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Original theatre programme and poster
Music Lionel Bart
Lyrics Lionel Bart
Book Lionel Bart
Basis Charles Dickens' novel Oliver Twist
Productions 1960 West End
1963 Broadway
1968 film
1984 Broadway revival
1994 West End revival
2002 Australasian tour
2003 Tallinn
2009 West End revival
2009 Glan Afan Comprehensive school musical
Awards Tony Award for Best Original Score

Oliver! is a British musical, with music and lyrics by Lionel Bart. The musical is based upon the novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.

It premiered in the West End in 1960, enjoying a long run, a successful Broadway production in 1963 and further tours and revivals. It was made into a musical film in 1968. A new London production opened in January 2009.



Oliver! was the first musical adaptation of a Charles Dickens work to become a stage hit, one of the reasons why it attracted attention. There had been two previous Dickens musicals in the 1950s, both of them television adaptations of A Christmas Carol, Another reason for the success of the musical was the revolving stage set, an innovation designed by Sean Kenny.[1]

The show launched the careers of several child actors, including Davy Jones, later of The Monkees; Phil Collins, later of Genesis; Alan Paul, later of The Manhattan Transfer; and Tony Robinson, who later played the role of Baldrick in the television series Blackadder. The singer Steve Marriott (Small Faces, Humble Pie) also featured in early line-ups, eventually graduating to the role of Artful Dodger in the West End production.

The plot of Dickens' original novel 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. (It may well be that Bart based his musical on David Lean's film, rather than Dickens' book). Although Dickens' novel has been called antisemitic in its portrayal of the Jew Fagin as evil, the production by Bart (himself a Jew) was more sympathetic and featured many Jewish actors in leading roles: Ron Moody (Ronald Moodnik), Georgia Brown (Lilian Klot), and Martin Horsey.[citation needed]


Act I

The musical opens in the workhouse, as the half-starved orphan boys are entering the enormous lunchroom for dinner ("Food Glorious Food"). They are fed only gruel. Nine-year-old Oliver (actually identified as thirteen in the libretto but generally played as much younger) gathers up the courage to ask for more. He is immediately apprehended and is told to gather his belongings by Mr Bumble and the Widow Corney, the heartless and greedy caretakers of the workhouse ("Oliver!"). Mr.Bumble and Widow Corney are left alone, and Mr. Bumble begins to make amorous advances. Mrs. Corney pretends to resent his attentions in "I Shall Scream!", ends up on Mr Bumble's lap, kissing him. Oliver comes back and is promptly sold ("Boy for Sale") and apprenticed to an undertaker, Mr. Sowerberry. He and his wife taunt Oliver and Mr. Bumble with the song "That's Your Funeral". He is sent to sleep in the basement with the coffins, something which makes him visibly uncomfortable. ("Where is Love?").

The next morning bully Noah Claypole, who oversees Oliver's work, badmouths Oliver's dead mother, whereupon Oliver begins pummeling him. Mrs Sowerberry and her daughter, Charlotte run in, and become hysterical. Mr. Bumble is sent for, and he and the Sowerberrys lock Oliver in a coffin, but during all the commotion Oliver escapes. After a week on the run, he meets the Artful Dodger, a boy wearing an oversize coat and a top hat. He beckons Oliver to join him with "Consider Yourself". 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 believes that the boys make handkerchiefs rather than steal them. Oliver is introduced to Fagin and all the other boy pickpockets, and is taught their ways in "You've got to Pick a Pocket or Two".

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. Bet, Nancy's younger sister (merely her best friend in the 1968 film and in Dickens' novel), is also with her. Nancy, along with Bet and the boys, sing about how they don't mind a bit of danger in "It's a Fine Life". Dodger humorously starts pretending to be an upper-class citizen, ("I'd Do Anything"), along with Fagin, Oliver, Nancy, Bet, and the boys mocking high society. Nancy and Bet leave and Oliver is sent out with the other boys on his first pickpocketing job ("Be Back Soon"), though he still believes that they are going to teach him how to make handkerchiefs. The Dodger, another boy pickpocket named Charley Bates, and Oliver decide to stick together, and when Dodger and Charley rob Mr. Brownlow, a wealthy old man, they run off, leaving Oliver to be arrested for the crime.

