Brendan Sheehan l Associate Editor
A chaotic tune fills the hallways on a quaint Tuesday night. Laughter, booming footsteps and chatter trickles through the auditorium doors.
“Oom-pa-pa, Oom-pa-pa, that’s how it goes! Oom-pa-pa, Oom-pa-pa, everyone knows!”
Smiles paint the faces of the cast as they go over the number repeatedly, knowing they will nail it next time.
Lionel Bart’s musical “Oliver!” is set to return to the high school auditorium for the first time since the ‘80s at 7 p.m. next Friday. Later showtimes include 7 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
A theatrical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist,” the show follows an orphan, Oliver Twist, played by sophomore Brady Cassel. He joins a band of pickpockets led by the Artful Dodger, played by junior Maddie Barnhart, and Fagin, played by junior Owen Pohlkotte.
“The heart of ‘Oliver!’ is about belonging and finding where you belong,” said director Tara Pohlkotte. “He loses his mom and ends up in these precarious positions, but, along the way, he’s adopted and loved by all of these characters who have found their own family.”
The cast of over 25 high school students and an ensemble of elementary school students have been preparing for the show since the later weeks of December, learning dances with choreographer Emily Meola or going over music with former director Martha Pierce.
“With the shorter amount of time, it definitely required us to do more work outside of it,” said Cassel. “I think Mrs. Pohlkotte is pushing us really hard to be the best that we can.”
With several roles in community theater shows and school productions, Cassel is no stranger to the theater scene and connecting to the roles he plays.
“Oliver is always looking for the good in people, and I feel like I can connect to that,” said Cassel. “He is a character who just wants to be loved.”
Barnhart, Cassel and Owen Pohlkotte have been in productions with each other since middle school and constantly bond over their love for the stage, according to Cassel.
“I think on stage we’re having a lot of fun together and just being ourselves,” said Cassel. “The chemistry aspect has become really easy because we are all such good friends.”
Each character that Oliver meets has their own very distinct characters that interact to contribute to the overarching themes of community and belonging, according to Tara Pohlkotte.
“I like Fagin’s goofy, sleazy attitude the most, and I like his happy, funny energy,’ said Owen Pohlkotte. “The only thing I don’t personally relate to is his need to steal or commit crimes.”
In taking on the role of a character, freshman Paige Cecil, who plays the female lead Nancy, highlights that being bold is essential to holding one’s place on stage.
“My favorite part of being on stage is being able to tell a story that’s not mine and feel different experiences,” said Cecil.
The production, according to Tara Pohlkotte, is seeing much more student involvement behind the scenes.
With the help of her husband, Jason, who specializes in set design and tech, the crew is hoping to see a complete student-run show with students designing and building their own sets and letting the tech crew run the booth on their own.
“Theater is for everyone, right? Making space for more students to get involved is our jam,” said Tara Pohlkotte. “We’re able to flex those technical muscles that we haven’t had a chance to do here yet.”
The show has also been working with the orchestral pit much earlier than previous years to allow more stress-free rehearsal time, according to pit member Sophia Medzoyan.
“Last year we didn’t have the chance to play with the cast until tech week which left us scrambling to figure out nuances of timing last minute,” said Medzoyan. “But this year we have played along with them singing their (individual) parts so that we can work out cues, which has been helpful.”
As tech week looms in the horizon, as Owen Pohlkotte puts it, members of the cast look forward to sharing the magic of the world of Charles Dickens and “Oliver!”
“I would like the audience members to take away from the show all the different story lines,” said Cecil. “There’s so many characters going through their own very different life path throughout the show that it’s cool to see how each one ends.”