What: WAHS Players' show, “Oliver”
Where: Wallenpaupack Area High School auditorium
When: April 12, 13, 14 at 7 p.m. and April 15 at 2 p.m.
Cost: $8 for adults; $5 for students; senior citizens, free

 WALLENPAUPACK - Despite being dramatic performances, theatrical productions offer real life comparisons. At least, that’s what several members of the WAHS Players feel to be true because of their theatrical experiences and upcoming production of Oliver. 
Hannah Mackes for instance, who is a senior and will be Nancy, said Oliver is a special show because the characters experience “emotional torment and turmoil.”

Acknowledging that the show is fiction, for anyone to play such roles is “very hard” as they must “feel the pain” as they beg for food, sell items on the streets and steal to survive, while also being orphans. Getting in tune with their character, as they face the various hardships, Mackes believes the cast will “bring the beauty” to the show.

Through theater, aside from becoming aware of other’s struggles, there are also lessons to be learned in every production said Mackes. In Oliver, one lesson that stood out to her is “how to tolerate people” as well as learning to become friends with others.   
Oliver is a story of an orphan boy who befriends pick-pocketers in lower class London, which causes trouble for himself, but later he finds his long-lost grandfather through his travels, according to Theater Teacher Alison Hoffman. 

This is a special year for the WAHS Players, as it is every four years both middle and high school performers take part. They both will be a part of this year’s production. She didn’t create this tradition, but actually recalls it when she was a student in the district. Hoffman said with a cast so large, Oliver was the perfect show because of the many orphan boys, pick-pocketers and adult characters. Cetween the different aged actors, the show was meant for the WAHS Players spring production. 

By introducing the middle schoolers to the WAHS Players early on, that Hoffman said feeds the high school drama program, while also giving the younger actors an early insight into how everything happens. The fourth year aside, every year the younger performers also have their own production. To ensure the middle schoolers don’t get lost, a buddy system is created and the high schoolers become mentors to the younger actors. 

Theater, Hoffman said, provides lessons for all through the various performances. From Oliver, what can happen when one faces greed while also learning about the importance of supporting others, are just two teachings in the WAHS Players’ latest show. Thinking that deeply about the plot of the show, that she said the young cast does, as they go through character work rehearsals that goes into the “nitty gritty of the show,” analyzing all aspects of the production.  

Oliver, Hoffman said, offers many “big” components, that include but aren’t limited to large musical numbers, dances, songs and accents. Accents are something the cast has been rehearsing through accent training, which required them to repeat the alphabet, numbers, words and sentences. In Oliver however, an accent isn’t just an accent as there is a Cockney accent for the lower-class characters and then the standard British upper-class accent. Having to learn to speak differently, that Hoffman said some of her students did better than others, with some who could naturally do an accent and others needed to work at it. 

With a cast of 58 and the weather setbacks, Hoffman said things have been hectic since time has been restricted. But, since everyone has been working hard she expects the mass amount of people on stage at once, singing loudly and dancing to impress everyone. For her personally, Hoffman likes seeing her students become inspired and then passionate, but with so many students all working towards a “common goal,” that makes all efforts worthwhile she said. 

In his first WAHS Players production as Oliver, will be seventh grader Lucas Ryan. This is not Ryan’s first ever production however, as he has been in junior shows before. It is though, his first main lead role and because of that, it is “nerve-wracking” he said with a laugh, while also “very exciting.” There are a lot of nerves Ryan feels, because he has a “big responsibility.” His character Oliver, Ryan described as a “small runt” who after living in an orphanage for the first nine years of his life, later went to a workhouse where he becomes rebellious. 

There are some ways that Ryan said he relates to his character, such as being “pushed around” because of his size. Becoming Oliver hasn’t been hard, because of similarities he felt connected him to the character. This show, Ryan feels will be “great and fun” because it is “large” and has “different moods.” He explained the moods are found in the various scenes. 

Ryan said it has been “very interesting” being in the seventh grade and acting with seniors, since he has gotten a “taste of what high school is like” while also making friends he wouldn’t have otherwise had the chance. The high schoolers actually shared some acting techniques with Ryan, such as vocals and getting into character.

A week before showtime, senior Richard Nadolski who will be Mr. Brownlow said the cast will “pull it together” and “it’ll run smoothly” thus far. Mr. Brownlow, who happens to be Oliver’s grandfather is a rich man in London. In the show, Nadolski said his character spends a great deal of time searching for his long-lost grandson. The character is a bit different for Nadolski, who said he tends to play more “malicious characters.” As a result, instead he described Mr. Brownlow as being the purest character in the show, besides Oliver.

Being Mr. Brownlow, Nadolski said is “refreshing” as he is a good guy. But, initially he didn’t want the role. Now though, he is pleased to be Mr. Brownlow. By adding his own mannerisms to the character, Nadolski feels he has made Mr. Brownlow his own. Nadolski is actually Ryan’s buddy, which he said has been going great because Ryan is “extraordinary” as he has been doing a “fantastic job” because of how committed he has been to his role and learning his lines. For Nadolski, he enjoys acting because when on stage it is a time to “escape” from life, while also getting to be someone else he said. 

A senior, but also Widow Corney the workhouse mistress will be Taylor Bradley. This was the role Bradley wanted she said, because it is “sinister and evil” which would allow her to explore her darker side. The role is “very sinister” just because the character only cares about money and living the high life, later selling Oliver for more money. 

Playing such an evil character, that Bradley enjoyed because it allowed her to explore her skills she said. While Bradley feels she is a “straightforward person,” she does not believe she is sinister and so, that is where one must be able to remove themselves from their body and become the character in the mindset of the person when acting. This is Bradley’s first production with middle schoolers and that, she likes because they’ve been doing so well. Being a mentor to the middle schoolers, that she said was an honor because she is able to share her knowledge as many ask questions. Acting, Bradley likes because she is able to express herself differently.  

Oliver is the first show Taylor Raimer who is a junior and a member of the crew has been a part of it. She decided to get involved, as a way to join more extracurricular activities, without having to fret over remembering lines. The job, she said was going well as she had come to remember where the different set pieces had to go. She was thrown for a loop when she was switched to a different prop piece however. But now, she is enjoying it all and called it a “great experience.” Being on the crew, is “thrilling” as her “adrenaline gets rushing” when having to be on stage moving pieces. All components of the job she enjoys, especially communicating with her peers without verbally speaking, as they must lift an item just by making eye contact. Next year, she will “definitely” take part in the production she said. 

A senior, Kyle Landolfi chose crew four shows ago because it offered a “different perspective” of knowing what happens behind the scenes he said. Being involved and seeing how much work is required for shows to happen,, he appreciates what he has come to learn. Oliver, Landolfi said has the most set pieces he has worked with, which has made the job “pretty tedious” because it requires the crew to work fast and move the pieces on stage. That isn’t easy though, because the crew is short-staffed, so the cast is helping with some scene changes. With one eighth grader on the crew this show, Landolfi said he had been learning quickly and doing well.

The show Landolfi said, is “awesome,” as it follows the book Oliver Twist. Despite the different obstacles, no matter what, Landolfi said he has to be ready at all times because “there’s always more to do” and while mistakes will happen, one must work around them. Not wanting to brag, Landolfi said he is proud of the WAHS Players’ productions because they are good performances that will offer people a good evening.

The WAHS Players will present Oliver Thursday, Friday, Saturday, April 12, 13, 14 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, April 15 at 2 p.m. at the Wallenpaupack Area High School auditorium. Ticket price is $8 for adults and $5 for students; senior citizens are admitted free.