Madison Community Theater to present “Oliver!”
By Jessica Blomquist
Madison Community Theater’s newest production will have the audience saying, “Please sir, I want some more.”
MCT’s production, “Oliver!,” stars Dylan Jaynes as Oliver and Kirk Bozeman as Fagin, along with a 45-member cast and talented orchestra.
“Oliver!” is the musical adaptation of the novel "Oliver Twist," written by Charles Dickens, with music, lyrics and book adaptation by Lionel Bart. The original Broadway version was nominated for a Tony for Best Musical in 1963.
“It pretty much stays very close to the book,” said Kathleen Bryant, director of the show.
The musical, set in London in 1850, is about an orphan named Oliver who is kicked out of the orphanage for asking for more gruel and recruited into a gang of young boys who, under the leadership of Fagin, are taught to pick pockets in order to survive.
“It’s about how a poor orphan is introduced to some very realistic, but colorful characters and eventually finds a home back with his grandfather,” said Bryant. “Some people think it’s a dark show, but there’s a lot of subtle humor in it.”
The musical is a multigenerational show, featuring actors from first grade to adults.
“It’s a good community theater show to do,” said Bryant, because “there are strong older characters and opportunities for younger people too.”
The show features such recognizable musical numbers as “Consider Yourself At Home,” “Food, Glorious Food,” and “You’ve Got To Pick A Pocket Or Two.”
“It’s probably one of the strongest musical casts we’ve had,” said Bryant.
Getting to opening night will be no easy task, though.
As a summer stock show, the play must be rehearsed and fine-tuned in less than two weeks. To do this, the cast, directors, choreographer and accompanist must rehearse up to three times a day for a total of about eight hours a day. Rehearsals for the production started Monday, May 26, with opening night a mere 11 days later on Friday, June 6.
“It’s pretty much your life for two weeks,” said Grace Prior, the actress who plays Nancy on Friday and Saturday. “You have to really love it.”
Fatigue is the hardest part of doing a show in such a short amount of time, said Bryant. She also said it is hard for the actors because they have such a short amount of time to memorize lines, songs, and choreography and to develop their characters.
Another challenge that the actors must overcome is the adoption of an accent completely foreign to the average Southern teenager. With the help of a dialogue coach, each actor must either take on a lower class Cockney English accent or an upper class Londoner’s accent.
“It’s very difficult,” said Prior. “It requires all of us, every single cast member, to use an accent we’re not used to.”
For many, “Oliver!” is a family affair. Several families have multiple members taking part in the musical in one way or another. The entire Duan family, David, Hallie, Savannah, Alette and Sophie are all members of the cast. Three members of the Shytle family, David, Jane and Ben, act in the musical. Even Bryant’s daughter Madison is under her mother’s direction.
But for some, even without a member of their biological family in the musical, the entire cast feels like a family.
“You spend so much time together, every minute of every day for two weeks,” said Katherine Key, who will play Nancy in the Sunday matinee. “We’re kind of like a big family.”
“Oliver!” opens Friday, June 6 at 7 p.m. at Morgan County High School’s auditorium. The show runs Saturday at 7 p.m. as well, and the final performance is Sunday, June 8 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $6 for students and $12 for adults. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time at Whidby Jewelers or at the door. Bryant expects the show will last two hours with an intermission.