The Lofte Theatre Presents “Oliver!”

MarieSpecial Events

I grew up on the musical “Oliver!” Following the Academy Award winning movie adaptation in 1968, the musical was ubiquitous, a staple of high school and community theaters for the next decade. The musical is based on Charles Dicken’s “Oliver Twist,” a young orphan surviving on the streets of London with his mentor, the Artful Dodger and Fagin, a career criminal who runs a gang of young pickpockets. In recent years, the poor, impressionable Oliver Twist has been replaced by the noble Jean Valjean and the plucky Annie. But for my money, I have always preferred “Oliver!”, which maintains a much better balance of drama and humor that “Les Miserables” or “Annie.”
Fortunately, the Lofte Community Theatre in Manley, Nebraska, is bringing back “Oliver!” for its summer musical. “We haven’t done ‘Oliver!’ since 1979,” remembers director Kevin Colbert. “Some of the kids from that show are grandparents now.” As usual, there are a number of Omaha theater faces in the cast and crew, including Chris Berger, Therese Rennels, Hannah Segura, Melinda Mead, and Rose Theater marketing director Kori Radloff’s entire family. If you have not seen a summer musical at The Lofte, you need to pay them a visit. The facility is terrific, the concessions are outstanding, and the productions are always a lot of fun. As for hospitality, as the Artful Dodger sings, “Consider yourself at home. Consider yourself one of the family.”
The Lofte is also in the middle of their “Paint the Barn” campaign. After twelve years, the theater is in need of a new paint job. The Loft is taking donations and hosting matinee lunches with the cast of the musical. Colbert insists he will not be up on a ladder with a paint brush. “It’s a big building. I think we’re going to need professionals for this.”
Kevin Colbert directs and his wife Betty will music direct. Her pit is always excellent. Noelle Bohaty, the Dance Program Director at the University of Nebraska-Kearney, is the choreographer. “Oliver!” was written and composed by Lionel Bart, whose career spanned from writing the hit “Rock with the Caveman,” which become the first British pop song to break into the American Top 40, to being the first manager of the Rolling Stones, to writing the theme song for the James Bond movie “From Russia with Love.” Andrew Lloyd Webber has called him “the father of the modern British musical.”
“Oliver!” runs July 21-22, 26-27, 28-29 and Aug. 2-5. Sunday matinees are at 2 pm. All other shows are at 7pm. Tickets are $19 and can be purchased In advance at On Sunday matinees, July 22, 29, and August 5, you can have lunch with your favorite members of the Oliver cast from noon to 1:30. Lunch tickets are $20 (does not include admission to the show) and are also available online. Lunch includes smoked brisket or pork sandwiches with coleslaw, beans, chips, a cookie and lemonade or water. Proceeds will benefit the “Paint the Barn” campaign, which will raise money to help repaint the theater.
The theater is closer and easier to find than you might think—just take 144th Street (Highway 50) south out of Omaha. Cross the Platte, pass through Louisville, take a left at Highway 1, and the Lofte sign (and the theater) are visible a few hundred yards away to the left.