Geyer to present 'Oliver'
Veteran actors will take the stage with a large cast of children this week in the Geyer Performing Arts Center in Scottdale to present the classic musical “Oliver.”
“Oliver is a great show and it hasn't been done here since 2002. It's got kids, the score is great and it's just a wonderful show and a lot of people grew up watching the movie,” said Director Ernest Watson of his show choice.
Written by Lionel Bart, the show is based on the novel by Charles Dickens and follows the plucky orphan Oliver Twist in his plight around Victorian London.
Watson said he is using the London script for the show, which was revamped in 1994 and ran on the London stage continuously until 2011. He has chosen to use the American score for the show with the exception of a few songs. He said he has added some elements from the movie that were not part of the stage production.
Watson will not only direct the show but will reprise his role of Fagan, the leader of a gang of child pickpockets. He said this is his sixth time playing the role. He first played the role in 1982.
“It's much different now. I don't jump and hop as much as I once did,” Watson said.
The show is special to Watson and his wife, Laurie, who is stage manager for this production, since they met during that same 1982 production in which she portrayed Old Sally.
Michael Rohlf of Brownsville was in the 1982 production and portrayed Dodger. In this production, Rohlf will take on the role of the outlaw Bill Sikes — this is the third time he will reprise the role.
“I'm free to let out my inner demons. Any actor worth his salt wants to play a good villain and he is every actor's dream because he is as extreme as you can get. He is a homicidal maniac,” Rohlf said.
Katy Pretz of California joins the cast as Sikes' girlfriend, Nancy. Pretz has performed several roles at the Geyer, the last one being Glinda the Good Witch in “The Wizard of Oz.”
This is Pretz's first time playing the role.
“It's the largest role I've had here at the Geyer and it's also the most difficult role I've played at the Geyer because of the depth of the character,” she said.
Watson said there are about 30 children in the cast most of which make up the ensemble.
“I like to do things with kids. If you don't do shows with kids how else will you have adult actors in the future,” Watson said.
Pretz sang the praises of the young cast.
“Our children's cast is incredible. They make you root for them from the first note they sing in “Food Glorious Food,” she said.
Leading the young cast is newcomer to the Geyer stage, Dominick Raymond, 10, of Irwin.
Raymond began performing at age 5 and since then has been in about 14 shows at the Theater Factory in Trafford, Little Lake Theater in Canonsburg and Apple Hill Playhouse in Delmont.
He said this is his first time playing the role of Oliver.
“I really like the story. It's really interesting all of the people that he meets and I like all of the dancing I get to do,” Raymond said.
Linda Harkcom is a contributing writer.