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Children's theater to put fun, quirky 'Twist' on Dickens classic

Cary Ashby • Jan 29, 2017 at 2:00 PM

Curtain Call Children’s Theatre is putting on a musical version of the Charles Dickens classic novel, “Oliver Twist.”

“I just think it’s such a great story,” said director Jill Wheeler, referring to her creation “Oh, Oliver!” “It’s a story of heartache, love and a lesson in life and friendship.”

Wheeler, who runs Curtain Call, has put a — well, a twist, on “Oliver Twist” in creating her musical. She said she has stayed true to the plot, but has added an element of fun, especially with the street urchins.

“Oliver meets these crazy, bum kids and they’re reckless and they steal, but they have love in their heart,” she added. “They are all full of life.”

Wheeler wrote “Oh, Oliver!” with the theme of “looking behind what you see” and not judging a person on face value.

“It really pulls on your heart strings,” she said. “You will cry.”

Wheeler has about 60 children ready to be part of the eight-show performance. But she needs 60 more kids, ages 6 to 18, to fill out the cast. To guarantee your child will have a spot in the musical, call 419-541-1713 by Feb. 6.

“It’s important to work with different ages,” said Wheeler, who has been teaching children since 1991. “It’s a great learning experience. I just love that commonality.”

The 14-week theater program runs weekly practices until the performances in May. “Oh, Oliver!” will be performed eight times with eight different casts with group songs and solos.

With so many children in her plays and musicals, Wheeler said it gives each actor a speaking part and allows him or her to have some significant time on stage and truly contribute to the show.

“That’s what makes my programs so unique,” she added. “Each child brings their own personality (to the roles). I’ve heard parents say it’s like watching a whole different show.” 

In addition to lights, full stage and props, costumes and performing under the lights, each actor or actress wears a professional, wireless microphone so the audience can understand what they say.

“Curtain Call’s youth theater is a great way for children to express themselves artistically, develop crucial communication skills, build confidence and best of all, make memories and friendships,” Wheeler said.

In “Oh, Oliver!,” Wheeler plays Oliver’s mother — who he never met.

“Oliver is struggling because he was kicked out of the work house and run away from the undertaker’s home,” she said. “He’s all alone in this emptiness. He’s young, alone and has no one.”

That’s when Oliver begins speaking to his locket as if it were his mother.

“He starts thinking about his mother — a woman he’s never met,” Wheeler said. “She died in childbirth. She left him a locket, which was given to him at the work house. And that’s all he has of her.”

Wheeler hopes audiences will respond emotionally to her musical.

“You will leave with a warm, fuzzy feeling in your heart,” she said.

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