The Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton – 2011
WBOS were proud to bring one of the nation’s favourite musicals to the Grand Theatre in 2011.
Based on Charles Dickens’ famous novel, Lionel Bart’s OLIVER! tells the story of an orphan as he discovers the difference between the darkness of the underworld and the love and warmth of the upper classes in Victorian London. He encounters and builds friendships with many famous characters along his journey including: Mr Bumble, The Artful Dodger, Bill Sykes, Nancy, and of course everyone’s favourite villain – Fagin.
With a score that includes songs such as Consider Yourself, You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two, As Long as He Needs Me and Oom- Pah-Pah, it is little wonder Lionel Bart’s OLIVER! has enjoyed over 40 years of theatrical success and still continues to delight audiences of all ages.
Whether revisiting this wonderful musical, or introducing a new generation to its joys, WBOS’ production promises to give you MORE!
SETTING: London, 1850.
The curtain opens with Oliver Twist working at an orphanage. The boys sing “Food, glorious food” as they wait for supper. They are all hungry after their one cup of gruel and Oliver asks for more.
Mr. and Mrs. Bumble sing”Oliver!”, and Oliver is a “Boy for sale” after being upset by his impudence. Oliver is bought by Mr. Sowerberry, the undertaker. Saved from one enemy in Mr. Bumble, Oliver’s new enemy is Noah Claypole. A fight between them leads to Oliver being locked up as he sings the tender “Where is love”. Oliver runs away where he soon meets the Artful Dodger who sings “Consider yourself “. He is introduced to Fagin and his boys and is taught that “You’ve got to pick a pocket or two”.
Fagin sneaks out late in the evening to meet Bill Sikes at The Three Cripples. Despite the obvious drawbacks of living in the slum, Nancy assures us that “It’s a fine life”. The following morning Nancy and Bet arrives and Oliver gets to know them during the song “I’d do anything”, after which Fagin sends the boys out on the streets hoping that they’ll “Be back soon”. Well, they aren’t, at least not Oliver. He’s been arrested for looking guilty when Dodger stole a wallet.
But Oliver is a lucky kid; he’s proved innocent and the old man who got robbed, Mr. Brownlow, takes him home with him. In the morning the whole street joins Oliver in the question of “Who will buy”. But plans are being made for Oliver’s reunion with his old friends. Sikes efficiently persuades Nancy to help him with the task, rending Nancy singing “As long as he needs me”. Fagin is “Reviewing the situation”, thinking about changing his way of life. Nancy shortly realises that Oliver’s life is in danger as long as he stays with the thieves and she contacts Mr. Brownlow, who in the meantime has found out that Oliver is the son of his long lost niece.
She promises she’ll take Oliver to him, and she almost succeeds, diverting Sikes attention with the little ditty “Oom- pah- pah”. When Sikes figures out what’s going on, he kills Nancy. In desperation he takes Oliver with him, trying to escape over the roofs, but is killed himself by a police officer.
Fagin and the Dodger review the situation once again and decide that together they might be able to retire respectable. Oliver finally finds his real family.
BACKGROUND OF LIONEL BART & OLIVER!
The musical OLIVER! was adapted from the book Oliver Twist, written by Charles Dickens. The music, lyrics and book adaptation were written by Lionel Bart.
Bart was born Lionel Begleiter on August 1, 1930 and the youngest of seven children of a Jewish family that survived the Holocaust. The family moved to the East End of London where Lionel grew up. Although he was said to have been a musical genius at a very early age, he didn’t have the drive needed to continue studying seriously. He received a scholarship to St. Martin’s School of Art when he was 16, but was expelled for his behaviour.
In the early 1950’s, he was passing St. Bartholomews Hospital in a bus, and decided to change his name to Bart. At that time he was working writing lyrics and comedy for a number of groups, including the Sunday lunchtime BBC radio program, the Billy Cotton Band Show. He was awarded three Ivor Novella Awards in 1957, four in 1959, and two in 1960 when he also was named Show Business Personality of the Year winning the Variety Club Silver Heart.
After his great success with OLIVER!, Bart’s created the musical Twang!! which was a definite flop. After the disappointment of this failure, his personal problems took their toll. He used much of his money to keep Twang!! going and found himself in dire financial straights. He was bankrupt by 1972 and turned to alcohol. He was finally persuaded to give up alcohol and treat his diabetes. He received a special Ivor Novello Award for his life’s achievement in 1986. He died on April 3, 1999, in London.
On June 30, 1960, OLIVER! opened at the New Theatre (later renamed the Albery Theatre) with 23 curtain calls. It ran for 2,618 performances in London. With it’s successful run in London still going strong, it opened at the Imperial Theatre on January 6, 1963 on Broadway, running for 774 performances. The Broadway production won a Tony for Bart. He was the first English composer to win a Tony for Best Musical. Several child actors started their careers in the title role including Davy Jones.
The revival opened in London, on December 8, 1994. It closed on February 23, 1998 before going on tour and then to Broadway.
The 1968 movie, directed by Sir Carol Reed, starred Mark Lester as Oliver, Ron Moody (from the original stage cast) as Fagin, Shaniz Wallis as Nancy, and Oliver Reed as Bill Sikes.
- 3 Tony Awards
- – Composer and Lyricist
- – Conductor and Musical Director
- – Scenic Designer
- 12 Academy Award Nominations
- Six Academy Awards
- – Best Picture
- – Best Director
- – Best Art Direction
- – Best Music
- – Best Sound
- – Special Award for Oona White’s Choreography