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- The Artful Dodger in Oliver! at the Stratford Festival
VIEW Magazine -
by Kerry Corrigan
He may not be as crafty or as criminal as The Artful Dodger, but Scott Beaudin definitely has a touch of mischief in him. He also has the same generous heart as his character who sings “I’d Do Anything For You” on the large stage at Stratford’s Festival Theatre, performing with such a reserve of confidence that he almost steals the show from Canada’s premiere male actor.
Hamiltonian Scott Beaudin makes a triumphant Stratford debut in Oliver! at the age of 13. Holding his own onstage with Colm Feore’s memorable Fagin, spearheading a large chorus in two big production numbers, Beaudin is just one of the reasons that Oliver! is such an unqualified success.
Chatting on a sunny afternoon before a preview performance, Scott is relaxed in casual clothes, grounded and quick to laugh. Certainly not the schemer he plays on stage.
“He’s pretty cocky, he likes who he is, he’s a show-off,” is how Scott describes The Artful Dodger, Fagin’s favourite in the lively Lionel Bart musical based on the Charles Dickens novel.
That doesn’t describe Beaudin, who’s a polite young man with pleasant manners. He’s cute, with curly hair framing a cherubic face, made more expressive with large eyes and unruly eyebrows. As soon as you hear his voice, you know something’s different. It has a clear ring to it, very distinct, with a natural projection.
Combine that special voice, which foreshadows the impressive singing he does in the musical, with his sharp intelligence and well-spoken maturity and you can see why Scott nailed the part at his audition, and continues to do so now onstage. And then the sly sense of humour starts to emerge, and that’s when you can see the lively essence of the Dodger in Scott.
He relates how he got the part.
“Well, I got a call from my agent saying it was for the Stratford Festival. I didn’t really know what it was at the time. I’d never really heard a lot about it.
“I’d never seen a play or anything here, so I didn’t know how big this place was. I went to my audition and I had to sing “Consider Yourself”, but I had already been singing “Consider Yourself” for years from my vocal singing lessons, so I was really well-prepared vocally wise, and I got my lines memorized and I did the scene, and then I got another call-back, and then I got the role, and then my Dad told me how long I would have to go for, so it was kind of a jaw-dropper, but . . .”
Scott feels like a normal kid when he’s attending Cardinal Heights Middle School, where he’s in Grade 8. He does “a lot of stuff”, including playing alto sax in the concert and jazz band. He tries to do as many sports there as possible, track and field, cross-country.
“I wanted to try out for basketball this year but I got this instead,” he says, without a hint of irony in his voice. He doesn’t have time for the drama program there, though, and when he starts at Westmount High School, near the end of October, he’ll be taking music, not drama.
Scott is used to keeping up with his schoolwork while he’s away – he’s finished filming major roles in two movies opening soon, “Summerhood”, with Joe Flaherty, and “Your Beautiful Cul-de-Sac Home”, and also does TV and voiceover work.
Rehearsals started Feb. 15 and since then he hasn’t been back much, maybe “four times”, living now in a rented house in Stratford with his parents or a succession of lucky caregivers.
“Last week I was with my Grandma, and this week I’m with my uncle and aunt, it switches up every week, and different members of the family come and take care of me.”
He has one sibling, older sister Danielle, who’s 15.
Beaudin got his training in the summer acting program at Theatre Aquarius, appearing in Les Miserables, Pippin, and Charlotte’s Web and takes singing lessons with Linda Fletcher in Oakville.
Dance study hasn’t been as diligent. “I took a year of jazz, but I didn’t like it so I quit.” Typical kid
Scott feels he’s both a musician and an actor. “I think I’m equally balanced, I’m musically trained but I also have taken acting lessons, I don’t really lean towards one side more than the other.”
He has to do a lot of dancing in Oliver! “It’s not my strong side,” he says with a sly smile, “but I’m keeping up,” he avows humbly.
The Artful Dodger? “He’s the leader, he’s flamboyant.” Beaudin’s the oldest boy in the children’s troupe, yet he doesn’t think that leadership has transferred to his relationship with the large cast of kids off-stage. “We all just stick together, all the ages, from eight to 13. We hang out.”
