The cast of Oliver Twist.
Who's Who in the Cast
Top Row (left-to-right) Joshua Myran (Fagin), Liam McHugh (Limbkins, Bill Sikes), Nick Trafton (Susan, Artful Dodger), Sean Kato (Ballad Singer). Second row from the top: Olivia Drury (Nancy), Ella Webb (Oliver Twist), Stephanie Dien (Old Sally, Charlotte, Fang, Officer), Louis Tonkovich (Mr. Sowerberry, Bailiff, Grimwig). Third row from the top: Ben Susskind (Doctor, Monks), Lauren Dong (Agnes, Charley Bates, Mrs. Bedwin), Sarah Sparks (Board Member, Betsy, Puppeteer), Zoe Hebbard (Board Member, Mrs. Sowerberry, Book Seller, Old Emily). Front row: Mitchell Huntley (Mr. Bumble), Emme O’Toole (Rose), Amanda Fassett (Mrs. Corney), Saul Richardson (Noah Claypole, Mr. Brownlow).
After weeks of rehearsal—including mastery of British dialects—the Teen Players have the end goal in sight. The Theatre Conservatory students (Grades 9-12) will perform the Charles Dickens classic, Oliver Twist, in the Nicholas Studio, May 18-26. For each actor, the benefits of working as an ensemble are priceless. This is where all their classroom work is put into action and where they hone their craft. We asked the cast to talk about what they’re excited about for the show and how their experience in the Conservatory has prepared them.
Excellent Direction Leads to Capable Storytelling
Stephanie Dien (Old Sally, Charlotte, Fang, Officer) admits that she’s extremely excited to be able to be a part of such a dedicated ensemble as this one here at SCR. “Everyone is willing to put in 150% more than their share and it really makes the atmosphere glow with energy and enthusiasm for what we are doing,” she says. “The story itself is an intricate and empowering one that is so fun to explore and Hisa [Takakuwa], our director, has done an excellent job shaping us into its capable storytellers.”
Olivia Drury (Nancy) echoes Dien’s thoughts. “Hisa is such a wonderful director, so getting to be a part of anything she does is such a privilege," she says. “It’s also really great to work with our assistant directors, Rachel [Charny] and Nick [Slimmer]. They are super helpful when it comes to character work. The best part is this amazing group of actors I get to work with. They are so incredibly smart, creative and kind, and I feel so lucky to be onstage with them telling this story.”
Applying Acting Studies to Their Various Roles
Liam McHugh (Limbkins, Bill Sikes) reports that Oliver Twist has allowed him to work on dialects, which is something that, despite his initial apprehension, he finds enjoyable. “Additionally, it has opened the door for fun and interesting character work, through Bill Sikes,” he notes. “It is a pleasure to work with everyone in the show.”
Joshua Myran (Fagin) explains that through his Conservatory studies he has learned that each character is a real person—they have objectives, wants, fears and needs. “Characters need to say every word written for them—they have a purpose in what they say. In Oliver Twist, every word hum, and song brings out who that character is,” he says.
Nick Trafton (Susan, Artful Dodger) explains that he “fell in love with this story very quickly and I love this time period—Victorian England. It’s a fantastic story with deep messages. My classes in the Conservatory have allowed me to get in-depth with my character and live in this show.”
Amanda Fassett (Mrs. Corney) comments that it has been both a joy and a challenge applying the dialect work they did late last year to the characters now in Oliver Twist. “More important, we have to fully [apply] the dialect into our acting work because the relationships and truth of the storytelling are priorities,” she says. “Ultimately, that’s what I love about this process: layering and applying the work we do in fall and winter classes and seeing it culminate into our spring production.”
Saul Richardson (Noah Claypole, Mr. Brownlow) adds, “The classes here have taught me to embrace the process of being an actor.”
On Character Development
Ben Susskind (Doctor, Monks) says, “The show is really bright and colorful! Each character is big and yet still human. It’s interesting to see these characters contrast and come alive onstage. While I’ve played this type of character before, I get to play it now at 100%. Every part of this show is so deep and complex.The artistry over all the dark and violent sections makes it so much more emotional and tragic."
Lauren Dong (Agnes, Charley Bates, Mrs. Bedwin) explains that in the show, she plays three different characters but switches back and forth between two of them for most of the show. “During the rehearsal process, I spent time focusing on the characters individually, so that I could develop a sense of who they are thoroughly. I find myself being able to let the creativity and strength of choice-making really come into play for this production,” she says. “I’ve learned to give myself the freedom to play around, make mistakes and feel what the fitting and natural choices are to make for each character. Focus and really listening to the story being told are important to each character’s arc. These skills allow me to face the challenge confidently, and it has been really fun trying to make each character as diverse as possible.”
Excitement Runs High for Special Production
Emme O’Toole (Rose): “What makes me most excited to be in Oliver Twist is being on this journey alongside my best friends who each bring their own unique and incredible talents to the story. I love watching as everyone contributes a different perspective, whether that be through music, movement and more. To have the opportunity to perform such a meaningful show with so many important themes about family, justice and love is really special, especially beside such a talented and supportive ensemble.”
Sarah Sparks (Board Member 2, Betsy, Puppeteer) says that she’s really excited to be a part of Oliver Twist because it’s unlike anything she’s ever done at SCR before. “It has us firing on so my cylinders in that we have to worry about dialects, physicality appropriate to the period and ground ourselves in the storytelling. It is really challenging in a new way but because of that, it’s very exciting.”
Louis Tonkovich (Mr. Sowerberry, Bailiff, Grimwig): I’m excited to tell such a complex and relevant story and to bring it to life in an honest and real way. It’s an intense story that addresses privilege and class, and how we, as a society, deal with problems. It’s very different from the musical and I’m excited for people to see it.”
Ella Webb (Oliver Twist): “I think it’s really special for a group of young people to tell a story about a character so close to our age. It’s also super exciting to discover the world of London during the 19th century, especially because of all the different dialects!”
Zoe Hebbard (Board Member 1, Mrs. Sowerberry, Book Seller, Old Emily): “I’ve always wanted to be in a show like this—it’s so exciting to be in Oliver Twist and on this roller-coaster ride of emotions. It quickly goes from light and jovial to heart-wrenching—sometimes within the span of one scene. Because the characters in this show have such strong personalities, knowing how to make strong choices in portraying them is key.”
Mitchell Huntley (Mr. Bumble): “I think what makes me really excited is the dedication of everyone involved and the creative exploration we've had. What's made this production special has been the various different elements we've created for the show, whether through song or sound. I think the creativity we've had will make it a refreshing and engaging show for the audience.”
Sean Kato (Ballad Singer, Cat, Cook, Hangman, Photographer, Officer): “Being part of an ensemble with so many other young, talented artists makes this show a freeing and exciting experience for me. Also, being able to convey such an important message through a story with both comedic and dark tones, spoken through youth voices, is very special.”
Clearly, the cast of Oliver Twist is a dedicated and enthusiastic bunch. Whether it involves working on British dialects, making the best choices for their multiple character roles or just enjoying being part of a talented and supportive ensemble, the Teen Players are thrilled to be bringing the colorful characters of Oliver Twist to life onstage. Don’t miss this beloved classic!
Learn more about Oliver Twist and buy tickets.
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