Theatre / Oliver!

Oliver! is a musical adaptation of Oliver Twist, with book, music, and lyrics all by Lionel Bart. It premiered on London's West End in 1960, and had its first Broadway production in 1963.

The Movie was released in 1968. It was directed by Carol Reed (The Third Man). It starred Oliver Reed (Carol's nephew) as Bill Sikes, Mark Lester as Oliver (with his songs sung by a girl, Kathe Green), and Ron Moody as Fagin. It was the last musical to win the Academy Award for Best Picture until Chicago 34 years later, and it remains the only G-rated movie to win.

Oliver! provides examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Fagin and Dodger, who, while genuinely pleasant to the kids under their care, actively look for children to recruit using many of the same criteria as modern cults. Fagin, however, after seeing how Nancy and Bill turned out, has something of a change of heart and, after some soul-searching and the destruction of his operation, resolves to turn over a new leaf.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Nancy sings about her love of Bill Sikes, the best thief, who's a cold, bullying monster. It turns out bad for her in the end - he winds up killing her.
  • The Artful Dodger: Well of course. In fact even more so than in the book.
  • Being Evil Sucks: Alone, we see Fagin contemplating this during "Reviewing the Situation", but also noting how hard it would be to start over as a good guy.
    Fagin: And though I'd be the first one to say that I wasn't a saint/I'm finding it hard to be truly as black as they paint...
  • Berserk Button: Do not insult Oliver's dead mother. Or call him a liar for that matter, doesn't matter whether you are a "work ass" calling jerkass or Bill Big Bad Sikes himself, you will make an ugly scene.
  • Broken Bird: Nancy. Her plight is summed up in her song, "As Long as He Needs Me" which explains why she stays with Sikes despite his domestic abuse.
  • The Brute: Bill Sikes.
  • Character Development: Fagin provides a very interesting case study in the movie adaptation. When Oliver first meets him, he's a loud and frightening stranger who emerges from a cloud of smoke like the very Devil from Hell, bellowing at some random youngster who complains about the food to "Shut up and drink your gin!" Then, as Oliver gets introduced to everyone and he shows him around, Fagin starts looking a lot more like a comical villain, particularly during the song "You've Got to Pick a Pocket Or Two" where he hams up his whole Greedy Jew motif to pull some laughs. Later, as things get more serious, he reveals in his song "Reviewing the Situation" that he's tired of his whole criminal enterprise and wants out, but truly has nowhere to go, making him quite a sympathetic character indeed. By the end, he's pretty much run the entire range of Jewish villain characterizations from Shakespeare's time to ours.
  • Cheerful Child: Oliver brings out the best in nearly everyone he meets, even Fagin. The exceptions to this are the completely heartless.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Both Nancy and Sikes grew up in Fagin's gang of child pickpockets, and some stage productions deliberately imply this trope when casting a younger actor as Sikes.
  • Compressed Adaptation: A lot of plot convolutions and their related characters, particularly regarding Oliver's tangled family history, get left out.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Oliver witnesses and initially gets blamed for Dodger pick-pocketing, his own great uncle, no less.
  • Creepy Mortician: Both the stage and film versions have the Sowerberrys, a whole family of this. They even get a song, "That's Your Funeral."
  • Demoted to Extra: Charley Bates. His role is greatly reduced from the novel. Likely done to put more emphasis on the Artful Dodger.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Speaking Bill Sykes' name aloud is, apparently, grounds for being killed, even if it's a whisper. He claims he actually followed through and did kill someone for boasting that he could his name in vain.
  • Domestic Abuser: Bill Sikes to Nancy.
  • Double Entendre: The entirety of "Oom-Pah-Pah" is a glorious pileup of double entendres, with just enough subtlety to avoid being cut from even the most kid-friendly productions. Though it's up to the viewer to decide whether "oom-pah-pah" is meant to be alcohol, sex, or both.
    Nancy: They all suppose what they want to suppose, when they hear "oom-pah-pah"!
  • The Dreaded: Sykes. The moment he arrives in the tavern after "Oom-Pah-Pah" the whole place goes dead quiet, seguing perfectly into his Villain Song.
    Sykes: Strong men tremble when they hear it
    They've got cause enough to fear it
    It's much blacker than they smear it
    Nobody mentions... my name.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Fagin seems to dislike Bill Sikes's penchant for violence and his treatment of Nancy. The thieves and pickpockets under his care also react with horror when Sikes beats Nancy in front of them. Also, when Sikes tells the gang that he murdered Nancy, Fagin is visibly horrified and refuses to help him escape.
  • Excited Show Title!: Oliver!
  • The Fagin: Obviously.
  • Fingerless Gloves: Fagin wears them.
  • Gender Flip: In some adaptations of the stage musical, the Artful Dodger is played by a girl.
  • Gray Rain of Depression: The rain pours as Oliver wearily tredges a muddy road to London after escaping from Mr. Sowerberry.
  • Heel–Face Turn:
    • Nancy is forced by Sikes to lead Oliver into a trap so he can be brought back to Fagin. Later she risks her own life to save Oliver from Sikes.
    • Sikes's dog Bullseye. After Sikes murders Nancy, Bullseye runs back to the crowd and leads them to Sikes and Oliver.
    • Subverted with Fagin in the movie. He plans to do this, but instead chooses to leave with Dodger and continue a life of pickpocketing. It's rather heartwarming, in a strange way. In the theatre version, however, he plays it straight, deciding that with the breaking up and arrest of his gang, along with the loss of his precious treasures, there has never been a better time to change his ways.
  • Jerkass:
  • Knight of Cerebus: Bill Sykes. The show gets much darker once he shows up.
  • Large Ham: Fagin.
  • Lighter and Softer: The book on which it's based Oliver Twist is much darker and more grim than the musical.
  • Loveable Rogue:
    • Fagin, de-emphasizing his Greedy Jew characterization in the original. Particularly notable is Ron Moody's cheerfully hammy performance in the 1968 film version. (He even stands up for Oliver on two occasions.)
    • Jack Dawkins, aka the Artful Dodger, is also a "kinder gentler" version; he steals to survive but bears no malice. In fact, the only truly evil gang member is Sikes.
  • The Musical
  • Of Corsets Sexy
  • Orphanage of Fear: The workhouse.
  • Protagonist Title
  • A Round of Drinks for the House: discussed (optimistically) in "Consider Yourself".
    Always a chance we'll meet somebody to foot the bill
    Then the drinks are on the house!
  • Say My Name Oliver!
    • But especially in "My Name"
      Sikes: What is it?
  • Spared by the Adaptation:
    • Fagin avoids capture and execution in the end.
    • The Artful Dodger avoids arrest and being sent to Australia.
    • Some productions leave Nancy's death ambiguous, implying there's a chance she survived. The film version leaves no doubt that Sikes killed her.
    • Bullseye does not fall to his death leaping up at Sikes' body as in the novel.
  • Unholy Matrimony: Subverted with the Bumbles. In their early scenes, they flirt a lot and get a whole silly love song to themselves, but by the end of the play when they reappear, having finally tied the knot, it's clear that, being awful people, they have only managed to make one another miserable.
  • Villain Song: "You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two" for Fagin, "My Name" for Sikes. Other characters who have villainous traits such as the Bumbles and the Sowerberries have their own in "Oliver" and "That's Your Funeral" respectively.
  • Welcoming Song: The boys sing "Consider Yourself" to welcome Oliver into their gang
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: The title character.
  • Your Mom: Noah insults Oliver's mom and outright calls him a bastard.