By Marjorie Woodfin
Pilot staff writer
The house was full for the Chetco Pelican Players' final performance of the musical "Oliver!" on Sunday.
"We had to turn people away," said Leanne McCurley, an original member of the community theater group who had the role of Widow Corney.
Producing the major musical on a very small stage was a monumental accomplishment. It was a daunting task in any case, but especially when the cast includes 21 young people 14 of them active and enthusiastic young males.
"It's always an experience working with children, and working with 12 boys, (ages) 14 to 8, to get along for 12 weeks, is a test of endurance," said Director Mike Moran, also one of the original Players, as he watched the final rehearsal.
He added, "You spin the wheel at each performance to see which one is gonna' be a pain in the butt tonight."
By the last weekend one might think that, with the positive reviews the play had received, rehearsals would be over and the actors would be leaning on their laurels as they faced the final performances.
But in the theater, with a serious director, actors and crew, that is not the case. Thursday night of the final weekend, the cast and crew were again at the Performing Arts Center, participating in a pickup rehearsal to ensure the best possible performances for the final weekend.
Watching the boys rehearsing a musical number with Howard Patterson, who plays the role of Fagan, they seemed to be getting along extremely well and having a great time, but not without a few interruptions from Moran, who made suggestions for additional business and volume.
Patterson, who is new to the Pelican Players, said he was driving down the street when he heard a radio announcement about upcoming auditions for "Oliver."
"I pulled over, wrote down the number and came up to audition," he said.
Patterson recently moved to Crescent City to care for an elderly aunt after the death of his mother who had been living with his aunt.
"I've been acting for 30-plus years, professionally in some low-budget equity films and a little theater," he said.
"It's fun working with the kids for the most part," Patterson added."They behave like you would expect, good kids, but every once in awhile I wish they would show the energy on stage that they have in the back playing. And, yes I'd do it again in a minute."
Actor Dylan Hiller, who is 10 years old and entering sixth grade in the fall said, "I really like it. It's good for experience and I learned a lot of things. I'll probably be an actor."
Hiller isn't wasting any time in continuing his acting career. He is already in rehearsal for "Annie Jr." at Brookings' Muse Theatrix. One of the other young actors spoke up quickly saying, "He's an acting fool."
Hiller said that he really enjoyed being in Oliver. "But in the beginning I didn't like howsome of the kids acted backstage, messing with the props, but not much any more."
Eileen Goodwin, a 14-year-old sophomore,said she enjoyed all the relationships with the cast. "I met lots and lots of people and it's a good way to get theater feet. The worst part was the boys having their little cat fights all the time."
She added, "I really like the play. It's a nice story. I read the Dickens book and the play follows the book well."
Goodwin, who has lived in Brookings for about a year, said, "I've been in plays in New Hampshire and in one I sang a song idolizing Martha Stewart that I will never live down."
Goodwin is also in rehearsal for Annie Jr. at Muse Theatrix.
"Being an actress would be an enjoyable experience, but I would definitely be worried about the pay situation," she said.
Adult Paula Steinhaus, costumer and actress who played the role of Mrs. Sowerberry, said, "I had no problem with any of the children, but you never know what they'll do. Some were not as polite as the others, but most were really wonderful and we had a good time. They learned their lines a lot faster than I did."
Rick Tovey, who played Mr. Brownlow, said, "I have a kid in it and it's been fun."
He noted that both his wife and son, Sharon and Garret, are in the play.
Tovey, playing Oliver's grandfather, worked closely with Elijah Kiter, 9, who played the lead.
"I worked very well with Elijah,' Tovey said. "It's been great. He was fun towork with, as much fun off stage as on stage. I kinda' feel like he is my grandson."
Tovey said working with the young actors didn't start out quite as well.
"At first the kids didn't realize how serious it is, but after a few weeks, they really stepped upto the plate and we got some amazing stuff out of them."
Moran said, "The Players have always tried to have at least one seasonal show that will involve teens and kids. We've got some really great young actors coming up. It's been fun watching them growing up in the theater, and musicals are always the most fun."
McCurley, said "We always enjoy working with the kids and watching them grow. It gives them so much confidence. All of our young actors have excelled in grades, sports and other activities. We're so proud of them."
Moran admitted that Oliver was a daunting task with 34 people on a really small stage.
"Without support from Susan Brickley and other parents we couldn't make it. But, it is good fun," he said.
McCurley noted that musicals are expensive to produce, with royalty expenses of $2,800 to $2,900 compared to $600 or $700 for non-musical productions. "And we're doing another musical in December," she said.
For information or to purchase tickets for upcoming performances, call (541) 469-1857 or (877) 434-4137 or online at http://www.chetcopelicanplayers.org.