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Thanks for Escape Theatre's 'Oliver'

Posted: March 3, 2008 10:09 p.m.
Updated: May 4, 2008 5:02 a.m.
To The Editor:

Many of you may have seen Escape Theatre's wonderful production of "Oliver" at Hart High on Feb. 1 through Feb. 3. But what you didn't see was the incredible amount of work and the months of dedication and sacrifice that Kyle and Elizabeth Burson and all others directly involved in producing the show went through.

I have learned that through Escape Theatre, Kyle and Elizabeth, talented actors and musicians themselves, have been sharing their vision to include any child interested in performing on stage in a play.

My first contact with Escape Theatre was last summer when my then-19-year-old son, Matt, who has autism, came home from school and said that one of his aides was going to be in Escape's production of "Peter Pan" at the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center at COC, and he wanted to go, too.

Since our family loves plays, we readily agreed. That was it for Matt! He was hooked and ready to sign up for "Oliver."

In the past, Escape Theatre served children from elementary to high school age, but even with Matt's special needs Kyle and Elizabeth readily agreed to let Matt participate in "Oliver." Weekly practices began in September. As well as singing and dancing in the ensemble, Matt was going to play the part of the night watchman in some of the performances.

As practices increased, Matt started to realize just how much hard work is involved in a musical, and doubted his ability to perform the vigorous singing and dancing movements.

Our family has endless gratitude for the "Oliver" cast family as they supported Matt and helped him gain confidence and make friends. Matt only missed one practice, which he never let me forget, since it was my fault!

The day before opening day, my husband had knee surgery (what timing!) and Matt threw up! Was it nerves, the flu, or food poisoning? He stayed home from school that Friday, drinking Gatorade and sleeping.

Around 2 p.m., in a less-than-compassionate voice, I said, "You're fine now. I don't care how you feel, but get up and get dressed because the show must go on!"

Fortunately, he made it through two shows that day with family, friends from school, friends from the Special Olympics, and a huge crowd in attendance.

"Oliver," with a wonderful orchestra, went on to perform a total of six shows that Superbowl weekend (I know because I saw all of them). It's been a few weeks and I still find myself singing the songs from "Oliver"! My husband made an "Oliver" CD, and the whole family has to listen to me sing at home and in the car.

We consider ourselves very fortunate to have found Escape Theatre. Oh, by the way, "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" will be presented at the COC Performing Arts Center the weekend of June 27 to June 29. Hope to see you there!


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