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1984 Revival of Oliver

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Littleshopofcarrie
Broadway Star
joined:12/9/12
1984 Revival of Oliver
Posted: 1/6/14 at 08:51pm
Did anyone by chance see this? What made it fail?
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PalJoey
Broadway Legend
joined:3/11/04
1984 Revival of Oliver
Posted: 1/6/14 at 09:25pm
I saw it. All I remember (and will never forget) is Patti LuPone.

Like The Sound of Music and (arguably) West Side Story, Oliver is a case where the movie version is a vast improvement on the original show. The movie version, most notably, includes the brilliantly simple choreography of Onna White.

But the stage version just seems like lukewarm Dickens with a couple of good songs and a lot of clunkers.
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Jordan Catalano
Broadway Legend
joined:10/9/05
1984 Revival of Oliver
Posted: 1/7/14 at 12:30am
I've only seen it on video and it wasn't that great. I watched OLIVER & COMPANY tonight and enjoyed it much more than that revival.
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Demitri2
Broadway Star
joined:3/25/05
1984 Revival of Oliver
Posted: 1/7/14 at 01:25am
OLIVER is a strange show. My fourth grade teacher took us to see the original production and I loved it, especially Georgia Brown and Davey Jones. It was very moving and kind of scary for a child. Then I saw a revival years later with Shani Wallis repeating her film role and it was a total bore. It just sat there with no redeeming qualities (of course I guess you could blame the director but I don't think that was necessarily the case here). MAME is another show like that. Even the revival with Lansbury plodded along where the original show was wonderful. A couple of years ago I saw a full mounted production in Seattle with Dee Hoty and it sucked big time.
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best12bars
Broadway Legend
joined:6/29/05
1984 Revival of Oliver
Posted: 1/7/14 at 06:19am
I don't think everyone should judge the stage show of Oliver! by a single, lifeless revival.

EDIT: Oliver! is a musical that demands interesting, creative staging, with energetic direction, and a larger-than-life cast. The revival had none of those, including LuPone and Moody. Patti may have been the highlight of the revival, but she's dreadful in that bootleg circulating. If she's the highlight, that says everything about the poor quality of that production, not of the show itself.

And yes, there are many changes in the film that improve the material. As much as Onna White's staging adds to the film, I think the biggest asset was having Sir Carol Reed direct it. His forte was suspense films. He was another Hitchcock, primarily, and an odd choice for Oliver! But he added it a level of mounting tension to many scenes from the pickpocket/chase scene where Oliver is arrested, to Oom-Pah-Pah (which was moved to a new plot location in the movie), to the finale/chase with Oliver and Bill Sykes that are very difficult to match on any stage.

Difficult, but not impossible.

You need a great cast, director, and choreographer to pull it off. The worst mistake that can be made is handing this material to a paint-by-numbers hack who thinks the material can pretty much drive and sell itself if the director just "directs the traffic" and the actors just "say the lines" and "sing the songs." First of all, anybody who feels that way about any musical or play should be shot, and second of all, you will never get away with that in Oliver!
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Updated On: 1/7/14 at 06:19 AM
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themysteriousgrowl
Broadway Legend
joined:11/10/10
1984 Revival of Oliver
Posted: 1/7/14 at 07:55am

OLIVER! was my high schools show senior year. Our (nominal) director had been directing high school shows around the area for about a thousand years. (And hes still going, God bless him.) But he certainly had no interest in directing yet another OLIVER!

He literally brought a videocassette of a production hed done in 1985 to the first rehearsal, sat the entire cast down in front of a TV, popped the tape into the VCR, said, Do it this way, and disappeared for three weeks.

Left to our own devices aided by having a pliable and ambivalent assistant director we created a sort of mishmash hybrid book that took elements of the licensed version, the movie, and the (then-recent) Palladium revival. Totally illegal, of course, and I wouldn't claim the result was better than the show as written, but it was interesting and certainly darker.
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ClapYo'Hands
Broadway Legend
joined:11/29/09
1984 Revival of Oliver
Posted: 1/7/14 at 08:50am
"Like The Sound of Music and (arguably) West Side Story, Oliver is a case where the movie version is a vast improvement on the original show."

I would agree about The Sound of Music but not about Oliver! and certainly not about West Side Story.
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Gothampc
Broadway Legend
joined:5/20/03
1984 Revival of Oliver
Posted: 1/7/14 at 08:59am
Oliver was Patti LuPone's audition for the role of Fantine in Les Miserables.
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newintown
Broadway Legend
joined:3/3/10
1984 Revival of Oliver
Posted: 1/7/14 at 09:05am
Because most people know Oliver! primarily from the film, they think of Nancy merely as a belter who sells "As Long As He Needs Me" like a number from a variety show.

What Georgia Brown (ne Lily Klot) captured (as I've never seen since) was the earthy poverty and sensuality of Dickens' creation. That crazy mop of jet-black hair, her gorgeous ultra-low and husky voice, her simple and straightforward rendition of her songs were all perfect. Shani Wallis, as prettily as she sang it, might as well have been playing Liesl in The Sound of Music, what with her sanitary, shiny, and sexless take on the role.

Don't get me wrong, I love the movie. But it certainly loses a certain dirty quirkiness in translation from the stage.
Gothampc
Broadway Legend
joined:5/20/03
1984 Revival of Oliver
Posted: 1/7/14 at 09:07am
"Oliver! is a musical that demands interesting, creative staging, with energetic direction, and a larger-than-life cast."

