Uplands Elementary students are all costumed for their musical Oliver Twist

A ‘twist’ on Oliver

For its first musical in more than five years, Uplands students travel back to 1800s London, England.

For its first musical in more than five years, Uplands Elementary travels back to 1800s London, England for Oliver Twist and each of its two shows will feature a different cast.

The play has been “double cast,” says director Robin Hollett.

“I wanted to do it because I have probably about 80 amazing kids audition for leads so instead of casting 30 of them, I decided to [double cast],” she says, adding that was also done for the school’s last two musicals, Treasure Island and Tom Sawyer.

Double casting means putting two students in each role, one plays the part in one showing of the play and the second in the second show.

“Friday and Saturday are totally different cast members so it’s two different shows,” said Hollett.

The casts and chorus are made up of Grades 4, 5 and 6 students and the leads rehearse every morning and every lunchtime.

“They’ve been rehearsing since November, some three times a day, some twice a day,” says Hollett, adding for some of them it’s added up to more than 100 hours of rehearsal.

The chorus is made up of about 90 students, who rehearse in the mornings, learning their parts, dancing and choreography.

“It’s great family entertainment, lots of singing, acting, dancing, full choreography, great costumes and props,” says Hollett.

And a 36-foot backdrop of the London street scene came from a theatre company in Vancouver, and will be reused year to year. Caledonia welcomed the students to use its pulley system to draw the backdrop up and down and Cal teacher Geoff Parr helped with advice for how to use the backdrop, says Hollett.

“I think the joy of it is the big street scenes when all the kids are out singing with all the backdrops, and fun colourful songs,” she says.

Hollett will be in the pit playing piano along with Caledonia students Ella Martindale, Anna Linton and Taya Haldane and music teacher Darryl McDickens.

To make the play more family-friendly – suggested ages are five and older – Hollett cut it down to one hour and 20 minutes from two and a half hours.

And the story goes as follows: Oliver (Kayden Porter and Rhynn Nester) is an orphan being raised in a workhouse by Mr. Bumble and Mrs. Mann and not treated very well along with the other orphans.

He’s sold to the undertaker to work as a coffin follower but runs away and meets up with the crafty, artful Dodger (Marlee Gray and Cole Schaeffer), whose job is picking pockets for Fagan (Trevor Massey and Luke Altz) and meets even more undesirable people in the form of Bill Sykes and the protective Nancy (Noella Baerg and Juliet Lukasser), who fight over who will help Oliver. But that’s not it for Oliver yet.

Uplands Elementary School presents Oliver Twist at 7 p.m. Feb. 20 and 21 at the REM Lee Theatre. Tickets at Misty River Books and at the school.