Act II

The Broadway version of Oliver! at the Imperial Theatre

In the Three Cripples pub, Nancy is called upon to sing an old tavern song ("Oom Pah Pah"). Brutal housebreaker Bill Sikes makes his first appearance, and disperses the crowd, ("My Name"). It emerges that Nancy is in love with him. Dodger runs in and tells Fagin about Oliver being captured before being subsequently cleared of the crime and taken in by Mr. Brownlow. Fagin and Bill decide to kidnap Oliver to protect the whereabouts of their den. Nancy, who pities Oliver, refuses to help, but Bill physically abuses her and forces her into obedience. In spite of this, Nancy still loves Bill, and believes he loves her too, ("As Long As He Needs Me").

The next morning, at Mr. Brownlow's house, in Bloomsbury, Ms. Bedwin, the housekeeper (who sings in the stage version, but not in the film), sings to Oliver, ("Where Is Love? (Reprise)", and Oliver wakes up. Mr. Brownlow and Dr. Grimwig discuss Oliver's condition. They come to the conclusion that he is well enough to go outside, and Mr. Brownlow sends Oliver on an errand- he asks him to return some books to the library. From his window, Oliver sees a group of street vendors and joins them in song once he steps outside ("Who Will Buy?"). As the vendors leave, Nancy and Bill show up and grab Oliver. They bring him back to Fagin's den, where Nancy saves Oliver from a beating from Sikes after the boy tries to flee but is stopped. Nancy angrily and remorsefully reviews their dreadful life, but Bill maintains that any living is better than none. Fagin tries to act as an intermediary, ("It's A Fine Life (reprise)"). When Sikes and Nancy leave, Fagin, who also wants out, ponders his future in the humorous song "Reviewing the Situation". But, every time he thinks of a good reason for going straight, he reconsiders and decides to remain a criminal.

Back at the workhouse, Mr. Bumble and the Widow Corney, now unhappily married, meet up with the dying pauper Old Sally and another old lady, who tell them that Oliver's mother, Agnes, left a gold locket (indicating that he comes from a rich family) when she died in childbirth. Old Sally stole the locket and now gives it to the Widow Corney. Mr Bumble and Widow Corney, realizing that Oliver may have wealthy relatives, visit Mr. Brownlow in order to profit from any reward given out for information of him ("Oliver! (reprise)"). He throws them out, knowing that they have suppressed evidence until they could get a reward for it. Brownlow looks at the picture inside the locket, a picture of his daughter, and realizes that Oliver, who knows nothing of his family history, is actually his grandson (Oliver's mother had disappeared after having been left pregnant by her lover, who jilted her).

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. She then ponders again about Bill in "As Long As He Needs Me (reprise)". Bill suspects that Nancy is up to something. That night, he follows her as she sneaks Oliver out, although in the stage version it is never made clear how he knew exactly when to do this. At London Bridge, he confronts them, knocks Oliver temporarily unconscious, and brutally clubs Nancy to death (in alternative stagings of the show, he either strangles her, stabs her, or slits her throat, but the musical's original libretto follows the Dickens novel in having her beaten to death). He then grabs Oliver, who has since revived, and runs offstage with him, presumably back to the hideout to ask Fagin for getaway money. Mr. Brownlow, who had been late keeping the appointment, arrives and discovers Nancy's body. A large crowd soon forms, among them the distraught Bet. Bullseye, Bill's fierce terrier, returns to the scene of the crime and the crowd prepares to follow him to the hideout. After they exit Fagin and his boys, terrified at the idea of being apprehended, leave their hideout in panic. Not finding Bill at the hideout, the anxious crowd, now whipped up into a thirst for justice, returns to the Thames Embankment, when suddenly Bill appears at the top of the bridge, holding Oliver as hostage and threatening to kill him if the crowd tries to take him. Unseen by Bill, two policemen sneak up on him. One of them shoots Bill to death and the other grabs Oliver as Bill releases him. Oliver is then reunited with Mr. Brownlow. The mob, still eager for vengeance against this underground criminal network, begins a mad search for Fagin. When one of the members of the crowd suggest that he may be at the Three Cripples pub, they disperse offstage in order to track him down. As the crowd exits, Fagin sneaks on and sings a reprisal of "Reviewing the Situation," wherein he decides that, after years of pickpocketing and training junior pickpocketers, the time has never looked better for him to straighten out his life.


