‘Oliver!’ a family affair for McNatts

Published 9:43 pm Wednesday, March 10, 2010

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third in a series of stories that will feature Suffolk actors in this weekend’s production of “Oliver!” at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts.

It would be hard to find an entire family more talented than the McNatts.

Of the four children and two parents, four of them found places in the Suffolk Community Players’ production of “Oliver!” The musical, based on the classic Charles Dickens novel, will be presented in four performances this weekend.

Dana McNatt and her three sons — Kalen, Tanner and Logan — landed roles in the production. Dana, a longtime vocalist and former competitive ballroom dancer, will sing in the ensemble. Logan, 9, will be featured as a boy in Fagin’s Gang, and his older brothers Tanner, 13, and Kalen, 11, will perform alongside each other as the Artful Dodger and Oliver.

“This is the first time I’ve done something with the boys,” Dana said. “My husband and I used to compete in ballroom dancing a long time ago.”

Dana’s stage experience has been limited to ballroom dancing, but her vocal abilities have put her on church and community choirs for years. Seeing three of her four sons — the eldest boy and their father did not audition for “Oliver!” — only makes the performance that much sweeter, Dana said.

“They’re very talented,” she said of her sons.

In addition to their “Oliver!” roles, all three of the boys have been featured in television movies. Most recently, Kalen played Payne Todd, son of First Lady Dolley Madison’s first marriage, in a PBS movie on Madison.

“I was very, very amazed” to get the part of Oliver, Kalen said. “It was really fun because this is my first main role.”

Kalen portrayed Michael Darling in “Peter Pan” at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts last year.

Kalen and Logan’s music teacher at Creekside Elementary School, Erica Jackson, worked with them for about a month before the audition to help them get the parts.

“I think if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have had a chance,” Kalen said.

Tanner, who will play the Artful Dodger, said he was relieved to find out he had been cast.

“The tension went away, because I finally knew,” Tanner said.

Both boys have been practicing together at home, with their father’s help. Each said being on stage with his brother makes the role more natural, since Oliver and the Dodger are friends during the play.

“It’s easier to concentrate,” Tanner said.

Kalen acknowledged that acting with his brother is easier.

“I’m feeling more comfortable acting with Dodger,” Kalen said. “I think it’s a hard part, because I have to act through the whole thing.”

Youngest brother Logan will be one of 13 children in Fagin’s Gang of pickpockets. Logan said his first stage role is “super.”

“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.