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Liberty students bring ‘Oliver! JR’ to renovated Garver theater

The musical, which opens Friday, will show off Camas School District’s newly revamped Garver Theater

Liberty Middle School students will help usher in a new era for the Camas School District this weekend when they perform “Oliver! JR,” at the recently renovated Joyce Garver Theater.

Built in 1935, the theater was an addition to Camas High School until the 1970s, when the high school was demolished. In the mid-1980s, the theater got a slight upgrade, with a new entry and a few interior revamps. The building served as a performance center for the school district and the greater Camas community until 2009, when it closed due to safety concerns.

In 2016, Camas School District voters approved a $119.7 million bond that included a $2 million revamp of the historic theater.

The Liberty Middle School’s performance of “Oliver! JR,” an adaptation of the award-winning “Oliver!” Broadway musical based on Charles Dickens’ classic, “Oliver Twist,” marks the first time in over 12 years that a theater performance has been held at the Joyce Garver Theater.

The Liberty students have been rehearsing their rendition of “Oliver! JR” since January, and moved to the rehearsals to the Garver Theater in March, after the school district secured its building occupancy permits for the historic theater.

This weekend’s musical performance also marks a return to the stage for Liberty students, said Liberty parent Susan Maszak.

“Liberty has had a spring musical every year … until COVID,” Maszak told the Post-Record. “This is the first live show we’re doing since 2019. We’re so happy that live theater is back.”

The “Oliver! JR” performance, which follows the life of a young orphan boy, Oliver, as he navigates London’s 1830s underworld in search of a safe home, will feature 37 Liberty Middle School students in grades 6 through 8.

Liberty Middle teacher Erik Edmundson is directing the performance, and worked with an artistic team that included two Camas High School students – assistant director Kendall Williams and stage manager Molly Hope – as well as choreographer Elllie Cook, music director Becky Hamlin and costumer Carol Babilon.

Edmundson said he and his artistic team are grateful for the parent volunteers who have helped pull the spring musical together – helping to build sets, measuring costumes, working on hair and makeup, selling tickets and promoting the show and planning a cast party to help students celebrate their accomplishment.

The Liberty students will kick off a three-show run of “Oliver! JR” at 7 p.m. Friday, April 29. They return on Saturday, April 30, for two more shows — the first at 3 p.m. and the final show at 7 p.m. All three shows will be held at the Joyce Garver Theater, 1500 N.E. Garfield StCamas.

Tickets cost $7 to $10 each, and can be purchased online at bit.ly/liberty-ms-tickets through Thursday, April 28, or at the door before the performances. Tickets sold at the door will be available via cash or check. Credit and debit cards will not be accepted for tickets sold at the door.