Many of the children are from Stratford, but there are a few boys from Toronto. Tyler Pearce, who plays Oliver and just turned ten, is from Mississauga, his understudy is from P.E.I. Scott is quick to praise other members of the cast.
“Tyler is the second youngest in our cast and he’s handling it really well. He’s in every scene performing his heart out, well, he’s in almost every scene.”
“We started out just sitting down and learning the songs. When we weren’t doing that, we were learning how to do basic dance steps, all the boys. And, yeah,” he admits with a grin, “we were all terrible, at the beginning – we, like, took a step and fell down.
“But we really, all of us, have improved, greatly.”
Having Donna Feore, a former choreographer, as a director, increases the dance element.
“There is a lot more dance in it, than normal, which is,” he says with a bit of a sigh, trailing off, “not really my strong . . . thing, dance.”
But you guys can get away with it because you’re so cute, though, right? I tease him.
“At least Tyler can get away with it ‘cuz he’s so cute,” Scott fires back.
He tells me about the excellent training in accents. “We’ve been working on it since day one. We have to practice it. I go home and I talk in my accent, but now I have it down pat really nicely.”
“If we need something at Stratford, we can just get it. We tell someone, or sign a sheet, saying we want vocal lessons and they get someone to help us out with it.”
Scott describes the boy he plays who has lived on the street all his life. “He’s been an orphan, his mother was probably a prostitute, and Fagin picked him up and trained him to be a pick pocket and that’s all he’s known, is this life, so he enjoys it and he wouldn’t want to be anything else. Fagin and the rest of the boys and Nancy are his family.”
Charles Dickens started serializing Oliver Twist in . . “1837,” he interjects. Beaudin’s done his homework.
“We talked about life spans, and how, children in our lifestyle, if we lived past 27 we were lucky,” he tells me, with a touch of amazement in his voice. “We talked a lot about that.”
But mostly learning to look and sound like a street urchin from 170 years ago came through trial and error.
“We didn’t really have a huge talk about how we would do it. If we made a mistake in our movement, or in our action or how we where sitting, they would correct us on it. They would correct one person on it and we would all take the note.”
His costume was a challenge. “My hat, especially. It was falling off all the time in the first five or six previews .We did all these different things to it but now we finally got it settled. I have to pull all of my hair in, and they have a sticky substance inside of the hat which grips to my hair.”
All the youngsters in the cast were instructed to grow their hair as soon as they got their parts. “I got it much
longer than where it is now,” he says with a smile, “and they cut it two or three times until we got it where we wanted it, because it’s in my eyes. All of us have had to have haircuts because we all grew our hair and all of our hair was over top of our eyes.”
“It’s tremendously fun. I would much rather be here than at school,” he tells me matter-of-factly. “I’ve grown attached to the theatre, and I’m in love with it now.”
Do you want to be an actor when you grow up?
“If acting takes off I would like to be that, but if not, I am actually aspiring to be a lawyer,” he says, gauging my reaction, with a twinkle in his eye. “The same thing, perhaps?”
He’d seen Colm Feore as Trudeau in the CBC special, but had no idea of the man’s stature as an actor. “Then I saw a list of all his movies, and I went, ‘oh, that’s him, and that’s him, I’m working with this guy?’”
“He’s a very nice man. He’s very nice to work with. He’s always on. He has three shows, and all these lines to remember, and it’s just astonishing. Because I saw Coriolanus, and all the lines he had in that . . . and then he had to memorize all the blocking and the lines in Oliver!, and now Don Juan (in both English and French) – all leads! He’s a pretty amazing guy!” he tells me with great admiration in his voice.
His class from Middle School is coming to see the show soon. “I’m kind of nervous for that show,” Scott admits ruefully. He’ll go back for his graduation ceremony at the end of June but can’t stay for the dance, as he has an eight o’clock show that night.
Scott has an understudy who’s been working hard to learn his part, just in case, but “as Donna says, “’we’re going in unless we’re in a full body cast . . . or bleeding internally!’”
He tells me about the swings, who learn a number of roles, but never go on.
“You’re learning a lot about theatre up here, aren’t you?” I blurt out suddenly.
“Yes, I am!” he beams back at me, with pride in his voice, sounding every inch the Artful Dodger, the flamboyant little leader with a big heart.
// tie dye