A twist on a classic musical

Four Seasons brings family-friendly musical theatre to the West Shore

Four Seasons Musical Theatre in Langford is putting Oliver! on stage at the Isabelle Reader Theater at Spencer Middle School. From left to right: The Artful Dodger (Mariah McDonald), Fagin (Klaus Benker) and Oliver Twist (Jordan McDonald).

Langford’s Four Seasons Musical Theatre is putting its own twist on a timeless Dickens classic tale with Oliver! the Musical, running May 24 to June 2 at the Isabelle Reader Theatre.

While Four Seasons is known around the West Shore as a musical theatre company for young audiences, the 37-year-old theatre company focused its last few seasons on providing full-length musical theatre for the family, says past-president and Oliver! director Terry Roswell.

“Contrary to popular belief, we are no longer solely producing short shows for a preschool audience,” says Roswell. “This is fabulous family entertainment. I bet people will be walking out of the theatre humming the songs and tapping their feet.”

The company is attracting some top tier talent from across the capital region for both its cast and creative team. Choreography for the cast of 32 is by Lighthouse Academy of Dance faculty member Kathie Hunwick, while Phil Hallman of Victoria Youth Musical Theatre Company (and Con Brio) is in charge of musical direction for the popular musical, based on Charles Dickens’ “Oliver Twist,” which had successful runs on London’s West End and Broadway.

“We might not have Broadway-style sets and most of the costumes are recycled, or rented, (but) we’re putting on a great show on a small budget,” says Roswell.

And because of the location — a theatre at Spencer school — the rent is cheaper and so are ticket prices.

“There’s this attitude that a $16 show can’t be very good, but we’re not paying to rent the Mac,” says Roswell. “We’re passing that savings on.”

Four Seasons’ production won’t have a full orchestra, but does have an ensemble of six live, professional musicians providing the music.

“I abhor canned music,” says Roswell.

The cast features a small army of children, some as young as five, and the title roll goes to nine-year-old Jordan McDonald, whose older sister Mariah plays Artful Dodger, while their father Rob plays Oliver’s grandfather Mr. Brownlow. Their mother is working on costumes — one of almost 30 volunteers needed to pull off the show.

Roswell’s vision for the production is traditional, playing up the music and the subtleties of the relationships between characters.

“I’m never married to previous productions or the various movies,” says Roswell. “The cast and crew created the vision together. We focus more on the relationships between Oliver and Fagan and the other relationships that often get glossed over.”

For families with young children, Roswell notes that while Nancy is inevitably killed by Bill Sikes, the violence of the murder is toned down with a younger audience in mind.

“We’re not going to avoid how awful the situation is, but what we don’t have to do is make it gratuitous,” says Roswell. “He does stab her, but there’s no blood splatter. It’s not glorified.”

Anyone concerned about the violence level can contact Four Seasons on its website for more information.

“There’s some great stuff happening out here on the West Shore,” says Roswell. “There’s lots of parking, tickets are less expensive and it’s a short drive outside of rush hour.” M

 

Oliver! the Musical

Four Seasons Musical Theatre

Thursday May 23 at 7pm (Preview)

May 24-June 2,  Fridays at 7pm, Saturdays and Sundays at 2pm

Isabelle Reader Theatre (Spencer School) 1026 Goldstream

Tickets cash or cheque at the door, or in advance at  Westside InstaPrint, Ivy’s Bookshop, Jennings Florists, or online at  fourseasonsmusicaltheatre.com

Children $12

Adults $18

Family $54

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