Photos by Andrew Hobbs
Question: What has 36 legs, 9 tails and 8 owners? Answer: The pack of hopefuls (all of them wonderful) who have just auditioned for the role of Bill Sikes’ dog, Bullseye, in Minehead’s forthcoming production of Lionel Bart’s classic musical Oliver!
On 18 January Exmoor Magazine went along to the casting at Alcombe Methodist Church Hall (something of a first for all concerned, whether two-legged or four). They say you should never work with children or animals but this can’t be true; it was our most charming photoshoot yet! First: individual portrait photos and a chance to get to know Bill (Matt Legg).
Next: the barking test – would the prospective stars keen stum – whilst looking the part? We only had one barker. Not bad! And finally: the howl test. Cue ‘Consider Yourself’… with the cast dancing away behind the fluffy little monsters.
Bullseye (or Bull’s Eye in Dickens’ Oliver Twist) is not an easy character to cast, especially for director Sarah-Jane Cross. We asked her what she was looking for. “Well, the dog can’t look too excited. It needs to look a bit downtrodden, which is a lot to ask for. Maybe a dog that is a bit hesitant but comfortable being on stage after some practice. Barking is not going to work and howling along to the songs is going to be a real no-no. And some dogs are just too cute! It’s really hard!”
In the end three dogs were shortlisted (Jenson, Lenny and Bandit, who are pictured with their owners above, left to right) and Lenny and Bandit made the cut.
“This isn’t what we expected at the outset,” explained Sarah-Jane. “We were going to give one the part and the runner-up was going to be the understudy. However, we had a very strong field to choose from and I think this will work better. It gives us the flexibility we need leading up to the performance. We don’t know how Lenny and Bandit are going to feel about the stage until we start rehearsals in the theatre. And there are other challenges too, including plenty of noise. By the time we reach opening night, if both are enjoying the spotlight, they will share the performances between them, but this way we still have scope to allow for stage fright before curtain up!”
Look out for Lenny and/or Bandit in February!
About The Show
Oliver! is being performed by recently established youth theatre group, Fusion Young Performers, at the Regal Theatre in Minehead. Following on from their success of The Magic of The Musicals last year, Fusion Young Performers bring this classic musical to life. Based on Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, the show takes audiences on an adventure through Victorian England. Join young, orphaned
Oliver Twist (played by local youngster Joel Savage) as he navigates London’s underworld of theft and violence searching for a home, a family, and – most of all – for love.
The show will be performed by a cast of more than 50 young people aged between 9 and 24, many of whom starred in the 2014 MATA summer production of Les Miserables. It’s full of well-known songs such as ‘I’d Do anything’, ‘Where is Love’, ‘Consider Yourself’, ‘Reviewing the Situation’ and ‘Oom pah pah’.
With direction by Sarah-Jane Cross, choreography by Lorraine Ahern and musical direction by David Pitts, this promises to be a lively and entertaining show full of dazzling dance routines, amazing singing and some fantastic performances from some of the best young talent in the area.
Fusion young Performers was set up last year by Lorraine Ahern and Sarah-Jane Cross to promote drama, dance and music for young people across the region.
The show’s production team are incredibly grateful to owners and dogs for being willing to give up their time and energy to be involved in this production as they realise that it is a huge time commitment – but hopefully it will all be worth it for a plentiful supply of treats, applause and love and affection from the cast!
Performances take place Wednesday 22 to Saturday 25 February. Evening performances are at 7.30pm, with a matinée on Saturday at 2.30pm. Tickets: Adults £9.50, Friends £9, ES40s/Students £5, Family ticket (2 adults & 2 children) £25. Opening night special offer – ALL TICKETS £5. Available from The Regal Box Office T: 01643 706430 W: www.regaltheatre.co.uk.
PHOTO at top: Eight of the nine hopefuls (one was a bit too shy for the group shot).