jumped into rehearsals. They said, “You’ve got the Christmas Carol set.” Two Dickens back to back on the same set. It was kind of liberating. It forces you to solve problems in an interesting and unique way. It’s fun to be back directing. Actually, it’s more fun, because I don’t have to show up every night.

Sharon: I’m in withdrawal from the rehearsal process. I could watch Oliver! every night. But I don’t, I go home.

Richard: Thank god. Some people think we should be here every night — no, no no. Then I’d be in it.

Read a review of Oliver! by Casey Nilsson. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 401-351-4242 or visit