There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned twist to a familiar tale by elementary school students.
In this case, it was Oliver Twist, presented in a classic one-hour condensed form by a spirited group of Crofton Elementary School students for two shows last Thursday.
The Crofton version of the musical adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic by Mary Donnelly and George L.O. Strid was directed by Phaedra Fairwell and Trish Eakins.
“I was so proud this year,” said Fairwell. “We’ve been working on building the program for five years.”
The school performed Treasure Island last year and struck it rich again with this production.
“Everyone’s got a role in this play,” pointed out Crofton Elementary School principal Jen Calverley.
“We’ve got actors who’ve been practicing for a few months.”
The orphans comprised the students in Divisions 2 through 10 for group numbers.
The main characters displayed amazing talents, including Ramona Darwin as Oliver Twist; Bryan Vrsansky as Mr. Bumble; Sydney Brownlow as Mrs. Mann; Olivia Kauffman as Artful Dodger; Jolie Carruthers as Fagin; Casey Williams as Nancy; Nathaniel Hryko as Bill Sikes; David Underwood as Mr. Brownlow; Emma McLean as Mr. Grimwig; Olivia Harper as Mr. Sowerberry; Emma Greenwood as Mrs. Sowerberry; Jane Coates as Noah; Oscar Burdge as Charlie; Danaya Brown, Mairin Dale, Penny Kitchen, Titus Kennedy, Ryan Farquhar and Abby Smith as orphans/urchins; Titus Kennedy and Emma Greenwood as police; and Mercedes Mossa as a street vendor.
John Lofto provided piano accompaniment; the backstage crew included Brooklyn Stobbe, Sydney Lyderik, Sydney Greenwood, Koen Tyson and Hannah Southern; and the lights came under the jurisdiction of Ava Burdge, Louisa Funk and teacher Andrea LeSergent.
“This year, the kids actually ran the show themselves,” noted Fairwell. “I had a great stage crew and the kids managed it.”
The entire student population that comprised the orphans sat in the front of the stage while the main action was going on and then lent their singing voices to scenes at various intervals.
“This year because it was a darker play, we’d just keep them quiet,” noted Eakins of how the students were situated front and centre.
“It takes a while to build a fine arts culture in a school. Most of these kids I’ve taught for five years now. They’re used to the drill. It’s about contributing to the bigger part of the community. I tell the children this is your gift to the community.”
Eakins also has a physical education background and has been teaching music for more than 20 years.
“I feel it’s really important to keep our kids engaged in a fine arts program,” she reasoned.
“I have to take a look at the repertoire. Sometimes the music can be better than our script. Sometimes the script can be better than our music.
“This, I would say was more of a dramatic play. Phaedra was able to more showcase the kids’ drama skills,”
Most of the leads projected their voices very well. Those who were a bit more difficult to hear definitely picked up their tone as the play went along and confidence grew.
“It was awesome,” said Darwin, 11, a Grade 5 student, about playing Oliver Twist. “It was great to be the star.”
She was away at a dentist appointment during the final auditions and wound up with the lead role.
Darwin said she was a bit nervous at first, but “I was mostly excited. Once I got the hang of it, it was just fun.”
The play was postponed a couple of weeks from its original date of April 26.
“I’m glad we did,” Darwin explained. “We wouldn’t have been ready by then. We got in a lot of finishing touches at the end, too.”
As for learning all those lines, she found a way to make it work effortlessly.
“I didn’t even have to think about it,” Darwin pointed out. “The lines just came out of my mouth.”