In 1838, Charles Dickens penned his second novel, popularly known as “Oliver Twist.” Written originally as a socio-economic criticism, the story of Oliver was the first written featuring a child protagonist and is perhaps one of Dickens’ most famous tales. Various movie and stage adaptations have been created throughout the years, and on July 16 and 17, Clear Space Productions and The Freeman Stage at Bayside will be presenting the timeless tale, in musical fashion, with “Oliver.”
The production will star many Delawareans, including some from this neck of the woods. The title role, in fact, will be played by Bethany Beach’s own Cole Haden, a student at the Southern Delaware School for the Arts (SDSA).
Haden, along with six other students from the area (Zane Ellis of Selbyville, Stephen Mervine of Bridgeville, Triever Sherwood of Lewes, Paul Colucci and Gianna Abboud of Rehoboth Beach and Meghan Hayward of Milford) will help bring the story to life as the production tours from the Fenwick Island area to Dover.
“We’ve all been having a lot of fun with the show,” said Haden. “It’s very intense trying to put it all together, but we’ve all really enjoyed it.”
As a student at SDSA, Haden is no rookie to the stage.
“This is my third year working with Clear Space productions,” Haden noted. “I started acting in school plays, such as ‘Peter Pan,’ ‘Aladdin’ and ‘Honk,’ when my drama teacher introduced me to Clear Space. Working with Clear Space is great. The directors, Ken Skrzesz and Doug Yetter, are always teaching us new things while letting us have fun at the same time.”
Haden, who otherwise spends much of his free time at the beach and on the Bethany boardwalk, said he is excited to add “Oliver” to his already impressive resume of performances. In previous years, theatergoers may have seen him in Clear Space’s productions of “Goblins Don’t Scare Us” and “Scrooge.”
Although Haden is all too familiar with the stage, pursuing a leading role was still a daunting task.
“The auditions were really scary,” Haden admitted. “Everyone is called in separately to audition for the directors. You have to prepare an audition song, then your singing range is tested. After that, everyone meets the choreographer and learns a quick dance combination. You have to learn everything pretty quick, because they’re watching to see how fast you pick things up.”
“When Clear Space first called me to tell me I was being offered the role of Oliver, I was actually in shock,” Haden added. “I didn’t even know what to say! I called them back, though, and was so excited I couldn’t stop shouting into the phone.”
After three months of preparations, Haden and his fellow cast members are ready to take to the stage.
“Although I love everything about being on stage, my favorite part is the curtain call on opening night. It’s wonderful to be up on stage with all the audience clapping for you! It’s such a great feeling to know you’ve accomplished something.”
The show will tour to three locations, starting at the Delaware beach area.
For two nights, on July 16 and 17, “Oliver” will play on the Freeman Stage at Bayside, near the intersection of Routes 20 and 54. Tickets cost $10, and the show will begin at 7 p.m. on both nights. To purchase tickets or get directions, call (302) 436-3015 or visit www.FreemanStage.org online.
Following their foray near Fenwick, the cast will head north, playing at Epworth United Methodist Church in Rehoboth. Show times there are 7 p.m. on July 23-25, with a matinee showing at 3 p.m. on July 26. Tickets to those shows will cost $25, and the matinee show will be followed by a free ice-cream social, including a meet-and-greet with the cast.
Finally, Haden and the rest of the cast will head to Dover, playing at the Schwartz Center for the Arts on Aug. 1 and 2, at 7 p.m. and 3 p.m., respectively.
In addition to full-length performances, Clear Space Productions also hosts various musical/theatrical endeavors throughout the year, including their annual New Works Festival in November, as well as operating the Encore Thrift Shop. Last year’s New Works Festival produced 18 songs, five shorts and a full-length musical.
Additional information on Clear Space Productions, including information on their various community outreach programs, performances, auditions and staff, can be found online at www.ClearSpaceProductions.org or by contacting the office at (302) 644-3810.