MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ - Deerfield Middle School is set to perform Oliver! this weekend at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 10th and at 2 and 7 p.m. onSaturday, March 11. Students, teachers, parents, and Deerfield Middle School alumni have been vigorously rehearsing and perfecting the play since after the Thanksgiving weekend break, which has resulted in what can only be described as one of the most professionally orchestrated performances by a middle school cast.

Oliver! the musical is the story based on Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist, with music and lyrics by Lionel Bart. The orphaned Oliver Twist goes from mistreatment in the London workhouses, to falling in with a gang of pickpockets before finally finding a home. 

"I am so excited for the community to finally see Oliver," said Jared Rosenblum, director and musical director. "The kids are performing the full-length version of the show which is quite a challenge for kids of this age.  The kids have worked hard to develop their characters.  I am so proud of them all."

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This Tuesday, cast and crew held a rehearsal at the school’s gym and as time winds down, the intensity and focus of these young actors is evident in their presentation. Jordan Hyman, father of Julia Hyman, who has several parts in the play, had a sneak peek and was in awe by the level of maturity the students displayed.

“I see these kids around the neighborhood, playing baseball, and the level of professionalism here, makes me think how’d you get them to act like this,” said Hyman.

Amy Radick the show’s producer explained the various parts and what goes into the production, and with over 150 people involved [when you consider the parents included in equally important, but not directly with the play], it is truly a concerted effort by the Mountainside community.

The Principal of Deerfield Middle School Kimberly Richards is excited that many of the Deerfield Middle School students are involved and felt that the Deerfield alumni that dedicate their time has really made a difference. “The alumni who came back really makes the show phenomenal,” said Richards.

Some of the rehearsals last until 9 p.m. and these alumni who hold key behind the scene roles, are willing to go the distance. Amanda Radick, Amy Radick’s daughter, is an alumnus and directing the stage crew with props and scene changes. Amanda has been involved in three plays with Deerfield Middle School, two with the current Director, one before. When asked about why she is dedicating her time to the production, Amanda stated, “I like helping,” but added “it is stressful.”

The pressure of wanting to produce a perfect show is apparent, but the joy of being involved is also clear. Parent, Jennifer Doll, oversees costumes, working for months with a costumer to ensure that the characters fit the directors "vision". 

During the rehearsal, Rosenblum critiqued students on singing to acting, not facing the stage, and not reciting their lines quickly enough. Surprisingly, the actors took the advice and quickly adjusted. This is in large part because of the support system created around the show’s performers.

Valarie Wass is assistant director and has the duties of helping with rehearsal, by sometimes assisting students with their lines and guiding them through their performance. But what Wass seems to be the most enthusiastic about is keeping the pupils excited, especially on days when rehearsals run well past dinnertime.

On those late rehearsal days, parents like Jennifer Duca and Lenore Vega help with dinner. “if we send them home without dinner, we wouldn’t get them back,” joked Duca. This effort by the parents to stay late and provide food for the kids, and at times, supply food from their own businesses, establishes that community unity, that makes this performance possible.

In addition to the performances scheduled on March 10th and March 11th, as way of giving back to the community, the Oliver cast will hold an additional performance for senior citizens on Thursday, March 9th, during dress rehearsals.

For tickets to the show please visit