Blackwelder delivers ‘more’ in “Oliver!”

July 22, 2013

“Please, sir, I want some more,” asked a hungry orphan named Oliver.

“Oliver!,” the Charles Dickens masterpiece of cruel Victorian authority figures who love to bait the orphan, was sponsored by the Foothills Theatre.

Casting children into lead roles can often be challenging.

“There is no greater opening that seems to take a shot at being mean to a kid compared to covering kids in a play,” said a theatre critic with the American Theatre Critic Association. “A theatre production takes a great risk with each child because a critic must stay true to being a critic, but most people want to root for the kid.”

Tickets were $10 per adult and $7 for children under 12. The musical was held at Elkin High School.

Addison Blackwelder of State Road, who played the title role and looked a lot like Mark Lester appeared in the 1968 movie, provided above adequate entertainment, a near-perfect “Oliver” considering: a heartbreaking, handsome young fellow with an open heart, soul and innocence.

Nine-year-old Addison’s expressions too were on-point and captivating even when he had no lines.

“Not only could you hear what Oliver was saying, but you could feel his feelings through his expressions,” said JoAnne Wright of Rural Hall, who made the trip to see the musical.

The director of the play for the Foothills Theatre was Leighanne Martin-Wright who didn’t cheat through this role either (many directors opt to place an adolescent in this role instead of a child).

However, Dickens intended the character to be a child, and a Martin-Wright chose to have a child be the lead character.

“I’m just so delighted to be here and to work on this play,” said Addison. “This was my longest play. I played in Doo-Wop Wed Widing Hood, but this is the only play that I had to change clothes lots of times and adjust to characters.”

Addison was thankful to his parents.

“My parents would help me a lot. They were right there for me to assist with practicing my lines. That was a ton of fun,” continued Addison, who’s also a student at Elkin Elementary School.

“I just like the process of learning all the lines. I don’t know what’s next for me. I want to be in movies, anything that requires for someone to memorize lines.”

Morgan Harrison of Elkin, who played Bill Sikes, was asked how easy was it working with a cast of children.

“Working with kids is never easy. Let’s just say they’re inspiring,” said Harrison, who’s heading on Monday to Lousiville to work on another production. “Addison did a great job. All of the kids did fantastic.”

“Kids make the show more exciting, too,” said in Jennifer Kleinheksel of State Road, who played Nancy Sikes, a character fiercely protective of Oliver. Nancy Sikes commits one of the most noble acts of kindness in the story when she ultimately risks her life to help Oliver.

Kleinheksel was pleased with how the musical came together. Nancy Sikes was flawless and didn’t show any signs of being nervous on stage. Kleinheksel said the reality is that she’s nervous all the way up until the moment of acting.

“I get nervous all the time. I think it can take up to the week of to feel you are ready to perform,” said Kleinheksel.

The cast and crew included Leighanne Martin Wright of Elkin, director; Kim Arnold of Elkin, choreographer; Freddy Casstevens of Boonville, music director; Addison Blackwelder of State Road as Oliver; Tyler Zickmund of Mocksville as the Artful Dodger; David Nielsen of Elkin as Fagin; Jennifer Kleinheksel of State Road as Nancy Sykes; Morgan Harrison of Elkin as Bill Sykes; Will Parks of Hamptonville as Mr. Bumble; Christine Werner Booher of Elkin as Widow Corney; Scott Carpenter of Mount Airy as Mr. Sowerberry and Mr. Brownlow; Kitsey E. Burns of East Bend as Mrs. Sowerberry; Michael Jones of Elkin as Noah Claypole; Bailey Atkins of Mount Airy as Charlotte; Isabella Wyatt of Sparta as Bet; Judy Deck of Jonesville as Mrs. Bedwin; Neil Green of State Road as Dr. Grimwig; with an ensemble cast of Emma Aldridge, Katie Carter, Henry Freeman, Margaret Freeman, Nicole Freeman, Claire Grider, Grace Harrison, Lucas Keller, Eli Powell, Whitney Sprinkle, Anna Taylor, Cassidy Transou, Christie Harrison, Mary Keller, Amy Rector, Aspen Jackson, all of Elkin; Ella Kleinheksel, Aaron Blackwelder, both of State Road; Gabriel Hammesfahr, Sandra Hammesfahr, both of Boonville; and Vicky Zickmund of Mocksville.

The orchestra included musical director Freddy Casstevens on piano; Julie Shaw, flute; Nick Gordan, drums; Jonathan Owens, violin; and Josh Casstevens, bass.

The musical was choreographed by Kim Arnold.

The classic Charles Dickens tale of Oliver Twist was adapted into this musical by Lionel Bart. Songs performed were “Consider Yourself,” “Food, Glorious Food,” “Pick a Pocket or Two” and “Where Is Love?” and others.

Reach Anthony Gonzalez at 336-835-1513 or email at agonzalez@civitasmedia.com.