Although tonight is the opening night for the Batavia Rotary's 62nd annual musical production, Director Patrick Burk is no stranger to this year's beloved selection.
"I was in 'Oliver' when I was very young, and I've directed it before," Burk says. "It's great for families and it's a classic story by Charles Dickens. A lot of people with young families will be able to connect to it, and that's the audience that we want to appeal to."
Burk, who lives in Batavia, is also accustomed to working with children, as he annually directs the GoArt! Summer Youth Theater productions, which have had as many as 80-plus children in their casts. However, this show is unique in its mix of young and old actors alike.
"Working with a combination of young kids and older adults is amazing," he says. "The way that the older people pick things up from the younger people, and vice versa, is very interesting to me."
One of the younger people is Jordan McNees, who has the title role of Oliver Twist. The 11-year-old from Brockport, who has previously appeared as Ralphie in Geva Theatre's production of "A Christmas Story," says that he has enjoyed working with the other kids.
"It's a lot of fun. They're all really nice, and they're all great influences on me," he says. "They give me tips and advice."
One thing that he needed no advice on was his British accent, which he picked up with little difficulty.
"I watched a lot of British movies, so it was actually pretty easy to get it," he says.
Burk says that vocal director Deanna Spiotta played a large role in helping the cast master their accents.
"Deanna is very good with accents and vocals," he says. "A lot of people ended up learning relatively quickly. The accents were especially important because the show has a lot of strong characters that call for strong vocalization."
Paul Spiotta, who has the role of Fagan, agrees that his daughter has done an impressive job.
"If I'm going to be completely honest, with all due respect to all the past vocal directors for Rotary shows I've been in, she's the best so far," he says. "She's really done a thorough job in preparing everyone."
The elder Spiotta says he has enjoyed getting into his villainous role.
"There are a couple of scenes where I have to be really mean, and I try to get better at those every night," he said.
The combination of young and old does not end on stage; there is a wide range of ages working behind the scenes as well. Jonathan Adams, who is around the age of many of the children in the show, is working as a stagehand while his brother and sister portray orphans.
"I basically help out and get props ready and make sure the actors aren't missing anything, and lift boxes and stuff," he explains. "I like helping so the actors won't have to do as much work, since they're already working a lot on stage. And so that Mr. Burk won't have to do as much."
No matter what age, everyone interviewed agrees that they are ready for opening night.
"I think it's going to be great," says McNees. "The cast has put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into the show, and there's so many fun and exciting parts. It'll make you laugh and cry."
Performances are tonight, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. in the Batavia High School auditorium. Tickets are $16 and can be purchased in advance at www.bataviarotary.com or at the door.