"Consider yourself at home" with Oliver: the Musical if you wish to experience an evening at the theater that offers a healthy helping of entertainment as well as a moving drama that transports you in time and place – in this case, the world of nineteenth century English low-society. Adapted from the famous novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, Oliver! is a British musical that opened in London's West End in 1960. Music, lyrics and the book for the first production were all written by Lionel Bart. It became an instant hit and ran for over two thousand performances. It was made into a musical film and has been distinguished by numerous revivals and accolades.
Oliver! became hugely successful on Broadway when it opened in 1964. Twenty years later, in 1984, the Broadway revival of the musical took place, bringing back long-time fans and engaging new ones. Oliver! won the Tony Award for Best Original Score and eventually had two West End Revivals, one in 1994 and the latest one in 2009.
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The plot of Dickens's original novel has been significantly simplified in order to fit the peculiar requirements of musical theater. Some of Dickens's originally dark elements were replaced by comedy in Oliver! This blunting of the sharp edges of what was intended as social critique by the author, was not appreciated by some puritan critics of the musical who would rather see more fidelity to the original text and the preservation of Dickens's despondent, tragic aura. The majority of people, however, have welcomed the dilution of the heavy-handed elements of the novel. Oliver! does a great job of depicting Dickens's world and his concerns for the down-trodden – this emotive but burdensome theme is balanced by the impressive musical score and humor.
Oliver: The Musical has been an unprecedented success and the first musical adaptation of any work by the literary master to become a theatrical hit. The two previous Dickens musicals in the 1950s, both of them adaptations of A Christmas Carol for Television, pale in comparison to Oliver! in terms of popular appeal. The innovative design, especially the revolving stage set boosted audience ratings.
Songs from Oliver! such as "Food, Glorious Food," "Consider Yourself," "As Long as He Needs Me," "You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two," "Oom-Pah-Pah" and "Where is Love?" have become classics of musical theater.
In 1968 Oliver! won Six Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best sound, Best Musical Score, Best Art-Direction and Best Director. Despite the sobering theme of child abuse (masterfully depicted by Dickens) Oliver! garners the catchiest, most hummable songs of contemporary theater. This memorable story of orphans and their corrupt caretakers, benefactors and pick-pockets has a way of engaging the unlikeliest audiences because of the way it incorporates music. With its amazing blend of authentic historical fiction and contemporary music and choreography, Oliver! is sure to make it a fun evening at the theater for adults and children alike.
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