Oliver! is a British musical, with music and lyrics by Lionel Bart. It was made into a film directed by Carol Reed.
It first appeared in the West End in 1960, and enjoyed a long run that launched the careers of several child actors, including Davy Jones, later of The Monkees. The musical is based upon Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. That it was the first such adaptation of a Dickens novel was one of the reasons why it attracted such attention. Another was the revolving stage set, an innovation designed by Sean Kenny.
The original London production of Oliver! opened in the New Theatre on June 30, 1960. Among the original cast were Ron Moody as Fagin, Georgia Brown as Nancy, and Barry Humphries in a small role as a humorous undertaker. It may have had a strong influence on many elements in the 1964 Disney film Mary Poppins.
A Broadway production opened in the Imperial Theatre on January 6, 1963.
The story of the book is considerably simplified for the purposes of the musical, with Fagin being represented more as a comic character than as a villain, and large portions of the latter part of the story being completely left out. The songs were:
Oliver! - The Musical Songs from:
Food Glorious Food. Oliver! I Shall Scream . Boy for Sale. That's Your Funeral. Where is Love? Consider Yourself . You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two. It's a Fine Life . I'd do Anything . Be Back Soon . Omm-Pah-Pah . My Name . As Long As He Needs Me . Who Will Buy? Reviewing the Situation.
Plot (spoilers included)
The musical opens in the workhouse, as the half-starved orphan boys are entering the enormous lunchroom for dinner. They are fed only gruel. Nine year old Oliver Twist gathers up the courage to ask for more. He is immediately apprehended by Mr. Bumble and the Widow Corney, the heartless and greedy caretakers of the workhouse. Oliver is promptly sold and apprenticed to an undertaker, Mr. Sowerberry. The bully Noah Claypole, who oversees Oliver's work, badmouths Oliver's dead mother, whereupon Oliver begins pummeling him. Mr. Bumble is sent for, and he and the Sowerberrys lock Oliver in the cellar.
But Oliver escapes and runs away to London. On his first day there, he meets the Artful Dodger, a boy wearing an oversize coat and a top hat. The Dodger is, unknown to Oliver, a boy pickpocket, and he invites Oliver to come and live in Fagin's lair. Fagin is a criminal, and he is in the business of teaching young boys to pick pockets. Oliver, however, is completely unaware of any criminality, and belives that the boys make handkerchiefs rather than steal them.
The next day, Oliver meets Nancy, the live-in girlfriend of the evil, terrifying Bill Sikes, a burglar whose abuse she endures because she loves him. Nancy and Oliver take an instant liking to each other, and Nancy shows motherly affection toward him. Oliver, however, is sent out with the other boys, and it is then that he realizes that they are pickpockets - when he sees them rob a well-to-do gentleman, Mr. Brownlow. Brownlow thinks that Oliver is the thief, but Oliver is cleared in court by the local bookseller, who saw the theft. To make up for his error, the wealthy Brownlow takes Oliver to live with him, noticing something vaguely familiar about him.
The criminals are now frantic - all but Nancy - and decide to kidnap Oliver to keep him from talking. Nancy is asked to participate, but feeling sorry for the boy and wishing him to have a better life if he has the chance - refuses, until Bill slaps her around. Reluctantly, she helps in kidnapping him, but saves him from a beating by Sikes.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bumble and the Widow Corney, now unhappily married, have been contacted by the concerned Mr. Brownlow. They hand him a locket they have kept for years which belonged to Oliver's mother, hoping for a reward. Instead, Brownlow throws them out, knowing that they have suppressed evidence until they could get a reward for it. Brownlow now realizes that Oliver is the son of his long-lost niece, who disappeared after having been left pregnant by her married lover. But more complications follow. Nancy, terrified for Oliver and feeling guilty, visits Brownlow and promises to deliver Oliver to him safely that night at midnight on London Bridge - if Brownlow does not bring the police or ask any questions.
Brownlow promises to do so, but Bill suspects that Nancy is up to something. That night, he follows her as she sneaks Oliver out. At London Bridge, he corners them, struggles with Nancy and brutally clubs her to death. Then he grabs Oliver, returns to Fagin, who is shocked by the murder, and demands money. Sikes' dog, however, has returned to the scene of the crime and now Brownlow, the police and an angry mob are after Sikes. Sikes takes Oliver as a hostage to make his getaway, but is shot to death, and Oliver is rescued and restored to Mr. Brownlow. Fagin loses all his money and is forced to flee, but eludes the police as the curtain falls.
Main article: Oliver! (film)
In 1968, the musical was made into a film, using a mixture of young unknowns and 'big names': Ron Moody (Fagin), Oliver Reed (Bill Sikes), Harry Secombe (Mr Bumble), Mark Lester (Oliver), Jack Wild (The Artful Dodger), Shani Wallis (Nancy) and Joseph O'Conor as Mr Brownlow. There was a minor outcry when Shani Wallis was given the role of Nancy in preference to Georgia Brown.
The film was universally acclaimed as being one of the few film versions of a stage musical that was superior to the original show. Despite the fact that there were many happy singing and dancing sequences, the gloomy flavor of Dickens' "Oliver Twist" was maintained by making the second half of the film intensely dramatic. The period flavor was also extremely impressive, and the film featured elaborate choreography by Onna White, which was not one of the features of the original show.
It won Academy Awards for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Director, Best Music, Score of a Musical Picture (Original or Adaptation), Best Picture and Best Sound. It was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Ron Moody), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Jack Wild), Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.
In 1994, Oliver! was revived for the London stage with some additional music and lyrics by Lionel Bart. It was directed by Sam Mendes, and featured Jonathan Pryce as Fagin, Sally Dexter as Nancy, James Villiers (Mr Brownlow) and Miles Anderson as Bill Sikes. Later on in the run of this production, Jon Lee, who would later rise to fame as a member of the successful pop group, "S Club 7", played the title role.