Usually, the original Broadway cast album of a stage musical is recorded on an off-day just after the show has opened in New York. But Oliver! is a special case. In fact, this LP was released months before the musical's scheduled Broadway opening. The reason is that Oliver! , a musical adaptation of Charles Dickens' novel Oliver Twist with script ...
Usually, the original Broadway cast album of a stage musical is recorded on an off-day just after the show has opened in New York. But Oliver! is a special case. In fact, this LP was released months before the musical's scheduled Broadway opening. The reason is that Oliver! , a musical adaptation of Charles Dickens' novel Oliver Twist with script and music by British pop songwriter Lionel Bart, originated in the U.K., where it became a long-running hit, opening in the West End back on June 30, 1960. Since the show was a finished product, not a work in progress, the American production began not with the typical out-of-town tryout, but rather with a 1962 North American tour starting in Los Angeles with stops in San Francisco, Detroit, and Toronto, to reach New York in January 1963. To meet resulting demand, record stores had been importing the original London cast LP, and that caused RCA Victor Records to rush the American cast into the studio in L.A. and cut this album ahead of the usual time and rush-release it while the tour was still going on. Actually, "American cast" is a misnomer, since the performers are largely British, even if only two of the principals, Danny Sewell as the villain, Bill Sikes, and Georgia Brown as Nancy, are from the original London cast. As on the earlier cast album, however, the real star of the show is Bart's score. With a collection of simple, catchy U.K. pop hits behind him (plus work on a couple of earlier musicals), he has a way with a tune and with a lyric, even if he keeps things very simple. In fact, nearly every song here sounds like it was written to be sung in a pub, and many of the songs have strong choral parts lustily intoned by the cockney-inflected voices. In Britain, the heart-rending ballad "As Long as He Needs Me" and the more uptempo "Consider Yourself" and "I'd Do Anything" have all become pop hits, and other songs are equally infectious, if less extractable. (It's hard to imagine a pop singer covering Fagin's "You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two," entertaining as it is.) At least on the basis of Bart's score and this cast's performances, this show was poised to be a big hit on Broadway, just as it had been in the West End. [By the time of the Broadway opening on January 6, 1963, Michael Goodman had been replaced in the role of the Artful Dodger by David Jones. As Davy Jones, he went to become a member of the Monkees in 1966. But he is not heard on this album.] [Initial releases of the LP sequenced the song "I'd Do Anything" as the 14th track, out of the order in which it was performed on-stage. As of the 1989 reissue, it was moved to its proper place as the eighth track.] ~ William Ruhlmann, Rovi