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There’s something magical about musical theater, even when its performed in the WERS studio. Several of the cast members from the Wheelock Family Theater’s production of Oliver! stopped by the station this afternoon to give us a preview of the musical, accompanied by musical director Jon Goldberg.
For the first song of the set, Charlie Clinton, who plays the title role of Oliver himself, performed “Where is Love.” The song is a moment during the show in which Oliver, an orphan, reflects on the lack of affection and absence of his parents in his life. It is a truly touching moment which Clinton captures it perfectly. His voice is young enough to reflect the innocence of the lead character, yet his control and presence are that of an actor beyond his years.
Before Oliver!, Clinton performed in plays at his school as well as with Boston Children’s Theater. When asked why he decided to try out for Wheelock Family Theater’s production, he explains, “I’ve always enjoyed theater… and my aunt always said I should play Oliver.”
Clinton sang with Jane Staab in the next song of the set, “You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two.” In this moment of the show, Oliver has joined a gang of child thieves led by the criminal Fagin, played by Staab. Despite the subject matter, it is a very fun moment in the story. Staab clearly has a good time playing the twisted role of Fagin. Even without a theater full of people in front of her, she completely embodied her character, using the small space she had to gesture and move about as Fagin might. Staab is an experienced actor, as well as one of the founders of Wheelock Family Theater.
The last song of the afternoon was “As Long as He Needs Me,” performed by Brittany Rolfs in the role of Nancy. Rolf’s character is incredibly tragic; the man she loves eventually beats her to death. To take on such a complex character may sound like a challenge, but Rolfs makes it look easy. Her powerful voice commands attention and she transforms into her character in a second. The sorrow in her expression as she sings about her commitment to a man who abuses her is heartbreaking. Even her fellow actors are mesmerized. “It’s very exciting to watch her onstage” says Staab. Rolf’s performance is one audiences won’t soon forget.
Oliver! runs January 25th through February 24th. Performing the show never gets boring, Rolf explains. “I think that’s the magic about live theater, it’s always different. You’re never saying your line the exact same way, you’re going off of what you’re given. Especially with this group of actors, I feel like we get onstage, just go wild, and have fun every night!”
Wheelock Family Theater provides theater classes year-round, and the cast encourages people who want to explore theater to take a chance and get involved. Staab says, “Act! Get involved wherever you can, whether its school, a community theater, in classes. Sing when you can, if you’re interested in musicals. Just do it as often as you can. Find the opportunities where you can.”
To purchase tickets for Oliver! and view a schedule of performances, visit their website.
By Mary Kennedy
Photo by Madelyn Reese