In Part One of a series of interviews with the cast of Sterling Playmakers’ OLIVER!, meet Mike Baker.
Joel: Please tell our readers where they may have seen you appear on our local stages and roles you have played.
I have performed in both New York and the DC area. My last New York show was Hootin’ and Holerin’ at the New York Theatre Workshop. My last Kennedy Center performance was in Gretty Goodtime. I have also performed in over 30 shows at The Little Theatre of Alexandria where he also teaches acting.
Have you ever appeared in a production of OLIVER!? What challenges do you face playing Fagin?
My three favorite roles are “Fagin” in Oliver (LTA), “Scrooge” in Scrooge the Musical (LTA), and “Don Quixote” in Man of La Mancha (RCP and MCP). Hence, my excitement about being able to reprise one of my favorite roles. Sterling’s organization, talent pool, and musical acumen have been a true delight.
I am a dreamer and believe in always bettering my best which is why I love the characters of Quixote and Scrooge. Fagin, however, poses a more complex challenge: On the one hand, Fagin is manipulative and borderline evil, and yet he takes in starving boys and sees they are washed, clothed and fed. This dichotomy is a real mind-bender as an actor.
What does your big solo “Reviewing the Situation” have to say to today’s audiences?
I wish I had listened to what I was singing years ago when I first did this role. “Reviewing the Situation” is so insightful and brutally honest. I hear what it says now and can finally give it the maturity and insight it needs. I hope young people hear the message. It is stark reality and oh so true.
How have Music Director Colin Taylor, Vocal Director Wyndy Fredrick, and Choreographer Sarah Hardy helped you during rehearsals?
I cannot say enough good things about Music Director, Colin Taylor, and Vocal Director, Wyndy Fredrick. If you hear every note in place it is because of their profound dedication and hard work. Musically and vocally, this is as prepared a cast as any I have seen. Kudos to them both.
Also, what a delight to work with choreographer, Sarah Hardy, who I have known for over 20 years. Laced with layers of meaning, her choreography is both imaginative and creative.
How have Directors Ashley Kinney and Kim VanArtsdalen helped you and the large cast to mold your performances?
The tag team of directors, Ashley Kinney and Kim VanArtsdalen, are as thorough a tandem of directors as I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Sixty-seven cast members and the pair have made each performer feel special. They build with enthusiasm and kind words which has reaped great rewards.
Why do you think OLIVER! is still so popular so many decades after it opened?
I think Oliver! is still popular today because it is not wrapped up in the song and dance world. It is reality couched in musical terms. Subjects like child exploitation, spousal abuse, and greed are messages for adult audiences to ponder, while friendships, familial love, and the warmth of home are an inspiration for young audiences.
Oliver! plays at The Sterling Playmakers performing at The Theatre at Potomac Falls High School – 46400 Algonkian Parkway, in Potomac Falls, Virginia. For tickets, buy them at the door, or purchase them online.