In 1960, Lionel Bart wrote the musical Oliver! based on Charles Dickens’s novel `Oliver Twist.` Bart, who was not a professional musician, crafted his play with the help of an assistant, who transcribed his melodies. The result was magical: the story of the young orphan Oliver’s misadventures in 19th century London was a huge hit. On Feb. 5, audiences will once again be able to share in Oliver’s experience when the Bethlehem Central Middle School presents the play.
`Our role is to bring the vision of the writer to the stage,` said co-director Katie Daly, `The challenge with that is the space, the children in the ensemble, and the middle school environment.`
`As far as work goes, together we teach the music, do the staging, and have other people come in and do the costumes and other things,` said fellow director Lynda Conway.
Both music teachers at the middle school, Conway and Daly stress the importance of school before the play, but also encourage the children in their pursuit of the stage.
`They’re fabulous. Countless hours are spent in rehearsal,` said Conway of the children’s devotion to the play, `These kids are here [and] they’re willing to sacrifice things to do this. They really want to be successful on stage.`
As with any Broadway adaptation, the music is a highlight of the performance.
`The music features several soloists with several different chorus numbers,` said Daly.
The cast will be supported by a reduced score consisting of violin, flute, clarinet, piano, bass and drum accompaniment. Famous songs such as `Food, Glorious Food,` `I’d Do Anything,` and `Consider Yourself,` will all be features of the performance.
The task of organizing a play can be a bit daunting, especially when the cast and crew combined consists of more than 100 members, making it the largest play in BCMS history. High school students are also assisting in the performance, with duties ranging from choreographing the actors to teaching the crew how to operate equipment.
`It takes a collaboration of teachers, parents, and students to create this production,` said Daly.
The play will also feature over half a dozen sets that will offer the audience a chance to see the world through Oliver’s eyes.
`In designing a set for a musical you have a lot of scene changes. You’re thinking about what the music and the story convey. For ‘Oliver!,’ we did a fairly realistic set,` said Jill Baboulis, leader of set design.
Daly said that choosing a play that can suit middle school voices can be difficult. Nonetheless, everyone involved is enthusiastic about the coming performance.
`I’ve always been a fan of the performing arts. I did it during the sixth grade and had such a great experience that I just came back every year,` said eighth-grader Lindsay Lee, who plays Old Sally.
The children said they are also very pleased with the camaraderie the play creates among cast and crew.
`I enjoy most the other kids in the play,` said eighth-grader Luke Carpinello, who plays Bill Sikes.
All in all, the play, which began rehearsals in October 2007, will open in early February.
`I really like seeing the whole thing come together in the end,` said eighth-grader Elias Miller, who plays the Artful Dodger.
`It’s amazing how much will change between now and opening night,` adds Conway, reflecting the fluid nature of live theater.
The play opens Tuesday, Feb. 5, and continues on the seventh, eighth, and ninth. Performances will be at 7 p.m. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students and seniors.“