Citing both its darker and lighter points, Bexley's Theater Arts Director Rebecca Rhinehart and the Bexley Junior Thespians are excited to bring the musical Oliver! to the stage this weekend with four roof-raising performances.
The award-winning adaptation of Charles Dickens' novel, Oliver Twist, brings both joy and sorrow to the stage in a collaborative effort between older and younger actors in Bexley.
Rhinehart said she chose the musical because it involves both a large cast and crew, and because of its great storyline.
"I chose Oliver! because, at Bexley, we can use all ages of students within the script," she said. "This was a joint high school and middle school production, and we used mainly middle school students as the impoverished workhouse children and pickpockets, and the high schoolers as the adults.
"It is also a classic script with great songs that highlights a dark time in history."
The story is set in London in 1850. After running away from an orphanage overseen by the heartless Mr. Bumble, Oliver meets the Artful Dodger and is recruited to pick pockets on the streets of London for Fagin. Oliver finds a friend in Nancy, but soon discovers that neither of them are fit for a life of crime.
"My favorite part of every production is being able to work collaboratively and creatively with so many talented people, both students and adults," Rhinehart said.
"It is always amazing to see a vision I had months and sometimes years before become a reality. In this particular production, I like the difference between light and dark. There are extremely fun moments and songs, such as Consider Yourself and Oom-Pah-Pah, but there are also very dark and serious moments that highlight deep themes of poverty, classism, and abuse.
"It's nice to be able to explore both the yin and the yang."
Seventh-grader Ethan Davis, who plays Oliver in the production, said he can relate to his character.
"If I was born in London and this scenario would happen, I guess most kids would end up like Oliver."
Davis said it was an easy role to get into, "because I could understand his situation ... I can sympathize with him."
Eighth-grader A. J. Copp, who plays the Artful Dodger, agreed.
"This show has a variety of topics that it talks about, a variety of issues," he said.
And even though the story takes place in another era, "the issues still have social relevance," he added.
"Sometimes it's happy and sometimes it's sad, but I think it's a very good show and people will really enjoy it."
Oliver! runs Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 7-9, with evening shows at 7:30 p.m., as well as a Saturday matinee at 2:30 p.m. in the Schottenstein Theater.
Ticket are $10 for adults, $8 for students and free for Golden Buckeye cardholders, Bexley City Schools staffers and Lions' Pride passholders.
For tickets, call the Theatre Hotline at 614-231-7611, ext. 6709, or visit bexleytheatrearts.com.