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December 20, 2012
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ON-STAGE: 'Oliver!' at Robinson Theatre

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - The musical "Oliver!" will be performed this weekend at Colorado Mesa University's Robinson Theatre.Based on the classic Charles Dickens' 19th century novel "Oliver Twist," the story is about an orphan boy who is punished for asking for more food, escapes from a miserable workplace, runs away to London, and ends up naively with a gang of pickpockets."The show must go on," producer Landon Balding said, referring to the cancellation of the city-sponsored Broadway at the Avalon series, which would have included "Oliver!""There were a lot of disappointed people when it was canceled, and we felt we could take on 'Oliver!' and bring it back," Balding said.Balding is partnering with Terri Schaefer of Showtime Productions. Schaefer will direct and choreograph the production.East Middle School sixth-grader Celest Baker will play the title role of Oliver."She's been amazing," Balding said. "She's been perfect for this role." She came in "off the book" meaning she had her lines memorized before the professionals, Balding said."No boys auditioned for the part, but Celest is making a cute boy," he said.Jeena Williams will perform as Nancy, a thief who ends up befriending Oliver.Williams teaches English at Central High School, and has acted professionally for a number of years, including in New York City. The tale "is a strange, dark interesting look at the lives and follies of criminals," Williams said.It's been a "treat" to work with a cast that includes 30 kids from the Grand Valley, she said.Williams has also enjoyed rehearsing with professional actor Raymond McLeod of New York, whose experience includes opera, musical theater, Broadway, film and television. McLeod will portray the villain Bill Sikes."McLeod is wonderful, quite knowledgeable," Williams said. "He's an expert in his field." McLeod learned about the role from Schaefer, a former classmate at Mesa College decades ago. "She called me (in New York) and asked if I wanted to be Bill Sikes. I said, 'Heck, yeah!'" McLeod said. The actor estimates he's performed in a dozen "Oliver" productions over the years."It's going very well," McLeod said of the current show. "We had a great run-through last night. The dances look great."There are a half-dozen big dance numbers during the show, he said.The other lead role is Fagin, played by local professional actor Dylan Cox. Additionally, there's an adult ensemble chorus, and a cast of about 30 children, Balding said.Scott Hendrickson will perform a live piano score.All costumes have been designed and sewn by Schaefer, who has put together a great wardrobe, Balding said.All seats are reserved, and tickets are available at, or by calling 800-626-TIXS (8497).

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The Post Independent Updated Dec 20, 2012 01:36PM Published Dec 20, 2012 01:22PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.