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Patriot Community Peforms ‘Oliver!’ this weekend


Students sing and dance during a rehearsal of Patriot High School’s production of “Oliver!”

“Life is hard. It’s really tough, but it’s better with family,” said Patriot student Ashleigh DiBenedetto, explaining the message of “Oliver!” Patriot High School’s 2016 spring musical.

DiBenedetto plays one of the principal characters in “Oliver!” which opens Thursday evening at Patriot auditorium and continues with two more performances April 29 and 30.

DiBenedetto’s message about “Oliver!” is true not just about the play, but about the community producing it. This year, the high school’s musical ensemble has expanded to include Patriot teachers, several T. Clay Wood Elementary students and their choral director, Rebecca Anderson.

Another welcomed addition is Patriot Musical Director, Jimmy Edwards. Edwards is a new math teacher at Patriot who has extensive musical theater experience. Patriot’s theater director and drama teacher Kathyrn Facemire is thrilled to add so many new players to her production team.

Facemire said Edwards has made a noticeable improvement in how the students sound, now that they have been trained in the theatric styling of musical theater.

For Edwards, being a part of the high school musical experience has been a joy.

“One thing I knew I wanted to do when I came here [to Patriot] was to help direct,” he said.

One of the male leads intimidate the other characters in Act II of "Oliver!"

One of the male leads intimidate the other characters in Act II of “Oliver!”

Facemire is also extremely pleased with the dance performances, this season. Though she is trained in choreography, it took a while to attract dancers to her musicals. Knowing she now had those experienced dancers is one of the reasons she chose to produce “Oliver!”

However, Facemire and Edward agreed  the most attractive aspect of the show is a cast ranging in ages from children to adults.

Facemire said the idea was always to include more people, such as staff member. And, she had originally cast Edwards and herself as understudies; however, when two principles left, they got the chance to perform as well, which her students find really exciting.

“If had not been needed there would have been no way I would have put myself on stage,” she said, but does not mean she is performing begrudgingly.

“It’s my first time back on stage in too long to mention,” she said, describing her character as a “shrieking diva,” who is fun to play.

Edwards believes being part of the cast has made him a much better director.

“It gave me more empathy to see what they are experiencing,” he said.

It also helped the directors be more patient with their actors.

“I would keep laughing,” Edwards said, explaining when he broke character, “so I can’t get mad at them.”

Ensemble members congregate on stage during a scene from "Oliver!"

Ensemble members congregate on stage during a scene from “Oliver!”

From rehearsing every evening to building sets in tech class, “it’s been a blast,” Facemire said.

Principal cast members said “Oliver!” taught them to expand their range as actors.

“It is one of the few good dark musicals,” said Cannon West, who plays Fagan, explaining “Oliver!” is neither cheesy nor over-comedic.

“There’s levity and there’s drama. It’s a mismatch of a show with so many different aspects to it,” he said.

Students relished acting alongside their teachers. They praised history teacher John Nolan for his performance as the bartender or “Chairman of the Bar” as his character calls himself.

And, Patriot students said it was extremely fun to work with T. Clay student who exceeded their expectations.

DiBenedetto said the children were so enthusiastic – always asking if they could pickpocket someone while on stage to set the scene.

“They are little prodigies!” said Susie Heath who plays Bet.

Principal actors said  it was brilliant of Facemire to extend the musical beyond just Patriot students.

Actors construct a scene on stage.

Actors construct a scene on stage.

“She really tries to bring more school spirit and bring more people to see it,” DiBenedetto said.

“Or even [have people say] ‘I’m going to be in the next show,’” West added.

Traditionally musical theater has been inclusive, said Facemire, and she wants Patriots shows to reflect that culture.

“I always like to include as many people as possible– to include people from many walks of life,” Facemire said.

Patriot’s “Oliver!” ensemble includes athletes and scholars as wells as those who feel theater is the only place they belong.

Facemire said that is the reason she gives up so many of her evenings for rehearsals, hoping theater gives young people confidence, friendship and passion.

“I absolutely believe that the performing arts saves lives. I know it saved mine,” Facemire said. “The function of my profession is to provide my students and others with a home.”

Ensemble members perform a dance number.

Ensemble members perform a dance number.

Edwards agreed. He said that is the reason he wanted to be involved in high school theater, and to do so has been “really fulfilling.”

The Patriot Players present “Oliver!” April 28, 29 and 30 at 7 p.m. each evening. Tickets are $8, and may be purchased at the Patriot box office beginning at 6:15 p.m. before each show. Seating is general admission.

The music and lyrics of “Oliver!” (1968) was written by Lionel Bart, based on the novel “Oliver Twist” (1837) by Charles Dickens.

Patriot High School is located at 10504 Kettle Run Rd, Nokesville, Virginia 20181. Patriot High School is a public school in Prince William County.

© 2016, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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Category: Arts & Entertainment

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