Facetime Community Theatre Kicks Off With A Rousing Production Of OLIVER!

by Paul Recupero

Nancy (Kelsey Hodgkiss) entertains the crowd in a tavern scene from OLIVER!. L to R, foreground: Michele Wisely, Kelsey Hodgkiss and Rachel Wisely. L to R, rear: Jackie Pascale, Brendan Farrell (partially obscured), Liam Snead, Becca DiCondina, Kaitlyn Casiano (partially obscured), Brad DeLeone, Jamie Dougherty and Mac Snead. (Photo credit: Mike Lantzy)

“The participants arrive each day smiling and excited.  We must be doing something right.”

So said Kate Nice of Schwenksville, co-director of newly-founded Facetime Community Theatre’s first full production, OLIVER!  The lively musical, which opens and closes this weekend, is the cumulation of an intense two-week summer camp comprised of approximately sixty performers from fourth grade through college.

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to sit in on part of a technical rehearsal.  The familiar adaptation of a Dickens classic will be performed in The Kaleidoscope Performing Arts Center of Ursinus College.  The venue itself is extremely impressive, with ground and balcony seating that wraps around to the proscenium arch, and an actual pit for the orchestra, which all adds to the professional polish of the production elements.  The simple unit set is amplified by a surprisingly sharp and focused lighting design, which, as it was a tech rehearsal, was still being adjusted.  Ursinus students, as well as adult and student volunteers, comprise the large crew.

Shortly after my arrival, a run of full cast number “Oom Pah Pah” took place.  I was struck by the powerful vocals emanating from the ensemble members as they whisked energetically across the stage.  Next came the dark and intimidating Bill Sykes, played creepily by Owen Howson, who stealthily leapt onto a table to intimidate a bar patron during his resonating solo, “My Name”.  Pretty remarkable for a mere two weeks of rehearsals, I thought, and clearly a cut above what one would expect from a youth summer camp.  This new theatre has hit the ground running.

Fagin (Brendan Farrell) and his gang of thieves welcome Oliver (Samuel Majka) back to the fold. L to R: Brendan Farrell, Connor Murtagh, Samantha Dobson, Riley Foster (partially obscured), Samuel Majka and Carter Niness. (Photo credit: Mike Lantzy)

Founded as a nonprofit organization by current president Lisa Starcewski, Facetime Community Theatre was, according to Nice, created “with the intent to stimulate, promote, teach and develop interest in the dramatic arts [and] focus on the development of high-quality performing arts programs for area youth.”  The organization won’t just be limited to musicals, but rather will encompass dramatic arts of all forms, including plays, readings and various exhibitions.  I followed up with a few questions.

STAGE MAGAZINE: What does Facetime Community Theatre (“FCT”) offer or specialize in that sets it apart from other community theatres?

KATE NICE (“KN”): FCT respects and values the wonderful community theatres in this area and it models much of what it does after them. FCT is committed, like many of those theatres, to providing unique and challenging theatrical experiences for any and all that might like to take advantage of them. FCT plans to incorporate education (the summer stage program, as an example) as part of its yearly programming. Also, FCT plans to put on some innovative and unique types of performances throughout the year in non-traditional settings.

STAGE: What are FCT’s future projects?

KN: Our next event will be our fall fundraiser in early October, followed by the kick-off of our dinner theatre series in the winter through spring. In the summer, we hold our summer stage program. The 2012 – 2013 year will be our first full year operating. We’re really looking forward to it!

STAGE: Why choose OLIVER! as FCT’s premier production, and how does it further FCT’s mission?

KN: OLIVER! was a perfect choice for our summer stage production because it lends itself to the involvement of both younger and older actors. We felt that it was challenging (time period, accents, songs,etc.) but still something that was attainable for children of all ages. FCT directors planned vigorously before the start of camp in order to include participants in every aspect of production – singing, dancing, acting, prop and set design and construction, stage crew, promotion, and publicity.

STAGE: What specifically are you most proud of with regard to this production?

Widow Corney (Molly Williams) and Mr. Bumble (Liam Sneed) rehearse a scene from OLIVER! (Photo credit: Mike Lantzy)

KN: I have never directed a summer stage program before during which so much had to be accomplished in such a short, compact, amount of time. I am proud of my co-director [Jessica Potts], our staff, and the many supporters for helping us to do this successfully.

Nice noted that individuals interested in becoming involved in the organization should check out its website at www.facetimecommunitytheatre.org.  “We at FCT are so very proud of this endeavor and this production,” she added. “We encourage folks to come see the show.”  From what I’ve seen, I heartily concur.

Music, Lyrics and Book by Lionel Bart
Co-Directed by Kate Nice and Jessica Potts
July 20 (7pm) and July 21 (1pm and 7pm)
Facetime Community Theatre
Ursinus College
The Kaleidoscope Performing Arts Center
601 E Main St (enter off 9th Ave)
Collegeville, PA 19426

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