Dickens comes to PHS

By William P. Thompson

A slice of Victorian London comes to Portales this week when students from Portales schools take to the stage in a production of the musical “Oliver!” based on the Charles Dickens classic “Oliver Twist.”

It’s a Portales High School performing arts department production, but the department’s director, Bob Strong, said he wanted to take advantage of talent from Portales Junior High and the city’s elementary schools.

“The acting is excellent and the singing is superb,” Strong said. “The people of Portales will be amazed at the talent they have here in this town.”

About 70 students from Portales schools are in the play and the play’s director, Molly McFarling, a graduate theater student at Eastern New Mexico University, said the “Oliver!” story line will appeal to many.

“I really like the inter-relationships between the characters,” McFarling said. “I like the underlying stories in the relationships between the characters.”

Strong said “Oliver!” contains humor and drama and doesn’t wince when it comes to describing the plight of children in Victorian London.

“The character Fegan takes the children and turns them into thieves and pickpockets,” Strong said. “It’s a very dark play.”
About 30 songs are included in the production and Strong said the elementary school students often have an easier time of rehearsing than the older students.

“They (elementary students) memorize and get things down quicker,” Strong said. “They get their blocking down quicker.”
McFarling said she uses positive reinforcement to keep the youngsters in line.

“I ask them what they think they did wrong, and then they find a way to correct it,” she said.

PHS student Heather Stroud plays the female lead “Nancy.” She’s had to interact with the elementary students.

”They are just really fun and cute,” Stroud said. “They can get on your nerves but they are really cute.”

Third-grader Ty Bergman said he’s had fun learning songs that include “Pick a Pocket or Two” for his role as a young pickpocket. Second-graders who play street criers said they will sing a song called “Food, Glory is Food,” highlighting the hunger poor children in Victorian London experienced.

This is the fourth year Strong has used the elementary school students in PHS theater productions. He said the theater seats 433 and he wishes for a sellout at the box office.

“You’d think with all the elementary students, it would bring out the people,” he said.

Show times and ticket prices

The PHS Performing Arts Department’s production of “Oliver!” runs at the following times inside the school’s performing Arts Center.

Date Time Cost
Thursday 7 p.m. $4
Friday 7 p.m. $4
Saturday Dinner Theater at 5:30 p.m. $10
Sunday 2 p.m. $4
For information, call 356-5526.