Students, children and local actors to bring Dickens’ to life with 'Oliver!'

“‘Oliver!’ is one of the most beloved pieces of musical theater,” says Lynn Dula, post-baccalaureate student who plays Nancy in the Mercyhurst College production.

“Lionel Bart was able to put Dickens’ timeless story to music in a way that allows an audience to become emotionally involved in the story,” she said.

Mercyhurst College’s production is bound to bring this enduring work to life.

Music department chair Louisa Jonason is acting as producer of the show, and alumnus Andrew Ferguson will be conducting the musical’s lively score.

Placed in the intimate setting of Taylor Little Theatre and with two casts of talented actors and singers, audience members will feel like they have been transported to Dickens’ 19th-century London.

“Oliver!” tells the story of a young orphan boy named Oliver Twist who is searching for love and the comfort of a happy home in the London underworld.

The story traces Oliver’s journey from a miserable workhouse to a band of thieving children, and finally to the doorstep of a man who can potentially give Oliver the loving home that he has always wanted.

With emphasis on the personalities that he meets along the way, “Oliver!” presents an interesting perspective on the time period and setting.

“‘Oliver!’ was a good choice for us because it showcases the unique talents of Mercyhurst and allowed us to get involved with the community,” said Mat Anderson, a sophomore music major who plays Fagin.

“It has given us the opportunity to share the stage with actors ranging from beginners to seasoned performers,” he said.

There can be no doubt that this production will feature a diverse group of actors.

Ranging in age from five to 71, the show includes 21 Mercyhurst students, 13 local children and a handful of community members and Mercyhurst alumni.

“The students are so nice, and it has been great for me to be around people older than I am with the same interests.

“It has helped me to learn,” said Frank Smrcka, a 13-year-old from Corry who plays the role of Oliver.

The diversity of the cast, however, is not the only aspect of the show that has been beneficial to its members.

Some students have been given the unique opportunity to take a leadership position with the production.

Senior social work major Nikki Zeak is directing the show, and senior voice and arts administration student Alex Stacey is the production manager.

Both women are members of the Theater Advisory Board, which was formed during spring of last year in an attempt to create a more standard and organized theater program for Mercyhurst students to enjoy.
“Oliver!” will be the debut performance of this new program.

Performances will take place in Taylor Little Theatre on Friday, Oct. 21, at 7 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 22, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 23, at 2 p.m.

Tickets will be $15.50 for adults, $12.50 for students and seniors, $7.50 for President’s Card Holders, $5 for youth (12 and under) and $2.50 for Mercyhurst students.

Proceeds from the ticket sales will benefit Mercyhurst’s new theater program. Tickets can be purchased at the performance or in advance by calling the PAC at 824-3000.