Friday, December 27, 2013

‘Oliver!’ - A Kid’s Eye View

Daniel Gieszler

Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre is just about to wrap up 2013 with their final performances of the family-friendly Oliver! and closing night will be bittersweet for one of the cast’s youngest members. Although this isn’t the first performance for 13-year-old Daniel Gieszler from Everett, it is his first production with 5th Avenue and the experience is been a great one for him and his family.

Gieszler first auditioned for the theatre in June at South Center Mall. It was then that he auditioned not only for Oliver! but also for Secondhand Lions in which he received two callbacks for the main role of Walter. In the end, that role went to a Broadway performer. However, a few months later he found out that he received the role of Kensington, part of Fagin’s Gang, for Oliver!” His first practice was on October 24th, which is easy for Daniel to remember as it was the day before his 13th birthday.

Daniel and the rest of the "Green Gang." (L-R) Eli Barnett, Gavyn
Brayman, Chis Coon, Daniel, Bryan Kinder, Christopher Murray,
Seth Remington, Naeem Shook, Soren Smith, Cameron Supplee,
Christian West. Photo: 5th Avenue Theatre
Gieszler has only seen one other performance at the 5th Avenue, Saving Aimee and has never stood on a stage so big. How does he describe his experience? “It’s really cool and the sets are really good. [The whole crew] are all nice and friendly and fun.” His favorite song in the show is “Be Back Soon” because “it has a fun dance.” And the actor his gets along with the best? David Pichette who plays Fagin. As an official cast member, Geiszler has also had the opportunities to partake in other theatre-related events including singing for the Westlake Mall’s Christmas Tree lighting last month, attending a 5th Avenue Thanksgiving dinner and decorating the theatre’s Christmas tree.

David Pichette as Fagin and his gang. Photo: Mark Kitaoka
Getting detailed answers from the lad is difficult. “What is your favorite thing about theatre? Is it the acting, the singing or dancing?”

“All of it.”

“Okay, but if you had to do just one thing, what would it be?”

“I don’t know. Probably singing and dancing. And acting.”

The roles of the Fagin’s gang are double-casted with a red gang and a green gang. Geiszler is part of the green gang. Each actor understudies for their counterpart and each performs for three performances in a row and then take a break for three performances.

The role of Oliver is also double-casted with Jack Fleischmann and Mark Jeffrey James Weber alternating. They share the stage with Grayson Smith (The Artful Dodger), Merideth Kaye Clark (Nancy), Hans Altwies (Bill Sikes), Allen Fitzpatrick (Mr. Sowerberry), Carol Swarbrick (Mrs. Sowerberry), Hugh Hastings (Mr. Bumble) and many more in this huge cast. In fact, the production holds 66 cast members including 36 young ones.

It’s been over 20 years since Lionel Bart’s beloved classic has been on the 5th Avenue stage. Based on the Charles Dickens novel, the story is a musical adventure of Oliver Twist that has been delighting audiences of all ages despite its dark story line near the end. It features familiar songs including “Food, Glorious Food,” “Consider Yourself,” “Who Will Buy?” “I’d Do Anything” and “As Long As He Needs Me.”

Though the show puts most of its focus on the child actors, the show is held together by the strong performances of Pichette, Altwies and the lovely voice of Kaye Clark.

Performances at the 5th Avenue Theatre continue through New Year’s Eve. Tickets can be purchased online, by phone by calling 206.260.2174 and in person at the box office. The theatre is located at 1308 5th Avenue Seattle, Washington 98101.

Asked by what he thought about his first time on the stage, Geiszler replied, “I couldn’t really see anything because the lights were really bright” and if you’ve ever been on stage, you know that that is an asset.

“It’s been a great experience,” says his mother Connie who praises the theatre for taking care of her kid while she is away. The cast and crew take great care to provide a friendly and PG-rated experience for their child actors. Geiszler says that he hasn’t heard any “bad words” amongst the adults. Still, the experience is a challenging one for both the actors and their parents.

“As a parent you think, ‘Oh my kid can do anything’ but you also want to guard them from the ‘owies’ in life. You begin to realize [that when your child does not get a role] that it’s not always because [they are] not good enough, they [might be] looking for something different. So, we’re learning a lot about theatre. You are typecast before you even audition because they are looking for a certain type of person. Getting a ‘no’ is always hard, but Daniel is the most easy-going of my four kids. He really is. He just chills and takes it all in.”

Being the one of four siblings, you’d think that there would be jealously among the others, but in fact, it is just the opposite. “The girls are his biggest fans,” says Connie. “’We’ll do whatever. We’ll clean extra around the house. We want him to do this.’ They say. They know what it will cost the family. It’s a huge sacrifice for everybody. But they are excited.” Of course, mom is pretty impressed herself, “I just enjoy watching him be courageous enough to take chances regardless of the outcome. You never know where it’s going to take him. If we never went to that audition we would never have this experience. We don’t want to think ‘what if?’”

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