‘Oliver’ production a family affair
Vail, CO, Colorado
VAIL ” “Oliver” may be a musical about a bunch of orphans, but the rendition the Children’s Theatre School presents Monday and Thursday at the Ford Amphitheater is strictly a family affair.
Child actors, ages 8-12, from all over the Vail Valley have been rehearsing for about month alongside several professional actors and their parents in preparation for the troupe’s annual summer show.
“It’s funny because the kids know more then the grown ups,” Christina Cheesman, age 9, said.
Jillian Kiss, age 14, agrees.
“Right now, it’s so fun because we get to back-talk to the parents and show them how to do everything,” she said.
Bart Garton, father of Rio, Bailey and Quaid, loves working alongside his kids.
“I’m here as a supporting actor,” he said. “It makes rehearsal at home really fun. The kids know everyone’s lines.”
“Watching my kids has been my favorite part,” said Cooter Overcash, father of Shannon and Jamie. Cooter Overcash, who plays Fagin, has been working with all the children, teaching them about improvisation.
“I’m so proud of all of them,” Cooter Overcash said. “They take the improvisation exercises and they make it their own. They develop their characters and even create back stories.”
Rehearsals are not only offer quality family time. Director Gretta Assaly said she loves watching kids form bonds with each other, and at the end of production, the cast is also like one big family.
“Some kids walk into rehearsals not knowing a soul, and by the end of the show, they’re all best friends,” Assaly said. “Theatre gives these kids a sense of belonging.
We all struggle to find a niche where we belong. In the world of e-mail, theater is one thing where you actually have to show up. It creates an environment where people can walk in to a room and everyone’s glad to see you. It builds self esteem and that curtain never closes.”
Most of the kids in “Oliver” have worked with director Assaly before. She’s tough, they say, but it makes the final performance all the better.
“Gretta can be strict and she pushes you really hard, but she has to,” said Rio Garton, who plays one of the two Olivers. Garton was Sandy the dog in Assaly’s production of “Annie.” “She makes a big deal out of little things but she has to. Otherwise, we’d be total slobs,”
“Eventually, you get used to Gretta” added Trevor Borasio, age 11.
“Gretta gives it oomph,” said Natalie Landin, age 11.
This is assistant director Renee Bergstrom’s first play working with Assaly, and she is amazed by both Assaly and the kids’ determination.
“The kids are working so hard. They’re so focused and they want their costumes and the set to be just perfect,” Bergstrom said. “I just watch Gretta work. She’s like a puppet master. You see the younger kids and you watch them come alive. The older kids help the younger kids. Their energy is infectious.”
Marsha Marshall, the musical director for “Oliver,” said the audience is in for a lot of fun.
“The kids are so enthusiastic. They realize what an extraordinary opportunity they have here,” Marshall said. “They love Gretta. They’ll never forget her and she’ll never forget them.”
For Assaly, it’s about her love of theater and the children.
“I learn so much from the kids,” she said. “I’m open to their ideas. It’s about integrating their excellent ideas with mine and sharing ownership.”
Over all, the kids feel ready for the upcoming shows.
“You’ve got to keep the audience awake,” said Leo Borasio, age 11.
“It’s pretty hard, but it’s worth it,” said Rio Garton.
“It’s so much fun.” Jillian Kiss said, “we’re going to do our best and we’re going to have fun with it.”
“I’m kind of nervous,” Shannon Overcash, 12, said. “Because our stage we’ve been practicing on is much smaller then the show stage. It’s really important to keep a level head.”