Leader of HCA's production of 'Oliver!' is an actor who found passion for directing

'Oliver!' production set for June 21-23

Kevin Lynch
Wooster Daily Record

The Holmes Center for the Arts' production of "Oliver!," will take the stage at the West Holmes High School auditorium June 21-23.

Show dates and times are 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, June 21 and 22, and 2 p.m. Sunday, June 23. Tickets are $18 for adults and $13 for children/students ages 2-18.

Reserved seating tickets are on sale at . Tickets will be available for purchase the day of the show as well. 

Suggs finds fulfillment in directing

Under the direction of Grady Sugg, Jr., who led last summer's "Guys and Dolls", "Oliver!" is a story about a young orphan living in Victorian England who escaped a workhouse and an abusive apprenticeship to find himself amongst a group of petty thieves and pickpockets. Thus begins Oliver's adventure and search to find the true love of a family.

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Cast members of "Oliver!" include Rio Hochstetler, Hadlee Hochstetler, Elliot Yoder, Mackenlie Dodson, Carys Dodson and Deacon Dodson. Keith Lyndaker Schlabach is playing Fagin and Ethan Hershberger is playing The Artful Dodger. Rachel Miller is plays Nancy.

The director noted while he loves to perform, he has found his passion in directing.

“I love directing more than I ever thought I would," Suggs said. "I do have a passion to be onstage, but for whatever reason, I get a little bit more fulfillment watching a project that we all have worked so hard on come together. It’s very rewarding.

“I think it is a very important story to tell because it shows some of the ugliness of the human race and Charles Dickens writes a lot about some of the social issues that were happening at the time of Oliver Twist," Suggs said. "Granted, this is a musical adaptation so it’s not completely accurate to the book, but that’s okay. It just pulls some of the harsh realities of life and makes us have to deal with and process them and that is a healthy thing to do.”

A skilled and experienced cast

Suggs has been impressed with the amount of skill and experience in the cast. 

“The talent our cast is ridiculous," he said. "It’s unbelievable the amount of skilled actors and actresses that came and auditioned.”

The cast of 42 includes grade school children from more than six schools, including Walnut Creek Elementary student Elliot Yoder, who will play Oliver. Yoder is no stranger to the HCA stage, having performed in "Frozen Jr." earlier this year.

He learned about the audition from a friend and his mother encouraged him to participate.

“I enjoyed being in 'Frozen Jr.' and I wanted another shot at being in (a show),” Yoder said.

While he wasn’t necessarily aiming for the title role, Yoder was excited to be cast as Oliver.

“It’s gruesome, but also interesting," he said. "A good classic.”

Returning to the stage after a long hiatus

The cast includes a host of adults from various musical backgrounds. Millersburg resident and business owner Ty Meyer is making his first appearance in a musical since high school in the role of Mr. Bumble.

“I was intrigued by the fact that I played Fagin in 'Oliver!' in high school," Meyer said. "When this came up, I said to myself, ‘You know, it’s been a long time since you’ve done anything like that and you had so much fun when you did it before, maybe it’d be the time to step out,’ and since I have a little bit more time on my hands than I have in the past, I thought I'd give it a try.”

Meyer said there have many positives about this experience.

“I like the people that are in the cast, No. 1," he said. "It’s just a fun group of people. The show itself has iconic songs that I’ve listened to since I was a kid. Though the subject matter is a little dark at times, there are funny things in it, too, so it’s a nice mix. That’s intriguing to me.”

Meyers said people should come “to see a lot of local talent that you didn’t know existed in Holmes County."