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Sundays, February 15 and 22 at 9 p.m. Masterpiece Classic: Oliver Twist

(Rochester, NY) The world’s most famous orphan comes to Masterpiece Classic in a rousing new retelling of Charles Dickens’ much loved story of daring pickpockets, diabolical villains, and amazing adventures on Oliver Twist, airing in two parts on Sundays, February 15 and 22 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV 21 (cable 11) and WXXI-HD (cable 1011 and DT 21.1).

With a modern edge that sets it apart from previous adaptations, Oliver Twist’s spectacular cast is led by newcomer William Miller as Oliver — orphaned in the countryside, sent to the workhouse, sold into servitude after his immortal appeal, “Please, sir, I want some more,” apprenticed to a sadistic coin maker, and then driven to flee for his life to the only safe haven he can imagine: the den of delinquents, prostitutes, and murderers known as London.

There, Oliver falls in with Fagin, the adult ringleader of a gang of boy-thieves, played with worldly charm by Timothy Spall (Harry Potter, Sweeney Todd). Fagin is one of Dickens’ most conflicted characters: a Jewish father figure for junior felons who risk the gallows on his behalf.

Also appearing are Adam Arnold as the Artful Dodger, pickpocket extraordinaire; Tom Hardy (Wuthering Heights) as Bill Sikes, Fagin’s cruel accomplice; Sophie Okonedo (The Secret Life of Bees) as Nancy, Oliver’s guardian angel and Bill’s lover; and Julian Rhind-Tutt (Notting Hill) as the mysterious Monks, who has an unaccountable grudge against the innocent Oliver.

Edward Fox (Foyle's War) plays the patrician Mr. Brownlow, the victim of Oliver’s first stealing spree, who gives the boy refuge — temporarily. And Morven Christie is Rose, Brownlow’s ethereal and tenderhearted ward, obsessed by the disappearance of her sister, Agnes.

Dickens is known for his comically quirky characters, and among the most Dickensian are Mr. Bumble (Gregor Fisher, Love Actually) and Mrs. Corney (Sarah Lancashire, Wuthering Heights). One is the officious beadle, who banishes Oliver from the workhouse. The other is the conniving workhouse matron, who sees her main chance in the bachelor Bumble and a secret item of interest to Monks. Bumble and Mrs. Corney are a match made in heaven — or in the other place, as events prove.

Add to that Oliver Twist’s complicating factors—functionaries who act criminally, criminals who behave responsibly, children who behave like adults, not to mention lots of biting social commentary about society’s treatment of the poor — and Dickens’ true genius as a storyteller emerges.

For more information, visit http://www.pbs.org/masterpiece.

Pictured: (l-r) Timothy Spall as Fagin, William Miller as Oliver Twist, Sophie Okonedo as Nancy, and Tom Hardy as Bill Sykes.
Photo Credit: ©Mike Hogan/BBC 2007 for Masterpiece

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