Back stage at ‘Oliver’: All set for opening night

Students from DePaolo Middle School and Kennedy Middle School are putting the final touches on their production of “Oliver.” Curtains open this weekend.
Students from DePaolo Middle School and Kennedy Middle School are putting the final touches on their production of “Oliver.” Curtains open this weekend.



Lights, camera, action! The DePaolo and Kennedy Middle School drama club is ready for the stage crew’s signal to cue the actors and actresses in for the Broadway musical, “Oliver.”

A technical crew of approximately 45 students work behind the scenes to ensure the show goes off without a hitch.

“There are a lot of students, and a lot of equipment, and it can be hard to keep everyone under control,” said student and stage manager Tim Nivison. “But, there’s a lot of communication between the crew and cast. We work together.”

Nivison said the crew has come up with a system to keep things moving smoothly. He takes on extra responsibility as the stage manager, coming in during lunches and over the weekends to work on programming the lights and managing the set.

“I do use a lot of my own time, but I enjoy it,” he said. “I like the responsibility, and I do have an impact on how the show flows, which is cool.”

Director Chris Palmieri teaches students that everyone must work together as a team when producing a musical. As a result, new friendships are formed, as the two middle schools come together for this annual event.

“Regardless if they are a lead or working back stage, they all need to be responsible for their role in the production,” said Palmieri. “We need to rely on each other to ensure our success.”

The tale of Oliver is a dark one. The malnourished orphan is raised in a workhouse, and becomes the neglected apprentice of an undertaker.

“We’re not very good people,” said Samantha Storm, who plays Miss Corney, wife of Mr. Brumble and co-owner of the orphanage. “We sold Oliver. When we found out he was rich, we used him for money.”

Oliver eventually escapes and finds acceptance amongst a group of petty thieves led by the elderly Fagin, but when he’s captured for a theft, Mr. Brownlow takes him in. Fagin employs sinister Bill Sikes and sympathetic Nancy to take him back.

“I start feeling motherly toward Oliver and treating him like a son, but Bill controls me throughout the story,” said Maggie Blanchard who plays Nancy. “Bill ends up choking me to death in the end.”

Oliver has a tough upbringing, but Griffin O’Neill, who plays Oliver in the production, manages to see the good of his character.

“He is a very curious, imaginative character and he’s fun to play,” said O’Neill. “I definitely think I’m curious like him so I like playing the role of Oliver.”

Though the storyline is dark and dreary, the students pour their hearts into their roles.

“Although this show is challenging, I knew the students would rise to the occasion,” said Palmieri. “They exceeded my expectations.”

Palmieri selected “Oliver” to give students different experiences if they choose to participate in drama club for all three years of middle school. Last year, the crew performed “Rock of Ages,” and two years ago they performed a Disney show.

Students will perform at Kennedy Middle School on April 4, 5, 6, 11 and 12, all shows starting at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students and $8 for adults and can be purchased from any cast or crew member or at either middle school.

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