ICT’s Oliver! Exceeds Expectations


What started off as a humble idea thrown around in Mr. Ballin’s drama class culminated in a spectacular rendition of “Oliver!” by Irvington Conservatory Theater (ICT). Friday, March 29th, opening night for the play, brought in an audience of over 250 people. Also, ICT saw its first-ever elementary school student lead, fifth grader Gabriel Castellanos, star as Oliver, the show’s namesake. Beautifully blending the old with the  new, the rich with the  poor, and tragedy with the comedy, the cast and crew of “Oliver!” put on a show with remarkable emotion, flavor, and authenticity. 

“Oliver!”, an acclaimed broadway musical based on Charles Dickens’ classic novel, follows the journey of a young orphaned boy, Oliver, as he navigates the streets of London, riddled with crime and thievery. Oliver’s search for a home and a family bring him to the front steps of a welcoming gang of teenage thieves, led by the sly Fagin (played by Roman Severtson (12)) and his sidekick Bill Sykes (played by Niko Le (12)). After Oliver runs into some trouble with his new troupe, he is rescued by a rich and benevolent gentleman and adopted into his new family. In the midst of it all is Nancy (played by Mehaa Mekala (12)), a capable but conflicted woman who endures physical abuse from her husband, Sykes, but can not seem to sway from him. All in all, the musical brings Dickens’ book to life, adding vibrant dance and soulful music to a fast-paced plot. 

With Valhalla transformed into Victorian 19th century London, complete with the deep arches of the London Bridge and tall pointed street lamps, it was like walking into a whole new world. What gave the show a truly authentic feel were the stage effects used to mimic a foggy night in London and create the smoke of gunshots. 

The show was filled with energetic dance numbers and intricate, well thought-out choreography from the very first scene; the dances fit the tone and rhythm of each moment perfectly. An interesting aspect of the show was the characters’ involvement with the audience, prancing up and down the aisles and engaging audience members with eager faces. 

The character who unequivocally stole the show was Nancy, the female lead played by senior Mehaa Mekala. It was her last high school theater show and she certainly didn’t fail to impress; Mekala gave it her all, singing, dancing, and crying her heart out on Valhalla’s brightly- lit stage. She realistically portrayed the damaging effects of domestic violence and, with a committed performance, highlighted her character’s inner turmoil. Mekala also authentically acted in what was the most tense and heartbreaking scene of the show: one where Nancy is bludgeoned to death by her lover Bill Sykes, the evil criminal and antagonist of the play. With the tragic scene unfolding and emotions running high, the perfectly delicate and somber music brought the audience to tears and brought the scene together. 

“This show was so rewarding to me not only because Nancy was the strongest, most empowering character I’ve ever had the honor of portraying,” said Mekala (12), “but because of the entire cast of my closest friends helping me share this beautiful story about family, only made truer by the actually love we have for each other.”

The musicality of the show was stunning and  gave the scenes of the play (both intense and silly) depth and meaning. “Oliver!” featured the kinds of melodies that got stuck in your head, and that you would hum the next day, making the play unforgettable in its own way. ICT’s rendition of “Oliver!” was truly and authentically told, and showed that everyone, regardless of where they are in their life, can get their happily ever after.