Act I
  • Overture - Orchestra
  • Food, Glorious Food - Orphans
  • Oliver! - Mr. Bumble and Widow Corney
  • I Shall Scream! - Mr. Bumble and Widow Corney
  • Boy for Sale - Mr. Bumble
  • That's Your Funeral - Mr. Sowerberry, Mrs. Sowerberry, and Mr. Bumble
  • Where Is Love? - Oliver
  • Consider Yourself - The Artful Dodger, Oliver, and Chorus
  • You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two - Fagin and Fagin's Gang
  • It's a Fine Life - Nancy, Bet, and Fagin's Gang
  • I'd Do Anything - The Artful Dodger, Nancy, Oliver, Bet, Fagin, and Fagin's Gang
  • Be Back Soon - Fagin, The Artful Dodger, Oliver and Fagin's Gang
Act II
  • Oom-Pah-Pah - Nancy and Chorus
  • My Name - Bill Sikes
  • As Long As He Needs Me - Nancy
  • Where is Love? (Reprise) - Mrs. Bedwin
  • Who Will Buy? - Oliver, Sellers, and Chorus
  • It's a Fine Life (Reprise) - Bill Sikes, Nancy, Fagin, and The Artful Dodger
  • Reviewing the Situation - Fagin
  • Oliver! (reprise) - Mr. Bumble and Widow Corney
  • As Long As He Needs Me (Reprise) - Nancy
  • Reviewing the Situation (Reprise) - Fagin
  • Finale (Food, Glorious Food, Consider Yourself, and I'd Do Anything) - Entire Cast (including Nancy and Sykes)


Original West End production

The original London production of Oliver! opened in the New Theatre (now the Noel Coward Theatre) on June 30, 1960 and ran for 2618 performances.[2] Among the original cast were Ron Moody as Fagin, Georgia Brown as Nancy, and Barry Humphries in a small comic role as Mr. Sowerberry, an undertaker. Keith Hamshere (the original Oliver) is now a Hollywood still photographer (Star Wars etc.); Martin Horsey (the original Dodger) works as an actor/director and is the author of the play L'Chaim. The cast also included Tony Robinson as one of the Workhouse boys/Fagin's Gang, and John Bluthal (now best known as The Vicar of Dibley's Frank Pickle) as Fagin. Former professional boxer Danny Sewell ( brother of television actor George Sewell ) was the original Bill Sikes, and remained in the role ( including the original Broadway & US touring productions ) for the best part of six years. Danny Sewell's main competitor at audition for the role of Sikes was Michael Caine, who later stated he "cried for a week" after failing to secure the part. The part of Nancy was originally written for Alma Cogan, who despite being unable to commit to the production, steered a great many producers to invest in the production.

There was a West End revival during the late 1970s, at the Albery Theatre (the renamed New Theatre; now the Noel Coward Theatre), starring Roy Hudd as Fagin, which ran for over two years. This was Cameron Mackintosh's first revival of Oliver!; totally faithful to the 1960s original, using Sean Kenny's set. Indeed, the original production's sepia background painted on the rear stage wall was still extant!

