TR Robertson….The award winning STAR Repertory Theatre recently completed a four day production of the musical version of Charles Dicken’s classic novel Oliver Twist , “Oliver!”. Using two casts of actors and actresses, the Orphan Cast and the Pick-Pocket Cast, this Escondido based community theatre group performed the award winning musical on Vista’s Avo Theatre stage. Each night 37 actors and actresses, ages 7 to 70, danced, sang and acted, bringing to life the story of a young boy trying to escape from the bleakness of life in a workhouse and the adventures he goes through to find happiness and a family that will love him.
“Oliver!” has music and lyrics by Lionel Bart, based on the 1839 novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. The musical premiered in London in 1960 and was on Broadway in 1962. The musical would win Tony Awards for Best Original Score, Best Musical Direction and Best Scenic Design in 1963 and in 1968 it was released as a film and won 6 Academy Awards including Best Picture.
Under the direction of STAR founder Scott Kolod, co-direction of Doug Friedman, Musical Director Benjamin Goneia, Choreographer Kevin Burroughs, Costumes designed by Felicia Broschart, Make-up and Hair by Meredith Kolod and set designs by Renee Berg, Scott Kolod, Heather Mason, Carl Myers and Jeffrey Yarush, each provided a total team effort bringing energetic life to the Avo Stage. A large set filled every inch of space at the Avo Theatre, including a large arched bridge backdrop that served to provide a variety of purposes depending on the scene. What is outstanding about the STAR productions is each play/musical is filled with many first time performers as well as many veterans of many performances. By using the two cast system, veteran actors/actresses mix with less experienced performers and learn from each other as well as from the enthusiasm of director Scott Kolod. Kolod also used every part of the Avo as in several of the numbers performers used the isles either coming down from the stage or entered through the back doors coming down the isles to perform several of the dances for songs in the musical.
The night we attended was the Orphan Cast performance. Playing Oliver was Keegan McGowan, a young actor who has been in a number of productions already. Keegan has great stage presence and a nice singing voice. Playing Nancy, the bar maid who helps Oliver, was Sydney Woolf, a recent SDSU graduate with a tremendous singing voice. This was especially shown in the numbers “As Long as He Needs Me”, a romantic ballad, and the rousing drinking song, “Oom-Pah-Pah”. Other standouts included Liam Sullivan as the villainous Bill Sykes and Doug Friedman once again playing the conniving Fagin. Doug also served as a co-director on this production and got to show off his vocal skills in the numbers “Reviewing the Situation” and “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two”.
Kylie Buckland and Jeremy Marlow performed an exuberant “I Shall Scream”. Kylie played Widow Corney and Jeremy was the sneaky workshop overseer Bumble. This is Kylie’s 11th show with STAR and Jeremy’s first time on stage. Another standout young actor for this production was Max Leadley as the Artful Dodger, the young leader of Fagin’s gang. Max is an 11 year old 5th grader performing in his 3rd STAR production. Max help lead the 20 young members of the cast in numbers like “Consider Yourself” and “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two”. They also opened the musical using wooden bowls and spoons to beat out a rhythm, as they sang “Food, Glorious Food”. Again these young actors and actresses showed great stage presence in performing their numbers, dancing to their routines and being in the right place at the right time on stage.
STAR Repertory is not only a theatre company which produces great entertainment for theatre goers, but they are best known as a teaching theatre company offering lessons and direction in the world of musical theatre productions for anyone interested, ages 4-99+. STAR Repertory has been voted Best Theatre Group in San Diego for the 4th year in a row. If you are interested in joining this theatre group or more information about upcoming productions and tickets, go to www.starrepertorytheatre.com or call 760-751-3035. Next up for STAR will be “Legally Blonde the Musical” beginning March 14th and will be performed at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido.