HCLO brings Oliver! to the Saenger stage May 9-12


Hattiesburg Civic Light Opera will present Lionel Bart’s musical retelling of Charles Dickens’ classic, OLIVER!, May 9-12 at the Historic Saenger Theater, downtown. 

The show is directed by Miles Doleac, with musical direction by Clifton Hyde and Claire Sanguinetti, and choreography by Rebecca Chandler and Lindsay Anne Williams. 

The Tony-winning adaptation of Dickens’ well-known novel earned composer Bart the Tony for Best Score in 1963. The film version won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture in 1968.

Set in Victorian London, the musical tells the story of 11-year-old orphan, Oliver Twist, who’s banished from his boarding house, escapes a macabre apprenticeship as a “coffin follower,” and falls in with a gang of street thieves, mentored by the quasi-comic, Fagin, but answering to the terrifying Bill Sykes. 

During Oliver’s first attempt at pick-pocketing, his intended mark, Mr. Brownlow, takes pity on the boy, and offers him a home, leading Sykes and company to plot a kidnapping of Oliver to keep him from talking. 

The show features 26 children, playing boarding house orphans, members of Fagin’s gang, street performers, and children of London. 

“Working with this many children – almost all of whom are absolutely integral to the show – is both challenging and inspirational,” said Doleac. “I know what the theatre meant to me as a child, what being on stage meant, and how much I grew as a human being from having had that experience, so it means a great deal to be able to provide that for these kids.” 

Doleac and music director Hyde both attest that the 55-year-old musical is more complex than they thought it was. 

“This is a complicated musical, a dark musical, with a lot of scene changes, a lot of moving parts, and some significant emotional heft,” Hyde said. “Those who haven’t seen it or haven’t seen it in a while may be surprised at how rich it is.

“There’s some very intricate music here and we’re teaching it to children. And, in most instances, they’re completely game.”

 Doleac said the children have really worked hard. 

“There’s a good deal of talent here. I think audiences will be impressed,” he said.

OLIVER! stars Scott Bolster in the title role, Seth Karas as “Fagin,” Lindsay Anne Williams as “Nancy,” Anna Brice Taylor as “The Artful Dodger,” Doleac as “Bill Sykes,” Allen Holified as “Mr. Bumble,” Mindi Jordan Bennett as “Widow Corney,” and a number of other talented locals of all ages. 

OLIVER! opens Thursday, May 9, with curtain at 7:30 p.m. and runs Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (2 p.m. matinee). Tickets are currently available at HCLO.ORG. 

HCLO has recently announced its new season, which opens in August mwith the sci-fi, rock ‘n’ roll musical, Return to the Forbidden Planet. Memberships for 2019-2020 are now available on the website.