The production was revived in December 1983 for a limited 5 week Christmas season at the Aldwych Theatre, directed by Peter Coe. Ron Moody returned as Fagin, with Jackie Marks as Nancy, Linal Haft as Bill Sikes, Meg Johnson as Mrs Corney, Peter Bayliss as Mr Bumble, and Geoffrey Toone as Mr Brownlow. Oliver was played by Anthony Pearson, and the Artful Dodger by David Garlick. The original Sean Kenny designed sets were used.

The last professional production to use Sean Kenny's original stage design was at the Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch, Essex, in 1986. This production starred Victor Spinetti as Fagin.

American productions

The musical previewed in the U.S. with a 1962 national tour (whose cast was preserved on recording), and the first Broadway production opened at the Imperial Theatre on January 6, 1963 and closed on November 14, 1964 after 774 performances.[3] The American production had child actor Bruce Prochnik in the title role alongside Georgia Brown, reprising her West End turn as Nancy, and Clive Revill, replacing Ron Moody, as Fagin. While the national tour had young actor Michael Goodman as The Artful Dodger, the Broadway transfer had him replaced by a young Davy Jones. The original Broadway production was a critical success and was nominated for ten Tony Awards including Best Musical, Actor (Revill), Actress (Brown) and Featured Actor (Jones). The show won Tonys for Sean Kenny's Scenic Design, Donald Pippin's musical direction and Lionel Bart's score.

A 1965 revival directed by Peter Coe ran at the Martin Beck Theatre for 64 performances. The production featured Victor Stiles as Oliver, Robin Ramsay as Fagin, Maura K. Wedge as Nancy, Joey Baio as The Artful Dodger, Alan Crofoot as Mr. Bumble, Danny Sewell as Bill Sikes, Bram Nossen as Mr. Brownlow, and Dodi Protero as Mrs. Bedwin.

In 1983, a new production of Oliver was the first musical produced by Philadelphia's Walnut Street Theatre as part of its inaugural season as a self-producing theatre.

In 1984 there was a short-lived Broadway revival at The Mark Hellinger Theater of 17 performances and 13 previews with Ron Moody reprising his West End and film role as Fagin and Patti LuPone as Nancy. David Garlick reprised his West End performance as The Artful Dodger, the first British youngster to appear on Broadway since Davy Jones, creating the Equity Exchange Program in the process. Peter Coe directed and the Sean Kenny set was used once again. Moody was nominated for a Tony Award despite the short run. The show only received one negative review; unfortunately it was from Frank Rich of the New York Times, and it prompted one of the main backers to pull out.

1994 London revival

In 1994, Oliver! was revived for the London Palladium with some additional music and lyrics by Lionel Bart. It was directed by Sam Mendes, with Graham Gill as the resident director, and featured Jonathan Pryce as Fagin, Sally Dexter as Nancy (Alison Sevitt understudying), James Villiers (Mr Brownlow) and Miles Anderson as Bill Sikes. Later in the run Jon Lee, Tom Fletcher, Paul Hawkins and Andrew James Michel played the title role and Adam Searles played the Artful Dodger. Danielle McCormack appeared as Bet. The British actor Jeremy Legat also began his stage career by playing one of the members of Fagin's gang.

The show was a lavish affair, with designs by Anthony Ward, new and fresh orchestrations by William David Brohn and a move from its original intimate melodramatic feel to a cinematic and symphonic feel to accommodate an audience that was raised on the motion picture.

This production featured a brand new prologue (in which the audience saw Oliver's harrowing birth) and incorporated a lot of the dialogue from both the original 1968 film and Dickens' novel.

The role of Fagin in this version was later played by many great English actor-comedians including George Layton, Russ Abbot, Jim Dale and Robert Lindsay (who won an Olivier Award for his performance). Bill Sikes was later played by Steven Hartley and Joe McGann and Nancy by Ruthie Henshall and Sonia Swaby.

