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'Oliver!' coming to Steel Valley High School stage

| Wednesday, March 7, 2012

"Oliver!" was the first musical that Steel Valley senior Ben Bobick ever saw when the high school performed it a decade ago.

He'll get to see it again this week, but this time from a much different perspective.

Bobick will portray Fagin, one of the British musical's lead characters, when Steel Valley High School Drama Club brings back the stage adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic "Oliver Twist" for four performances, beginning Thursday.

"They did it in 2002 and it was awesome," Ben said. "I loved it. I read the book. It's just so ironic that it is the last musical that I'll ever be in here."

"Oliver!" is scheduled Thursday through Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. in the high school auditorium, 3113 Main St. in Munhall.

Tickets are $7 for adults and $3 for students.

"Oliver!" tells the story of a poor orphan boy in 1830s London trying to survive the streets and find a loving home. During his journey, he gets sold from a workhouse after he makes his famous request, "Please sir, I want some more," and later is befriended by pickpockets.

Lionel Bart wrote the musical's script, lyrics and music.

"It's a good show for this group of students," said director and producer Michael Altman, a high school English teacher. "Last year, we did 'Seussical' and it was completely kid-friendly. We wanted to do another show that would be accessible to kids."

Fourth- and fifth-grade students from the district's Barrett and Park elementary schools will be brought to the high school Wednesday before the show opens to watch the dress rehearsal. A smaller cast will travel to those elementary schools later in the day to perform for first-, second- and third-graders.

"I think the high school students enjoy it more than the elementary students," Altman said. "They love performing for little kids."

He said he has four children of his own and he likes to put on musicals that they can come to see and understand, as well.

High school senior Zach Edelmann, who plays Bill Sykes, said he looks forward to the high school musical every year.

He said he's been told he is the complete opposite of the character he plays in "Oliver!"

"Bill Sykes is just a mean guy," Zach said. "He's a complete jerk to everyone."

He said sees playing Bill Sykes as a challenge.

Krystal Waller, who has the role of Nancy, said she relates to her character's struggle to help Oliver.

"Regardless of what everyone else says, she is going to do what she thinks is right," she said. "That's what I feel about anything. If you see someone who needs help, do what you can out of the goodness of your heart. Don't expect anything in return and just do it because you think it's the right thing to do."

Krystal said she hopes to keep on acting after high school.

High school freshman Betsy Novotny, who plays Oliver, said she loves acting and dancing.

"The stage is kind of like my home," she said.

Betsy said she tries to put herself in her character's shoes and is excited about "Oliver!"

"I've never done a musical before," she said. "It's something that I've always wanted to do."

Ben said he can be observed singing "You've Got to Pick A Pocket or Two" as he walks down the halls of Steel Valley High School between classes.

"My friends who all play sports and who have never done a musical come to see the musical once, just because I'm in it," he said. "I've had them singing it too, just because I sing it all the time."

Altman said "Oliver!" has everything that a high school musical should.

"It starts out with food, glorious food," he said. "In one sense it's about nourishment for the orphan, but when Oliver talks about it he wants love. He wants spiritual nourishment. From there, it's a story. For the kids, they see that and understand that."

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