Reviewing the situation: Oliver! at the Loft Theatre in Leamington

Aaron Crockford, Megan Bignall, Oscar George and Nathan Woolley as the Artful Dodger and Oliver. Picture by Richard Smith.
Aaron Crockford, Megan Bignall, Oscar George and Nathan Woolley as the Artful Dodger and Oliver. Picture by Richard Smith.

Loft Theatre, Leamington
Until Saturday December 17
Tickets: 800360

Showing ambition without overreaching is obviously one the biggest challenges for a theatre company of the size of the Loft when staging famous and much-loved musicals such as Oliver!

Louise Woodward as Nancy and Chris Cortopassi as Bill Sykes with two of the canine stars. Picture by Richard Smith.

Louise Woodward as Nancy and Chris Cortopassi as Bill Sykes with two of the canine stars. Picture by Richard Smith.

In his programme notes, director Tim Willis talks of the many working parts which need to come together to make this production a success.

He must be delighted then that, after this opening night, it’s very clear that he has a team and cast who are more than up to the task.

It’s a production which requires several quick set changes, with heavy sections of scenery being moved around regularly, and not once was the flow of the performance ever upset by this.

The well drilled set crew and excellent musical team provided the platform on which the actors could shine and by and large they did to a woman and man.

Oscar George, one of the two Olivers who will be used during this run, carried the weight of opening night
hopes and fears on his small shoulders with admirable confidence – displaying impressive vocal chops in his solo parts.

With popular and well known characters comes both the privilege and expectation of portraying them and those in the main roles embraced the former to satisfy the latter.

Louise Woodward captured Nancy’s infectious optimism and tragic dependence excellently, while Nathan Woolley was suitably assured as the Artful Dodger.

Chris Cortopassi’s Scottish accent adds a new element to the menace of Bill Sykes and he deserves a particular mention for his dog handling skills.

But one of the longest applauses of the night was given to Steve Smith as Fagin, who toward the end of a masterful performance, delivered a superb rendition of Reviewing the Situation.

It’s moments like that, which are fit for stages both amateur and professional – which are worth the admission fee on their own.