International productions and tours

The Australian tour was a successful trip through Sydney, Melbourne, and Singapore from 2002 to 2004. The show, which mirrored Sam Mendes' production, was recreated by Graham Gill. John Waters (the actor, not to be confused with John Waters, the director) portrayed Fagin, Tamsin Carroll was Nancy, and the production also featured Stuart Wagstaff, Steve Bastoni and Madison Orr and Keegan Joyce in the title role, which was rotated between the two. The role of the Artful Dodger was shared between Matthew Waters and Tim Matthews. Both of the children's ensemble casts earned good notices. Tamsin Carroll is currently playing the role of Nancy in Cameron Mackintosh's current West End productin of the show.

A North American tour began in 2003, produced by Cameron Mackintosh and Networks. It ran till March 2005 and played most major theatrical venues in the U.S. and one in Canada. The show was directed by the London team which managed the Sam Mendes version in London and the Australian tour, with Graham Gill as director.[4] The cast included Mark McCracken as Fagin, Renata Renee Wilson as Nancy, and Justin S. Pereira Oliver Twist.[5] In October 2008 Columbia Artists Theatricals mounted a new North American National tour directed by Clayton Philips starring Zach Levovitz as Fagin, Quentin Arujo as Oliver, and Rhiannon West as Nancy. The production toured until March 2009.

The first Estonian production of the show was presented in the early 1990s in Tartu. A revival ran in November/December 2003 with Aivar Tommingas as Fagin and Evelin Samuel as Nancy.

2009 London revival

Oliver! bill board at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 2009.

A production heavily based upon the 1994 London Palladium revival, opened in London's West End on 14 January 2009. Produced once again by Cameron Mackintosh, Rupert Goold directed while Matthew Bourne choreographed.

British comedian Rowan Atkinson (who had turned down playing the role at the Palladium in the 1990s) starred as Fagin, while Burn Gorman played Bill Sikes. Other cast members included Julian Glover as Mr Brownlow, Julian Bleach as Mr Sowerberry and Louise Gold as Mrs Sowerberry. The roles of Nancy and Oliver were cast via the BBC reality television show I'd Do Anything. The three actors who won the role of Oliver were Laurence Jeffcoate, Harry Stott and Gwion Wyn Jones.[6] Jodie Prenger won the role of Nancy.[7] Australian actress/singer Tamsin Carroll, who had starred in Mackintosh's previous revival of the show shares the role with Prenger. Sarah Lark, a runner-up on I'd Do Anything , understudies the role.[8]. A live cast recording of the show was released on 16 March 2009.

When Atkinson fell ill during the run of the show, Russ Abbot stepped in to play Fagin. Abbot had previously played the role in 1997 at the London Palladium. In July 2009, British actor Omid Djalili officially replaced Atkinson in the role and his performance was well received. In December 2009, Griff Rhys Jones took over from Djalili as Fagin, with Steven Hartley replacing Burn Gorman as Bill Sikes. Hartley had played the role of Sikes at the London Palladium in 1998, opposite Robert Lindsay. Jodie Prenger will leave the show in March 2010, and fellow West End and Broadway star Kerry Ellis will play Nancy. Jason Morell recently took over from Julian Bleach as Mr. Sowerberry.

On 8 February 2010, the Laurence Olivier Awards nominations were announced for this year's ceremony. Oliver! has received three nominations: Best Revival of a Musical, Best Actor in a Musical (for Rowan Atkinson) and Best Theatre Choreography (for Matthew Bourne). The winners will be announced at the official ceremony on 21 March.

