Consider yourself amazed as BC’s Oliver! hits the stage


Kirat Mokha

Henning Mahn (‘18) and Sophie Michalski (‘18) stare into each other’s eyes after a finishing their number. After the performance, Michalski said, “It was really easy pretending to fall in love with Henning because I honestly love the kid!”

Valerie Yurk and Emily Otten

Based on the novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, Brookfield Central’s performance of Oliver! The Musical dominated the box office at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center on Nov. 18-20. Lionel Bart’s musical adaptation brought the novel to life in a more colorful way.
As the curtains opened, the audience was taken to a London workhouse in the mid-1800s, where a group of young boys, faces smudged with dirt, are longing for luxury and comfort. The ensemble sings the opening song, “Food, Glorious Food”, and Oliver Twist, played by Michael Long (‘22), appears at the end of this number, asking the famous question: “Please, sir, may I have some more?” Mr. Bumble, owner of the workhouse and played by Henning Mahn (‘18), and Widow Corney, played by Sophie Michalski (‘18), kick Oliver out of the workhouse and sell him off to the streets, where he runs away to find a band of child thieves led by Mr. Fagin. Fagin, played by Brett Fong (‘17), takes him in as a member of his gang. Oliver begins to befriend Nancy, played by Emma Borkowski (‘17), the local bar owner’s wife. Despite Nancy’s abusive relationship with her husband, portrayed by Kevin Fuller (‘17), she stays with him and continues to help Oliver. Oliver’s life is a series of ups and downs, with his adoption and his kidnapping, and Nancy cares for and eventually saves Oliver by the time of her death. Oliver is returned to his adopter, Mr. Brownlow, acted by Robert Purnell (‘18).
A major creative decision that the Oliver! directors made was to cast Wisconsin Hills Middle School students in the production and to cast seventh grader Michael Long as the lead. Many audience members had mixed opinions about this casting decision, some saying that there was a noticeable difference in maturity level and others countering that the younger performers made the experience more realistic. Leslie Bonilla (‘17) agrees with the latter: “I liked that they tried to be more accurate with the ages of the boys. They also made it more realistic with the accents and costumes too, and overall I thought it was a good decision.” Alice Zheng (’17) even commented, “At first I thought the middle schoolers were in high school – I mean, the freshmen do seem to get shorter every year!” However, some criticize the decision, saying that these major roles were given to these students at such a young age and that it would be challenging for anybody to fill the high schoolers’ shoes. Nikki Ranney (‘18), who took the stage as Charlotte, admits “[The middle schoolers] definitely had to step it up to match with the high schoolers. During the first rehearsals, you could tell that they were middle schoolers based on maturity. But as we had more and more rehearsals, they stepped it up to a high school level.” Ranney adds that the high schoolers accepted the students from WHMS and the whole cast became very close with them, saying that “We became their moms by the end of it!”
Henning Mahn, seen on stage as Mr. Bumble and behind the scenes as the Assistant Stage Manager, describes the last few months of daily rehearsals and theatrical processes as “incredibly stressful”.
“The biggest thing I took away from Oliver! was time management and prioritizing. I had to switch out of my character’s mindset to suddenly be in a crew mindset, and it was hard to make that switch so often,” Mahn explains. However, he goes on to reflect that it was all worth it. As the curtain dropped after the last show’s final scene, everybody in the cast and crew was overwhelmed with the sudden realization that all of their Tech Week exhaustion had paid off, and the bonds they had formed with each other would no longer be built upon every day during rehearsal. The cast had grown very close over the past few months and ‘considered themselves to be part of the family.’ “Everybody was crying when that curtain fell, and I completely lost it, too,” Mahn adds.
Overall, the BCHS Theatre Department’s production of Oliver! came as a challenge to much of the cast, between welcoming WHMS performers and mastering accent, and through these challenges, the cast and crew bonded to perform an overwhelmingly successful show. By the time the final bows were done, the cheering in the Harris auditorium could have been heard all the way back at the high school.

Megan Moretti (‘17), Sophie Bohr (‘17), Jillian Rosenbecker (‘19), and Forrest Hipp (‘22) bond over their role as orphans. “We would quietly shout ‘me, you, us, team’ to get pumped for the opening number,” Moretti said.
Gavin Gross (’17) helps Gage Gosset (17) in the tech room.
Emma Borkowski (’17) sings her solo.

Kirat Mokha