Young stars: Warwick Academy students Josh Snelling, left, and Rian Michelson play the Artful Dodger and Oliver.
Young stars: Warwick Academy students Josh Snelling, left, and Rian Michelson play the Artful Dodger and Oliver.
At just 11 years old Rian Michelson prides himself on being able to juggle his homework with nightly ­rehearsals.

"It's easy, I just get all my homework done early, then I have lots of time to ­rehearse," said the ­Warwick Academy student who has the lead role in the Gilbert & Sullivan Society's production of Oliver!

Rian admits spending a few of hours a night ­rehearsing isn't easy, but he confidently adds: "I can handle it."

Rian won the role of ­Oliver after beating off competition from hundreds of other young hopefuls.

He is now being put through his paces on stage while earning a reputation as "a star in the making."

The all-singing and dancing cast of 64 adults of children have been hard at work in rehearsals since the end of August.

The popular West End and Broadway musical, based on the novel by Charles Dickens, will be performed at the City Hall Theatre from October 7 to 17.

It tells the story of an ­orphan who runs away and hooks up with a group of boys trained to be pickpockets by an elderly ­mentor and features the much-loved songs Food, Glorious Food , Consider Yourself, I'd Do Anything and You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two.

Rian, who lives in Somerset, says he has always been "into acting at school" and has also gained acting ­experience as a Learnalot on VSB TV.

He said: "I just wanted to try my luck at the ­auditions. I hoped I would get a part, but I really didn't know.

"I'd seen the movie (Oliver) a couple of times and ­really liked it."

Rian said he "couldn't ­believe it" when he was ­offered the main role.

He said: "My heart just skipped a beat and I was ­really excited. My mom got me balloons."

Tiring but fun

Talking about rehearsals, he said: "It's tiring but fun, it's going well."

He says he is looking ­forward to being on stage and his mom has already bought tickets to see him in action on two or three nights.

Rian describes his character Oliver as "nice, open, someone who toughens up and stands up for himself, but always uses his ­manners." Having paused to think about it, Rian said: "I'm sort-of like him."

As for the future, Rian has high hopes of becoming a professional actor.

"As soon as Oliver! ­finishes, I'm going to get into another play. That's what I have to do if I want to be an actor."

Another young actor ­getting used to treading the boards is Josh Snelling, who will be playing the ­Artful Dodger.

The 12-year-old Warwick Academy student surprised even himself when he landed a top part in his first ­production.

He says reading over his lines is hard, he's just glad it's not during his school's exam period!

Josh said: "I wasn't really expecting to get a part, let alone a main part. I have no acting experience.

"It was so nerve-wracking when I went to the auditions, there was just me and a piano in the room."

When Josh found out he'd got the part of Artful Dodger, he said he was "so happy he didn't know what to do."

He said: "I was actually off school sick that week, so I couldn't get up and jump about! I just had to celebrate quietly."

But just two weeks away from opening night, Josh is trying to get rid of the ­butterflies as he prepares to step into the shoes of the "very sneaky, but very charming" Artful Dodger.

He said: "It's great, I'm really enjoying the singing most of all, my favourite song is Consider Yourself, but it's not easy dancing and singing at the same time.

"I thought it would be harder to learn all the lines, but it's not too bad.

"At first I went over and over the script before bed, but we have a really good director to help us. Now everything just makes sense, we know what to say and when to say it."

Josh says he is glad to be on stage alongside "such a great bunch of people" and is thankful to have had the opportunity to work with director Karen Bruce and musical director Mark ­Dorrell, who are both from the U.K.

Josh says it will help him to see "friendly faces that he knows" which is a good thing as his family and friends are going to be right there watching him.

He says his dad has bought about 50 tickets for friends and family, including his grandparents who are coming all the way from France.

Josh wants to go on to ­audition in other musicals saying: "I definitely prefer bright and lively plays rather than sad plays as they are more fun to act out."

Marjorie Stanton, president of G&S, said Oliver! was chosen as this year's production to get more children involved in theatre.

She said: "It's going very well, it's all coming together nicely as everyone is ­putting so much hard work in.

"It's not easy to work with such a large cast, but it's going to be a great show."

The G&S Society is this year celebrating its 35th ­anniversary in Bermuda.

For more information about Oliver! Or The Gilbert & Sullivan Society email info@gands.bm, call 295-3218 or visit the website at www.gands.bm
Oliver!

- The Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Bermuda present Oliver! from Wednesday, October 7 to Saturday, October 17

- Performances at City Hall Theatre are nightly at 8pm, apart from Sunday, October 11 when there's a 3pm matinee

- Tickets cost $55 and are now on sale

- To buy tickets go to www.premiertickets.bm or www.gands.bm