Principal characters

  • Oliver Twist, the protagonist of the story, he is a lonely orphan boy born in the workhouse.
  • Fagin, a conniving career criminal, he takes in homeless boys and teaches them to pick pockets for him.
  • Nancy, Bill Sikes's lover, she takes a liking to Oliver and treats him like her own child.
  • Mr. Brownlow, Oliver's grandfather, a man of wealth and breeding.
  • Bill Sikes, Nancy's brutal and abusive lover, a burglar and eventual murderer.
  • Mr. Bumble, the pompous beadle of the workhouse in which Oliver was born.
  • The Artful Dodger, the cleverest of Fagin's pickpockets, he introduces Fagin to Oliver.
  • Mr. & Mrs. Sowerberry, the couple who take in Oliver and use him in their funeral business.
  • Mrs. Corney, the matron of the workhouse where Oliver was born, later marries Mr. Bumble.
  • Charlotte Sowerberry, the rude but also flirtatious daughter of the Sowerberrys.
  • Noah Claypole, The Sowerberrys' apprentice, he bullies Oliver about his mother and enjoys a flirty relationship with Charlotte.
  • Bet, Nancy's friend, one of Fagin's former pickpockets.
  • Charley Bates, one of Fagin's pickpockets. He is Dodger's sidekick.
  • Mrs. Bedwin, house-servant to Mr. Brownlow and caretaker of Oliver.

Recordings and films

The 1968 motion picture won six Academy Awards and continues to be broadcast regularly. CD cast recordings of the show include: 1960 original London cast; 1963 original Broadway cast; 1994 London Palladium cast; and 2009 London cast (recorded live on opening night). There are also several studio recordings available, including a version by the National Symphony Orchestra, conducted by John Owen Edwards with opera singer Josephine Barstow as Nancy. Another features English actress Sally Ann Triplett in the role.[citation needed]


Dodger!, a sequel to Lionel Bart's Oliver! was composed by Andrew Fletcher with the book and lyrics written by David Lambert. It is set seven years after the events in the novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens where the Artful Dodger has been sentenced to an Australian penal colony and has a romantic involvement with the character Bet.[9]

References and notes

  1. ^ Kenny, Sean. "Designing Oliver", The Strand Archive, 18, ii, 7 September 1960, pp. 6–12. The edition also contains articles by the lighting engineer, John Wyckham (pp. 12–16), and by K. R. Ackerman (pp. 17–18).
  2. ^ listing
  3. ^ Oliver! at the Internet Broadway Database The First Broadway production
  4. ^ Jones, Kenneth."Nearly NYC: Mackintosh's Oliver! Tour Plays Newark's Prudential Hall March 30-April 4" (partial reference),, March 30, 2004
  5. ^ Jones, Kenneth."Non-Equity Oliver!, Inspired by Mackintosh Revisal in London, Starts U.S. Tour Nov. 11",, November 11, 2003
  6. ^ Shenton, Mark (28 May 2008). "Jones, Stott and Jeffcoate Will Be Oliver in London Revival of Lionel Bart Musical". Playbill. Retrieved 29 May 2008. 
  7. ^ BBC - Oliver page about the television show.
  8. ^ Shenton, Mark. "Carroll and Lark Join Company of London Oliver! Revival; Casting Now Complete",, October 30, 2008
  9. ^ BBC Norfolk review of Dodger!

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Oliver! is a British musical written by Lionel Bart, based on Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. It was first produced in the West End in 1960. It later appeared on Broadway in 1963 and was made into a film in 1968, starring Mark Lester, Oliver Reed and Ron Moody.


  • In this life, one thing counts
    In the bank, large amounts
    I'm afraid these don't grow on trees,
    You've got to pick-a-pocket or two.
    You've got to pick-a-pocket or two, boys,
    You've got to pick-a-pocket or two.
  • Food, glorious food!
    Hot sausage and mustard!
    While we're in the mood
    Cold jelly and custard!
    Pease pudding and saveloys,
    what next, is the question?
    Rich gentlemen have it, boys:
  • As long as her needs me.
    Oh yes, he does need me.
    In spite of what you see,
    I'm sure that he needs me.
  • Would you climb a hill? - Anything
    Wear a daffodil? - Anything
    Leave me all your will? - Anything
    Even fight my Bill? - What fisticuffs?!


  • Oliver Twist: Please sir, can I have some more?
  • Fagin: Shut up and drink your gin

External links

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Simple English

Oliver! is a British musical, based on the book Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. It was first performed in Britain in 1960 and in America in 1963. It was made into a movie in 1968, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

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