Children and adults unite this weekend in the first ever community theater production presented by Garden City Community College and the Garden City Recreation Commission.
“We just basically worked together to make it happen,” said GCCC theater director Phil Hoke. “We both work to finance the different areas of the play.”
Hoke said he chose the musical "Oliver!" because he wanted the production to include children and adults.
“We’ve done major musicals in the past, but most of them have been adult leads,” Hoke said. “This is the first time pinning a lot of responsibility on an 8-year-old.”
Hoke said the college will take its portion of the proceeds from the production and use it to finance a memorial scholarship in memory of Brandon Barbo, a GCCC student from Ulysses who died in a car crash earlier this year.
“He was extremely passionate about both theater and fire science,” Hoke said. “He was from Ulysses and we just want that legacy to live on.”
Hoke said that this musical is different than anything he has done in the past nine years he has been at the college. He hopes for a great turnout for the children's sake.
“I’m hoping we sell out because the kids have worked really hard,” Hoke said. “It’s a celebration of artistic skill and collaboration. It’s a unique situation because you have to combine the visual arts, musical arts, dance, acting and then you’ve got to make that fit together in one complete whole. This gives Garden City (the ability) to see the level of talent that we have and celebrate that kind of work.”
Wyatt Smith, 25, of Garden City, will be conducting an 11-piece orchestra during the production.
“This is my first musical as a conductor,” Smith said. “The music is just very upbeat and fun, but there are a few heart-wrenching ballads in the mix.”
Smith said he really enjoyed watching one of his trumpet students fully understand the music for the first time when they finally performed with the cast.
“That’s exciting for me,” Smith said.
Suzanne Jackson, of Lakin, is part of both the cast and crew this time around, mainly dealing with costume design.
“I did theater for years, but I kind of stopped to be a wife and a mom,” she said. “Now I have a little more time.”
Jackson studied theater at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and enjoys doing period pieces like this one, which is set in the mid-1800s.
“I like that you can extend a character with costume design,” she said. “You can build relationships between characters.”
Jackson said she loves doing community theater.
“It’s exhausting, but it’s very rewarding work,” she said.“We have a lot of talented people in the cast. I couldn't ask for a more fun group to work with.”
Eight-year-old Ava Spencer, of Garden City, will appear as the titular Oliver when the musical opens this weekend.
“I wanted to do this because I like to do plays and this is my first community one,” she said. “I like just getting to be on stage and showing people my talent.”
Lionel Bart's classic musical "Oliver!," based on Charles Dickens' novel "Oliver Twist," will come to life on stage this weekend at the Pauline Joyce Fine Arts Auditorium on the campus of GCCC. Performance times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, as well as 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets cost $10 for adults, $8 for children 17 and younger, and $8 for seniors 64 and older.
Spencer had one more thing to say to the community.
“Come see this production," she said. "It’s going to be a good one."