‘Oliver!’ gets a local twist

Published 10:15 pm Thursday, March 4, 2010

“Oliver!” is coming to town in a week, and the musical’s director promises a spectacular show.

“I think it’s going to be very good,” said Mark Hudgins, director of the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts community production. “I’m excited to work with these young performers. Quite a few of them have little or no experience on stage, but they’re all doing a wonderful job.”

This is the fourth time Hudgins has directed “Oliver!” The musical is loosely based on Charles Dickens’ novel “Oliver Twist.”

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“If somebody is very well acquainted with ‘Oliver Twist,’ they’re going to find some things in the musical ‘Oliver!’ that don’t jibe with the book,” Hudgins said. “They’re just minor things. It’s still the story of a young boy who was an orphaned child at birth, he is sold as an apprentice to an undertaker, and found by the Artful Dodger, then the Dodger takes him to Fagin. Fagin runs this gang of thieves, and teaches him to pickpocket and do other sordid things in the streets of London. It’s a delightful musical.”

A cast of about 40 will put on the musical March 12-14 at the Suffolk Center.

“We tried to make it as large a cast as we possibly could to include as many people from the community,” SCCA executive director Paul Lasakow said. “We hate turning people away, because community theater is all about inclusion.”

The multiple snowfalls this winter have eliminated several rehearsals, Lasakow said, and even will eliminate another one this weekend. Suffolk Public Schools decided to hold Saturday classes to make up for this week’s snow day, which eliminates the planned all-day rehearsal on Saturday.

However, the foul weather has only added to the dedication and determination of the cast, Hudgins said.

“These people who are coming here night after night through snow and rain, they’re giving up of their personal time to put this show together,” Hudgins said. “They want so badly to do a good show.”

Besides the snow, another challenge for the entire cast has been the cockney accent the characters must adopt. Because the story is set in London, accents are necessary.

“Accents are not easy for everybody,” Hudgins said.

The large concentration of children in the cast might seem to outsiders that it would present a problem, but Hudgins said that is not the case.

“I often find that kids actually can focus better than adults,” Hudgins said. “For the most part, I would say that they are a delightful group to work with. I’m impressed with them.”

Stage manager Kate Robinson said watching the show come together has been worthwhile.

“It’s been quite fun,” Robinson said. “It’s a lot of fun to get in there and play around and watch the whole process from beginning to end, and hearing the actors actually coming out and reciting their lines. The whole cast comes together and puts on a show.”

“Oliver!” will be performed March 12 at 7:30 p.m., March 13 at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and March 14 at 3 p.m. Tickets range from $12.50 to $30. To order tickets, visit www.SuffolkCenter.org.