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Wilton's 'Oliver' Cast Learns to Talk the Talk

WILTON, Conn. – It wasn’t just “Pass me the butter will you?” but "Pahs meh fa buttah wi'ya?" This phrase was repeated over and over as Wilton High School students attempted to learn a convincing Cockney accent in preparation for staging "Oliver" this May.

Seventy-five students gathered in the Clune Center’s lobby to listen and learn from renowned dialect coach Rick Hilsabeck. The Cockney accent isn’t easy. Hilsabeck told the cast, “We have to adjust it to the American audience,” so that they can understand the dialogue without trying too hard.

The accent was a bit more difficult for freshman Grant Hussey, who is cast as Oliver. “I’m kind of a mix,” he said of the combined Cockney and more-refined British accent he produces. But Grant has two months to perfect it, and Hilsabeck will be working with the cast until the end.

Senior Cara Lamason has her first lead role, as Nancy, and is thrilled to be learning the accent. “I get to play such a multidimensional character,” she said. She loves the strong Cockney accent for her character.

And it’s not just the leading characters that have to learn the accents — everyone in the cast must do so. Director Sharon Anderson, who has been directing Wilton musicals for a decade, told the cast that every person will have their own character with a personality. She wants every person on stage to be an individual and not just a part of the ensemble.

“'Oliver' has a very specific charm to it,” said Jorie Janeway, the choreographer. It isn’t just the accent — but also the music, dance and story, she said.

“One of the kids said that everyone knows it, but they don’t always know why they do,” Anderson said.

The cast takes the stage May 17 for a three-day engagement, a few months after other districts have done their shows, which means Wilton can’t take part in theater competitions.

“They really deserve to compete,” said theater teacher Marty Kozlowski.

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