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Children Sought for Alliance's Musical, 'Oliver!'

The Alliance Theatre is seeking children to perform in its production of the musical, "Oliver!" It's part of the organization's Summer Stars program that both trains young actors and gives them the chance to show their stuff.

"This is going to be a children's theater camp for the young people's roles," said Patricia Boswell Kallman, co-producing the play with Elaine Wilson. "We'll take 50 children, ages 7 through high school. Those cast will also receive classes in acting, choreography, vocal training, makeup and costuming. They'll get a crash course in theater."

The first meeting for parents of children interested in participating is Wednesday, May 21, at 7:30 p.m. at Chantilly High. Auditions for specific parts will be held there May 27-28 at 7:30 p.m. for children, 8 p.m., adults. Callbacks are May 29 at 7:30 p.m.

Beginning June 1 at Chantilly, rehearsals will be held three evenings a week and Saturday mornings. "Oliver!" will be performed, July 11-13 at the school. Child tuition is $250; siblings, $150. Call 703-263-2085 or e-mail ewilson16@cox.net.

Based on Charles Dickens' novel, "Oliver Twist," about an English orphan in the 1830s-'40s, the play won three Tony awards and, in 1968, the film garnered six Oscars, including Best Picture. Alliance's production is directed and choreographed by Kathy Watkins; music director is Greg Conrad.

"Professionals will be doing the adult roles, so it'll be a high-caliber performance," said Kallman. "And I think it'll be a lot of fun. We want the children to learn something and enjoy themselves. My kids did this while they were little, and they loved it. They had a whole bunch of new friends and a really good time."

It's Alliance's first children's camp, and Wilson and Kallman hope it'll be an annual event. Some of the show's main roles — such as the characters of Oliver, the Artful Dodger and Bette — are for children, and no previous acting experience is required.

Since it's a musical, though, children should be willing to sing, and they'll be coached. Said Kallman: "It's got wonderful music including, 'Consider Yourself [Part of the Family]' and 'As Long as He Needs Me.'"

Most of all, said Wilson, they want the kids to have a creative, positive experience. "For a long time, the community asked me, 'Do you have any roles for children?'" she said. "And then we ran into Kathy and Greg, who've worked with children for years." Conrad was also the lead in Alliance's first play, and Watkins just directed "Oliver!" for her church.

"We'd like to start a tradition of having a program every summer, involving both young people and adults," said Wilson. "And we'd even like parents to audition — it's fun to see them all working together."