Oliver! cast and crew raise their game as tickets go on sale

As tickets go on sale for UCS’s first ever whole-school production, Oliver!, our Director of Drama, Connor Abbott, explains why Lionel Bart’s masterpiece makes for a perfect choice of school musical and affirms that cast and crew should both “consider themselves well in”.

By Connor Abbott

With a month and a half to go before the first performance, the cast and crew of Oliver! are in the midst of rehearsals.

For pupils, staff and parents, the UCS musical is a staple co-curricular event and, after a three-year hiatus, we wanted to mark its return with something significant, special and spectacular.

Mr Dawe and I discussed several options but, once Oliver! had been mentioned, we could not think of a better choice to herald the return of the UCS musical. It is a popular classic, with famous (“glorious” even) songs, and despite being set against the backdrop of an unrelenting Victorian England, its tone is warm and familiar. Most excitingly, though, Oliver! allowed us to cast pupils from the entire school to form a company for our first ever whole-school production.

Auditions began in May when we invited every pupil in the school to try out. The response was staggering: a record number of pupils, from every year group, volunteered their time to the audition process. With a cast and crew of over 50 pupils – the largest number to ever perform in a production in the Lund Theatre – the overwhelming interest in the show exemplifies the culture of enthusiasm and passion for the Performing Arts at UCS.

UCS also has a tradition of reinterpreting iconic musicals. From the spinning casino-wheel stage of our production of Guys and Dolls to the gory blood-weeping walls of Ms Baxter’s Sweeney Todd, our pupils work with colleagues to create contemporary twists on musical classics.

Oliver! will be no exception. Carys Bedford, our set designer, has created a stunning vision of a moon-drenched Victorian London that’s somewhere between being torn apart and rebuilt by industrial revolution. Her unveiling of the set model in our first rehearsal elicited a chorus of “woahs” from the cast. As Victorian street lamps, a coffin, dust, helium balloons and other intriguing set pieces arrive, our theatre manager Martin Hutchings and the stage crew are proceeding to realise this bold vision.

In the final weeks of half-term, rehearsals have moved up a gear. If you stroll by the Music Department at lunch, you will undoubtedly be serenaded by a singing rehearsal of Lionel Bart’s famous score. If you peer through the doors of the Lund Theatre after school, you will catch a glimpse of the company in Ms Tran’s characteristically enthusiastic choreography sessions.

It is never uncommon for UCS pupils to be so dedicated to the work of rehearsing a production. But it is uncommon for pupils from every year group to be side by side, dancing in unison, singing and acting together, with younger ones raising their game to meet the example set by older peers. It is – in truth – a rare and wonderful opportunity for all to experience the joy of creating a musical together and to, quite literally, consider themselves well in.

Tickets for Oliver! are on sale now via ticketsource.

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