LIONEL Bart’s Oliver! is probably one of the most beloved musicals of all time, writes Kerry Black.

It always reminds me of snuggling on the couch with the entire family at Christmas time, as Ron Moody and Harry Secombe headed up an amazing cast of crooks and vagabonds.

This was the ideal show to mark the return of musical theatre at the Lochgelly Centre since Covid struck.

Nardone Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA) have built up a great reputation since young Liam Nardone first walked into the old Central Fife Times office, to tell us he was planning to put on a show.

I have had the great privilege of reviewing every one of their shows and this was definitely the best yet. You could taste the excitement in the air and after Liam made a short announcement about safety measures, the crowd erupted before the cast had even appeared on stage.

The opening number “Food, Glorious, Food” immediately showcased the tight choreography and great harmonies of the entire company. Under the expert baton of NAPA’s new musical director, Harry Thomson, the band rattled their way through the night with great gusto.

Noah Brotherton, as the tiny, terrified ‘Oliver’ was truly brilliant. While the ever popular Emily Juner was ideally partnered with Cole McLaren as the comically twisted ‘Widow Corney’ and ‘Mr Bumble’.

Moving on to the ‘undertakers’ scene, Erica Scott deserves special mention for her cackling laugh as ‘Mrs Sowerberry’ (and also for her later performance as ‘Old Sally’), while Dylan Weatherup played both her crotchety husband and the evil ‘Bill Sykes’, with Lara Nardone as ‘Charlotte’ and Liam Gavin as both the wily ‘Noah Claypole’ and ‘Mr Grimwig’.

After Oliver runs off to London, he is met by the swaggering Gregor Scott as ‘The Artful Dodger’. Both young boys were outstanding, dancing and singing their hearts out, it’s hard to believe this was their NAPA debut.

While some musicals are filled with glitter and sequins, Oliver! is based around the darkness and destitution of Dickens’ London, where children survive on gin and gruel, accepting a life of squalor and poverty.

Enter ‘Fagin’, the leader of a gang of pickpockets, played by an almost unrecognisable Liam Nardone, in the part he was surely born to play, dancing and prancing his way across the stage.

Brooke MacDonald’s mature portrayal of the ill-fated ‘Nancy’, brought the house down with “As Long As He Needs Me”, ably matched step by step and song by song, by the tender hearted ‘Bet’ (Keava Doig). The principal cast was completed by Neve Muir, Shay Ferrier and Lewis Reekie.

However, the ensemble lies at the heart of every show and these kids were just amazing, giving their all in number after number in all their ragged splendour.

With costumes by Utopia, and scenery by John Urquhart, the company had made a conscious decision to keep it local this year. I wonder how many shows that bridge of John’s has featured in over the years!

Oliver! ran at Lochgelly Centre, 7.30pm nightly from Thursday until Saturday, with a superb first night audience supporting this young local company with this marvellous production.