The cast of Wellington Operatic Society’s production of ‘Oliver’ was given an extra work-out this week when Gareth Walker, one of the country’s leading choreographers, joined them for a day of rehearsals.
Gareth is the son of the show’s director, John Walker. He was working alongside local choreographer, Charlie Evans, and her assistant, Toni Ellison, to shape one of the musical’s major dance numbers, ‘Who Will Buy’, which involves virtually the whole cast, including the band of urchins.
As a major UK show director and choreographer, Gareth worked as the Associate Director of the closing ceremony of the London Olympics and Paralympics in 2012 and directed and choreographed the sell-out ‘Steps’ tour last year. His many stage, TV, film and video credits include working as a choreographer on ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ for BBC1 and other major TV shows. He is currently working on a runway show for L’Oreal.
His training in musical theatre as an actor, singer and dancer began at the age of twelve at the Barbara Speake Stage School in London, followed by three years at the London Studio Centre from where he graduated with distinction. His professional career began with the West End production of ‘Saturday Night Fever’ in 1998 in which he played the role of Fabrizio and understudied – and played – all the major leads during the run. He performed as a backing dancer for a number of chart-topping performers, including Take That and Will Young around the UK and in Europe before focusing on choreography and direction.
An adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novel, ‘Oliver Twist’, Lionel Bart’s famous musical “Oliver’ was first presented on stage in 1960 and ran for 2,618 performances. It has been revived in the West End, on Broadway and around the world almost continuously since then and was made into a film in 1968. It is a hugely successful show, its ongoing success derived from a strong storyline, compelling characters and show-stopping musical numbers.
Wellington Operatic Society has assembled a cast of more than fifty performers for its production, including the tribe of authentic-looking urchins around whom the story revolves. The role of Oliver will be shared between Finn Askew and Philip Pullicino. Fagin is played by Mike Hamilton and Bill Sykes by Leon Searle.
Asked how rehearsals were progressing, Director John Walker said, “We’re on schedule. It should be a great show and we’d like a good audience. We usually get a positive response for our shows but we’d love this to be a sell-out.”
The show opens on Tuesday 7 May and runs until Saturday 11 May. Tickets are on sale at Cloud Nine in Fore Street. Who Will Buy? Probably lots of people, so get there soon!