She’s only 16 years old, but Kelty Morash is already a veteran of the Woodminster Summer Musicals.
In 2004, she played an orphan in Annie and then was one of Will Rogers’ kids in the Will Rogers Follies. A couple of years later, she landed the role of a munchkin in The Wizard of Oz.
In the opening this Thursday night, July 7, the junior joins the cast of Oliver at the “theatre under the stars” in Oakland’s Joaquin Miller Park. As well as singing and dancing with the ensemble, Morash has the role of Charlotte Sowerberry in the Broadway classic, based on Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist.
“It’s fabulous up here. There’s no other theater like it,” said Morash last Saturday, as she prepared for a 12-hour day of rehearsals.
“It’s just special to be outside in front of a big audience and looking up at the trees.”
Morash said Woodminster Theatre is special to her in other ways, too. Annie was the first show in which she ever performed. Since then, she’s been on the stage at the Douglas Morrisson Theatre in Hayward, the San Francisco Opera Center, the Oakland Opera and Livermore’s Bankhead Theatre.
Morash and the ensemble will sing such toe-tappers as “Consider Yourself,” “Food, Glorious Food” and “Who Will Buy?,” songs that made the musical an immediate hit when it debuted in London’s West End in 1960.
The musical recounts the adventures of Oliver, an orphan in 19th-century London who escapes the miseries of an orphanage and joins a band of pickpockets.
Woodminster Summer Musicals, which is celebrating its 45th season at the historic outdoor amphitheatre, was founded four decades ago by managing director Harriet Schlader and her late husband James.
Schlader said it’s wonderful to see families coming back year after year to see the shows. She’s also proud to watch young actors like Morash grow into more mature roles.
“Kelty first performed for us in 2004,” Schlader said.
“She is very talented, as are both parents. Her dad is an excellent pianist and teaches at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and her mother danced and teaches dance. It is a pleasure to see her grow up and into more challenging parts.”
A graduate of and schools, Morash has vivid memories of her seventh grade performance in Bancroft's production of Peter Pan.
“It was so exciting. They actually rigged the stage so we really got to fly,” said Morash, who credits dedicated parents and staff at Bancroft for continuing to stage “great musicals” at the school.
San Leandro High School christened its new theater this spring with Once Upon a Mattress. Morash played Winnifred, one of the lead princesses, in the adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s story of “The Princess and the Pea.”
Winnifred was portrayed in the original Broadway musical by Carol Burnett.
“It was very exciting to play that part in the new theater,” said Morash, who also takes band class at San Leandro High and sings with The Notables choir.
Morash was born in Toronto, Canada, but moved with her family to San Leandro when she was 3 years old. Though she hasn’t yet decided which college is in her future, she knows she wants to study theater and drama.
“Pretty much everything I’m interested in has to do with theater,” said Morash.
She's also taken dance classes since she was 3 years old, including at the Oakland Ballet and in San Leandro. She’s currently taking tap and lyrical dance at Fusion Dance in Castro Valley.
Morash is excited about opening night for Oliver this week. She said the cast of 40-plus professional and amateur actors from 20 Bay Area cities is ready to roll.
“It’s a really nice show for families to see together,” Morash said.
Woodminster publicist Kathy Kahn said Joaquin Miller Park’s spectacular views and serene, woodsy environment make it a perfect setting for the amphitheater — and for spending time before the show.
“For many East Bay families, it is a long-standing summer tradition to enjoy a picnic in the park and then see a musical at Woodminster,” she said.
Oliver will be performed at 8 p.m. on July 7-10 and 14-17. Tickets for Preview Night on July 7 are $10 at the door. After that, tickets are $26 to $42, with discounts for seniors, children, groups and season ticket holders. The theater is located at 3300 Joaquin Miller Rd., Oakland, off Highway 13. Parking is available. For tickets and information, visit www.woodminster.com or call 510-531-9497.