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New take on classic Twist

Production at the Playhouse until mid-April

POSTED: April 1, 2014 12:03 a.m.
Micah Green/

Bill Harding, as Bumble, stands behind Benjamin Harding, as Oliver, as they practice a scene with Gary Heffelfinger, as Sowerberry, and Mrs. Sowerberry, Beth Minnear, during a recent dress rehearsal of “Oliver” at the Cumming Playhouse. The musical, put on by Mello-Drama Productions, will run from March 27 through April 19.

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CUMMING — Audiences at the Cumming Playhouse will be transported to 1830s London.

Based on the classic novel by Charles Dickens, “Oliver Twist,” the musical “Oliver” comes to the local stage by Mello-Drama Productions through April 19.

Musical director Hannah Chapman said she enjoys the show since it offers a little more grittiness than most musicals due to its Dickensian roots.

“It’s a little dark,” she said. “But for me, I like a show that is a little darker and not all just singing, dancing and hunky-dory at the end.

“I love this story … it makes you think a little bit more about other people because it does really show a side of the less fortunate people that you don’t always realize are there. And that’s not changed just because it’s not Dickens’ time period anymore; we still have those people and we need to be aware of them.”

The musical, which was written in 1960 by Lionel Bart, traces the adventures of Oliver as he is sold from a London workhouse that is home to numerous starving orphans.

Throughout his journey, Oliver lives briefly with an undertaker and his wife before befriending another street boy, the Artful Dodger.

As a result of the friendship, Oliver ends up in a gang of pickpockets who work for the kind but slightly sinister Fagin.

During this his first pickpocket job, Oliver is caught by police. Mr. Brownlow, the man he stole from, learns of Oliver’s sad past and brings him into his home.

In the meantime, Bill Sikes, a cohort of Fagin, worries that Oliver will tell Brownlow the location of the gang. Sikes forces his wife, Nancy, and her friend, Bet, to capture Oliver and return him. But she plans secretly to return Oliver to Brownlow.

However, her husband learns of her plan and kills her. He then goes after Oliver, but is killed himself in the process, and Oliver and Mr. Brownlow return home safely.

Neva Garrett, director of the show, said audiences have a lot to look forward to from “Oliver.”

“It’s a beautiful story,” she said. “It’s a story of sacrifice and working together and overcoming difficult odds.”

Working with the cast of more than 50, most of whom are children, has been somewhat challenging in the small space of the playhouse, but Garrett said she’s enjoyed every minute.

“I love to do shows with children,” she said. “And these kids are beyond adorable.”

But the show’s cast is about much more than just cute children.

“I love the cast makeup. You’ve got your sinister characters and you’ve got your pompous, rich, well-to-do characters and then of course you have adorable children,” she said. “The vocals are fantastic and it’s rich in the culture of 1800s London.

“This really is one of those shows that has something for everybody.”

 

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