Thursday, March 26, 2020

March 1977 Flashback: Oliver!

Forty-three years, I was playing the title role in my junior high musical, “Oliver!” How I won the lead is still beyond my comprehension, but I sure was grateful and it was such a memorable experience. So memorable that I’m blogging about it today!

I had seen (and worshipped) the 1968 film version, starring Mark Lester and Jack Wild. Jack Wild?!? From H.R. Pufnstuf? That’s right! What more did I need to like the movie?

I also loved the Lionel Bart score. So much in fact that I played my vinyl album to death. I knew every word to each song by heart, which probably didn’t hurt my chances in capturing the part.

Here’s my take on “Food, Glorious Food.” Don’t ask me why they let me use an orange plastic bowl for this scene. What was our prop department thinking?!? (note: both the bowl and the wooden spoon were from my mother’s kitchen)

All of the students in the play had the assignment of bringing in old used clothing to be made into rags for the orphanage scenes. I asked my mother last minute and she was extremely annoyed. She donated a pair of pants that my older brother had made in Home Economics. A few weeks later, they were back in my possession. The prop department liked them so much that they decided to let me wear them when I was adopted by my rich grandfather. This is what 19th century wealth looks like?!? For the musical number “Who Will Buy?”, the scene begins in my room first thing in the morning. Wearing a nightgown, I was to change on stage (discreetly of course) into my “swell” clothes. To this day I remember the embarrassment of not being able to get that damn zipper to work. Finally, just before the orchestra queued me for my first note, I was able to get that stupid thing to work. Moral of the story: don’t let your brother make your clothes. These are the pants and the scene I just described:

My dad captured almost every moment, including me getting makeup on backstage. At the time, I was mortified. Today, I am grateful. There’s that orange bowl again. Nobody was going to pry that out of my hands!

I remember the play being videotaped. If only I knew where that was; sure would be great to see it again. Anyone from Tredyffrin-Easttown Junior High know where that old tape might be?

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"Lou and Sue" said...

Dave, what a wonderful experience - and great pictures! Was this your first play? Did you perform in more plays, over the years?

My mom had the original "Oliver!" record album, also, and played it a lot, too. Good memories.

Thank you, Dave!

Tadson said...

Love that you shared this! How fun.

Anonymous said...

You are a 'natural' Dave! KS

DBenson said...

I was doing a lot of musicals as a teen in the early 70s and worked onstage and off with a couple of productions of "Oliver". Auditionees were overwhelmingly little girls, so Fagin's boys were mostly females with wool caps. I suspect this was why the show was so popular with schools and community groups until "Annie" came along, which could absorb armies of little girls playing little girls.

In "Who Will Buy" I was one of the Robust Workmen carrying chunks of lumber or whatever we could find across the stage. One matinee I grabbed a cardboard coffin from the undertaker scene and carried it over my shoulder. The director left it in but modified it: Mr. Sourberry leads two workmen across the stage as they carry the coffin and he sneaks a swig from a flack. A verse of so later they return, the workmen carrying the sloshed Mr. Sourberry.

When video became more common, I quickly learned one valuable lesson: NEVER look at the tape until the show has closed, the cast party's over and you've had a few weeks to mellow out.

Irene said...

Wow! This is just great. You made a good looking Oliver :) I sure do hope you find that tape. My daughter was in one play when she was in High School and I have that DVD. Now when I pass, what she will do with it is anyone's guess, haha. I also support former students and young people of friends of mine in the arts and go see their shows as much as possible. I love it!

Daveland said...

Lou and Sue - That was pretty much the end of my acting career. The 9th grade musical was “Grease.” My voice had changed and I could not sing the part, so was relegated to the chorus. Ugh.