Dodger and Oliver (Sam Clark and Emily Furniss). by Stacey Gundry

All hands on deck for upcoming musical

Preparations are now in full swing for Nayland’s musical production of Oliver! to take to the stage in the first week after the holidays.

From the cast to the costumes, from the music to the set to backstage, Nayland students, staff and parents are working together to bring the show to life - and it promises to be a cracker.

Year 9 students Emily Furniss and Sam Clark are playing Oliver Twist and Artful Dodger respectively. Emily says she “went ballistic” when she heard she’d landed the role, though she says playing a boy is “a bit weird.”

“It’s the complete opposite of myself, of what I usually do, [he’s] a bit more rough and tumble - not that Oliver’s extremely tumbly -but he’s fun to play because he’s kind of always got that scared thing about him,” Emily said.

Sam’s role as Artful Dodger has meant that he’s had to master a Cockney accent and he finds himself slipping into it accidentally every now and then. He describes his character as a bit of a rogue.

“He’s quite lively and sneaky and charming and also a bit of a ratbag (...).He’s a thief but he only does it to survive, he doesn’t steal other people’s stuff for fun,” he said.

Alongside these super-talented junior students are three of our 2019 student leaders in main roles: Jo Meleisea, Mia Faulkner and Ben Dowdle. Oliver! is Jo’s first production and he plays the villain Bill Sikes. He was motivated to get involved by going and seeing the 2017 production of ‘Bye Bye Birdie’.

“I was a late bloomer towards music and theatre because I thought sport came first but with music (...) it’s more of an escape for people and I feel like I can express myself a lot more,” he said.

For Ben Dowdle, who plays Mr Bumble, the fact that it’s a musical was the main drawcard. He describes his character as “slightly bumbly” and as adding a bit of comic relief. “I’m not much of an actor, not much of a dancer, but singing’s where I fit into a musical.”

Four of Nayland’s talented music students will play alongside their itinerant music teachers to perform up to 50 pieces of music to accompany the dancing, dialogue and the score. 

“The chorus this year is very strong,” musical director Nigel Weeks said. “It’s one of the best we’ve had at Nayland and is boosted by Broadgreen.” 35 Broadgreen students are joining the show as starving orphans.

Nayland’s student involvement also extends to backstage, with Year 13 Jasmine Day as backstage manager. She’s been involved with backstage work since she was in Year 10, doing productions, show cases and other things.

She’ll be helped by a group of junior and senior students. “I love productions and the environment,” she said. “It is amazing to see the production go from just being a script to being this big show and seeing everyone's hard work pay off.”

Another key person working behind the scenes is Year 13 painting student Sophie Poole. She helped out painting the sets in ‘Annie Get Your Gun’ when she was in Year 10 and jumped at the chance to get involved with Oliver! This time she’s been painting the backdrop. “I was painting for two hours the other day doing the lines and with the artificial light my eyes were flickering and I thought ‘I think I need to take a break!’” she said.

Year 9 Ata Winiata is working alongside a team of staff members in costumes and wardrobe and they’ve been working hard on sourcing appropriate Victorian garb. Another staff team will take care of hair and make-up.

A group of teachers and parents have been involved in constructing the set and making props, including a number of coffins.

With such a huge amount of effort going in, the only thing left is pulling the audiences. Ben Dowdle says the fact that the show’s director Verity Davidson and musical director Nigel Weeks have exceptionally high standards, means that people can be assured of a great night.

“The teachers will push every last ounce of talent and ability out of [us] for those four nights so it will be absolutely worth your money to come and see it, because we will have worked so hard on it."

The show will run from 1st to 4th of May at the Theatre Royal.

Get your tickets now from Theatre Royal or online at Ticket Direct.