UA Little Rock graduate Michael Bartholmey (‘12) has been acting for years and recently took on a new role: directing his first musical.
He directs “Oliver!,” based on Charles Dickens’ novel “Oliver Twist.” The show runs through Dec. 10 at the Royal Theater in Benton.
Bartholmey, who has been part of the central Arkansas theater scene for many years, graduated in 2012 from UA Little Rock with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Arts, which he credits with giving him a solid foundation.
“I loved my time in the Theatre and Dance Department at UA Little Rock,” he said. “The faculty opened my eyes to another dimension and gave me a whole new perspective on the art of theatre. Stacy Pendergraft (associate professor of actor training) helped me hone my acting skills. Without her directing class, I doubt I would have been ready to take on this project. And I definitely wouldn’t have made it through without the help of my adviser and professor Yslan Hicks. All of the classes were hands-on and engaging.”
Bartholmey, a North Little Rock resident, got an early start in theater. As a teen, he performed at the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theater. After college, he was cast in “Henry V” at The Arkansas Repertory Theatre. He has performed with The Royal Players in Benton in numerous shows, including “Our Town,” “Oklahoma,” “Legally Blonde,” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Earlier this year, he performed in “Titanic: The Musical” at The Weekend Theater in Little Rock.
For the past five years, Bartholmey has worked with the Saline County Shakes, a company he co-founded as a way to bring classical productions to the public for free. He also directed summer productions of “Macbeth,” “The Taming of the Shrew,” “Hamlet,” and “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare” (abridged).
In addition to acting and directing, Bartholmey is experienced in stage management, lights/sounds, set design and construction, and other facets of theater.
“I’ve done just about everything. One of the things I loved about being in the theatre program at UA Little Rock was that they provide you with training in almost every aspect of the craft,” he said. “Acting is my true passion, but I love being behind the scenes almost just as much.”
Last year, Bartholmey was named to the ACANSA Arts Avant Garde class of 2016.
“Oliver!” is a new challenge for Bartholmey. It’s not only his first musical to direct but also the largest cast and crew he has worked with on any production.
“I’ve always loved the casting process. You start out with a certain vision of what you want each character to look like but then you have the audition and sometimes that completely changes,” he said. “That can be a good thing or a bad thing. It’s like a big puzzle that can really go anyway you want it. You start putting the pieces together and try to figure out the best solution to fit your vision.”
“Oliver!” opened Nov. 30 to a full house, much to Bartholmey’s delight.
“Just being able to see your ideas and vision come to life on stage is an incredible experience,” he said. “Being able to finally sit back and just enjoy it after all the hard work and late nights really makes it all worthwhile.”
“Oliver!” will be performed again Dec. 7-9 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 10 at 2 p.m. For more information, visit www.theroyalplayers.com.