Wellington Operatic Society is searching for young actors to star in ‘Oliver’, next spring’s production at The Wellesley. The process of finding them and turning well-behaved youngsters into convincing urchins and pickpockets will take six months.,
Director John Walker and Choreographer Charlie Evans held the first of two ‘Oliver Workshops’ at the Arts Centre in Eight Acre Lane.
Nearly 50 aspiring Olivers, Artful Dodgers and thieving urchins of between 9 and 13 years old were there to be taken through their singing, dancing and acting paces. And they began with ‘Please, Sir, can I have some more?’
As John Walker said, ‘This is a two-way process: through these workshops we get to know what the children can do and they get to know whether this is something they’ll enjoy doing. The next ‘Oliver’ Workshop will be on Sunday 20 January from 2pm to 5pm so that we can have another look at the children who came today and see some that may not have made it this time. We have let all the local schools know– and those in Milverton and Wiveliscombe too.’
Lionel Bart’s musical was the first of Charles Dickens’ novels to be adapted for the stage and it became a huge hit. It was filmed in 1968 and has had numerous stage revivals, the last running for three years from 2008 to 2011 in London and on tour. Musical numbers such as ‘Who Will Buy’, ‘Food, Glorious Food’, and ‘You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two’ are genuine show-stoppers and invite the children in the cast to be not only cheeky and devious but also endearing.
The roles of Oliver and the Artful Dodger are both full-blooded all-singing, all-dancing parts, as are those of their fellow thieves which are gifts to children who really enjoy drama. The youngsters who were at the first workshop looked a bit clean and well-fed for Dickens filthy low-life but the next few months of rehearsals aims to turn them into such convincing urchins their parents will struggle to recognise them.