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North Hall drama takes on classic for season finale
Kyle Shook, top, is Fagin and Mary Kelley, left, is the Artful Dodger in North Hall High School's production of "Oliver!" North Hall Middle seventh-grader Harrison Patton plays the title role. - photo by Kristen Morales

If you hear a bit of an English accent floating around North Hall lately, don't worry - it's just students in the high school's drama department practicing for their season-ending show, "Oliver!"

From leading roles to stage technicians to carpenters, the students have been learning all different aspects of the theater production world this past year in the advanced drama class. This final production of the school year also includes high school students for extras and stagehands, as well as middle school students to fill the shoes of the kids in the cast.

Including the title character, Oliver Twist.

The classic tale set in 1850s London tells the story of orphaned Oliver and his ordeals with street urchins and thievery. For seventh-grader Harrison Patton, the role is a familiar one - he portrayed Oliver in a production way back in the fourth grade.

"I played before in the fourth grade, so I already had the accent and I knew all my lines," he said.

Fellow actor Haley Veal, a junior, said the trick with the accent is to keep it slow when you speak.

"You just slow it down," she said. "If you say it fast it sounds like marbles in your mouth."

Mary Kelley, a junior at North Hall High School, said she polished her Cockney accent with the help of her voice teacher's husband. The cast has also had help from Keith Fairhurst, who came in and put on the finishing touches.

The role of Dodger is also interesting to Kelley, she said, because she gets to stretch her acting skills.

"I get to be a boy," she said, adding that her character is the leader of the pack of boys set upon the streets to learn how to pickpocket.

"I'm like his boy," she said of the gang's ringleader, Fagin, played by senior Kyle Shook. "His best and brightest."

Others in the cast said one of the best things about the production is the fact that the group is like a family putting on the production. Not only do most of the students take the advanced drama class together, but they also eat lunch together and spend most weekends either rehearsing, building sets or just hanging out.

"As a cast, we're having a lot of fun with it," said Veal, who plays the undertaker's daughter. Because the cast is so tight, she said, "if someone messes up we can improvise off each other."

Sophomore Connor Wiegand added that the group has spent every Saturday since spring break together.

"The thing about our department is we're all like family," she said. "We hang out all the time together. And part of what makes our production really good is we all mesh together."

Costumes look the part of ol' London town, with the haggard, dirty shirts of the boys mixing with the tuxedos of the upper crust. Cast members say much of the costuming was done with the help of drama mom Meg Kelley, who made several from scratch and pieced together others from local stores and what the cast had already in their wardrobes. Kelley also helped with props and sets.

"For a high school performance, our set, stage and everything, you can't beat it," said senior Michael Homans. "And just wait till the last scene - you'll see the London Bridge.