Entertainment

Do you want more? ‘Oliver!’ remains relatable through the ages

Ten-year-old Turlock sixth grader John Sylvester plays the title character in the Modesto Performing Arts production of “Oliver!” in Modesto, Calif., on Wednesday, June 7, 2017.
Ten-year-old Turlock sixth grader John Sylvester plays the title character in the Modesto Performing Arts production of “Oliver!” in Modesto, Calif., on Wednesday, June 7, 2017. aalfaro@modbee.com

Who can’t relate to Oliver?

The little orphan boy who just wanted “more” gets another shot at glory as Modesto Performing Arts presents “Oliver!” to kick off its 50th anniversary season. Based on the novel “Oliver Twist” by 19th-century English author Charles Dickens, the show opens Saturday, June 17, at the Gallo Center for the Arts.

It’s Oliver’s relatable desire for more than his stark workhouse existence and tiny bowl of gruel that led its stars to want to be part of the production. Ten-year-old Turlock sixth-grader John Sylvester plays the title character and said he has wanted to be part of it since seeing the movie a few years go.

“I relate to him. I feel like he is just a kid who has been going through these struggles. And I have gone through my own struggles – not like him in the workhouse, but still,” Sylvester said.

The show, which has been a hit since it debuted on London’s West End in 1960, has become a musical theater staple. This will be the fifth time Modesto Performing Arts has staged the Victorian-era production. The new show will stay faithful to the original, as well as past productions. MPA General Director Paul Tischer said even the 20-foot revolving set follows the same design as used in the company’s first 1970 production of the show.

 ‘Oliver!’ is one of my favorite shows and the public’s favorite shows,” Tischer said. “I like to do shows with children in them. And this is one of the few with a lot.”

The cast of 60 includes 14 young actors playing workhouse boys, and 12 more as part of Fagin’s gang of thieves. The production will also include a full community orchestra, as all MPA shows do.

“This is a great show with wonderful music and it’s just a great story to tell,” Tischer said.

Modesto seventh-grader Simon Mize, 12, doffs his top hat as the Artful Dodger, one of Fagin’s star pickpocketing pupils. Oliver falls in with the gang after escaping the workhouse. While he has not seen the staged show before joining the cast, Mize knew the basics.

“I knew it was about a little boy who wanted more and chaos ensued,” he said.

The show features such beloved numbers as “Food, Glorious Food,” “Consider Yourself,” “Where Is Love?” and “I’d Do Anything.” The adult cast includes area actor Jimmy Gonzales as Fagin, MPA veteran Randi Linee as the kindly Nancy and Larry Zabel as the villainous Bill Sikes.

“There are so many different characters, and regardless of the time period, we all encounter characters like this in our lives, or maybe are we some of these characters,” Gonzales said.

Marijke Rowland: 209-578-2284, @marijkerowland

Modesto Performing Arts presents “Oliver!”

WHEN: Opens 7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 17; runs 7:30 p.m. Friday- Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday through June 25

WHERE: Foster Theater, Gallo Center for the Arts, 1000 I St., Modesto

TICKETS: $19-$35 (special $3 off per ticket family pack available for June 23 performance by phone/walk-in only)

CALL: 209- 338-2100

ONLINE: www.galloarts.org

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