NHS stages "Oliver" this weekend

NORWICH – There’s an old adage in the art of acting that warns against sharing a scene with animals or children. While you won’t see any farm animals on stage this weekend, there certainly will be plenty of kids. “It’s a great family show,” laughed director Mark Sands from amid the throng of youngsters clamoring for his attention backstage at a recent rehearsal.

The NHS Musical Club will present “Oliver,” the musical adaptation of the Charles Dickens tale “Oliver Twist,” on Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 and Sunday afternoon at 3 in the high school auditorium.

One of the more unique aspects of staging “Oliver” as a high school musical is that it doesn’t necessarily involve all high schoolers. Aside from the title character, there’s a legion of young orphans and pickpockets dotting the stage. Of the 37 students in the cast, Sands said, about a dozen are middle schoolers.

Mixing the older kids with the young has been quite a challenge for the Norwich cast. How to describe the experience? “Pandemonium,” junior Chris Kappel, who plays Fagin, said in a word. But, he added, involving the (even) younger generation is essential in building the team. “It’s exciting because we get to incorporate them sooner and expand who’s involved in the club,” Kappel said.

At the forefront of that younger generation is sixth grader Tyler Roberts, who at the precious age of 11, has landed the leading role of Oliver, the orphan who wants nothing more than to be loved. Tyler’s theatrical aspirations are even younger than he is. “I always wondered what it would be like (to perform on stage), and my mom said it would make my winter go by faster, so I went for it,” he said of auditioning for the high school play.

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