Theatrical productions tend to be rife with complications and setbacks, but usually none so significant as having your theatrical home condemned weeks before a show opens.But, as they say, the show must go on and so it is: tonight the Lewiston Civic Theatre will open “Oliver!” on the Clarkston High School auditorium stage.
It’s not the first time the theater has performed off-site, but the last-minute switch has presented unique challenges. Since the building was closed Aug. 10, no one has been able to go back in to retrieve costumes, much less build a set or rehearse.
Director Mel Syverson doesn’t sugar-coat it: “It adds an extra element of stress,” she said.
They’ve had to move to an unfamiliar stage. They’ve had to find alternate rehearsal spaces and keep the cast coordinated as those spaces change. They’ve had to rethink their set to make it portable because they’re sharing stage space. They’ve had to come up with steampunk costumes without access to their collection in the theater and without a good place to store them before the show.
But it’s not work that they’ve had to shoulder alone.
“Everyone’s been super helpful,” Syverson said.
Between having use of the Clarkston High School auditorium, last-minute rehearsal space at Lewiston High School and the Quality Inn and extra help from the cast, crew and other community members, she’s grateful for the support.
But the challenges have not been limited to logistical ones. The closing of the theater has been emotionally challenging as well.
It’s been tough on the cast to feel unsettled in their space, to feel behind on sets and costumes, and to feel additional pressure to have a successful show, Sylverson said, but it’s more than that. The negative press about the building situation has felt personal at times for some, she said, though she recognizes it isn’t intended as such.
And because of the unknown future of the theater building and the long-time connection many of the cast members have with it, there’s an underlying sadness.
“There’s a sort of grieving that we’re going through,” Syverson said.
Even so, the cast has responded well.
“My cast has done a great job of rising above it,” Syverson said.
Every person involved has had to step up their game, she said, and if the complications have had any impact on the end quality of the show, it’s not obvious.
“I could say that it’s great, considering all the problems, but really, it’s great period,” Syverson said. “There’s great fun stuff that people are pulling off well, there’s great emotion that people are pulling off well. I’m super proud of this show and I’m excited that people are going to get to see it.”
Based on the classic novel by Charles Dickens, “Oliver!” tells the story of the plucky orphan, Oliver Twist (Charlie Owen, Genesee), who leaves the mean Mr. Bumble (Todd St. Marie, Lewiston) in London’s workhouses and meets up with Artful Dodger (Isaiah Trembley, Lewiston), who belongs to a group of street-urchin pickpockets led by the rougish Fagin (Paul Segren, Lewiston). When a pickpocket attempt goes awry, Mr. Brownlow (Larry Goodwin, Clarkston), the intended victim, takes pity on Oliver and offers him a home. Afraid he will betray the group, Bill Sykes (Tony Murillo, Clarkston), Fagin’s henchman, intends to kidnap the boy to keep him from talking, but his kindhearted wife, Nancy (Rebecca Hardin, Clarkston) steps in to help.
The show is family-friendly, but not necessarily a “feel-good” musical. There are happy moments, Syverson said, but also some heavier ones. There’s humor, emotion and lively dance.
“It’s a little bit of everything,” Syverson said.
In July, Syverson accepted a position at Lewiston High School as the Drama Club adviser and director and will no longer serve as the Youth Company director at the theater, a role she has had for the past six years. She still plans to direct the summer children’s musical and the occasional main stage show as a guest director, she said.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: “Oliver!” by the Lewiston Civic Theatre
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 22-24, Sept. 29-Oct. 1, Oct. 6-8, 2 p.m. Sept. 25, Oct. 2 and Oct. 8
WHERE: Clarkston High School Auditorium, Clarkston
COST: $16 adults, $13 seniors age 60 and older, $11 students with ID, $8 children 12 and younger. Tickets are available online at www.lctheatre.org or by calling the box office at (208) 746-3401. Because of the alternate venue, no seats are assigned; the house opens a half hour early to allow for seat selection