I don't mean to threadjack, but this is also true for "On The Town". I went to the '98 revival and I ended up thinking it was so slow. I believe this was the production that played in Central Park and then moved to the Gershwin. I was really disappointed because I wanted to see an energetic production, but this wasn't it.

eta: I also think the recent tv version of The Sound Of Music demonstrates how this show has the potential to drag. As has been noted, once Maria is married, the show's over.
If anyone ever tells you that you put too much Parmesan cheese on your pasta, stop talking to them. You don't need that kind of negativity in your life.
Updated On: 1/7/14 at 09:07 AM
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MrMidwest
Broadway Legend
joined:2/8/05
1984 Revival of Oliver
Posted: 1/7/14 at 09:11am
Patti doing As Long as He Needs Me in concert:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qz_6k_i1ANc
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best12bars
Broadway Legend
joined:6/29/05
1984 Revival of Oliver
Posted: 1/7/14 at 09:15am
newintown---I know a lot of people, my parents included, who said the same thing about Georgia Brown as Nancy.

I just don't see it in the clips. I see a woman who is too old to play Nancy, that comes off as a matronly housekeeper with a whisky voice who can carry a tune, but not much beyond it.

Shani Wallis, was and is Nancy for me.

But that's what I grew up with. I completely see her and buy her as someone who "slutted" for a place to sleep, picked pockets when she was half Oliver's age, etc. She seems wiry, lean, and mean. Hardened, but with a bosomy figure. Her eyes are hopeful but desperate, not dull from booze and experience.

I don't think Georgia Brown's Nancy would have worked on film for all the reasons I stated. She wouldn't illicit nearly enough sympathy as a woman long past her prime. She comes off as someone who should know better at her age and with all that history showing up in her face and in her voice. It makes her more foolish than naive.
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Gothampc
Broadway Legend
joined:5/20/03
1984 Revival of Oliver
Posted: 1/7/14 at 09:16am
"What Georgia Brown (ne Lily Klot) captured (as I've never seen since) was the earthy poverty and sensuality of Dickens' creation. That crazy mop of jet-black hair, her gorgeous ultra-low and husky voice, her simple and straightforward rendition of her songs were all perfect."

I wish I had been old enough to see her perform because I love her voice. And unfortunately everytime she returned to Broadway, I wasn't able to get to NYC. Thank goodness for the Ed Sullivan clip so I can experience what her performance was like.
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The Other One
Featured Actor
joined:4/1/08
1984 Revival of Oliver
Posted: 1/7/14 at 09:17am
I have never seen "Oliver!" on stage. I was familiar with the Original Broadway Cast Recording of the show and had begun to read Dickens when I first saw the film version. To me, the movie seemed a bit on the perky side compared to what I heard on the album, and the choreography overwhelmed "Consider Yourself" and "Who Will Buy?". Then for many years the film was probably the most cited example of an undeserved Best Oscar Winner, understandably so considering the quality of many other movies in 1968 (Romeo & Juliet, 2001, The Lion In Winter, Planet of the Apes et. al). When I watched it again in adulthood I was surprised by how good it in fact is. The entire cast is excellent, and it is indeed involving, suspenseful and even gripping. The two numbers I mentioned do go on too long, and you lose sight of Oliver Twist in the process, but they are highly entertaining, and the reveal of Sykes and Nancy following "Who Will Buy?" is arguably more effective because of the distraction. It is an exceptionally well-directed movie, even if other movies released that year were more impressive.

I was surprised to read that Nancy's use of "Oom-Pah-Pah" to distract Sykes was not a part of the original stage show. There is a comparable moment of Nancy using a pub song to sneak Oliver out without Sykes noticing in David Lean's film of "Oliver Twist", so I just assumed Bart recreated the moment with a song for his own version. Reed clearly did his job by the material in placing the song where he did, and Wallis plays it perfectly.

I still would love to see a good production of the show on stage. As Best12 says, I am certain a good director and a great cast could make a case for it. The story, the characters and the songs are all right there.

Updated On: 1/10/14 at 09:17 AM
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themysteriousgrowl
Broadway Legend
joined:11/10/10
1984 Revival of Oliver
Posted: 1/7/14 at 09:31am

I love both versions. And I can't find the film of Sonia Swaby doing it on "Hey, Mr. Producer!" but it's also quite good.
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best12bars
Broadway Legend
joined:6/29/05
1984 Revival of Oliver
Posted: 1/7/14 at 09:39am
To me, it's really a difference of stage vs. screen. They obviously worked well in their intended media.

Just like Mary Martin's Maria in The Sound of Music is an older, more "substantial" presence ... and is as far a cry from Julie Andrews' Maria in the film version as Shani Wallis is to Georgia Brown's Nancy.


If NBC does end up doing "Oliver!" on TV this year, my one "please borrow this from the movie" request (since they added Something Good from the film of Sound of Music) would be to reposition Oom-Pah-Pah and use it as a tension-builder as it was in the film.

That may require them to get the rights to the film screenplay, and I'm not sure who owns them now.
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Gothampc
Broadway Legend
joined:5/20/03
1984 Revival of Oliver
Posted: 1/7/14 at 09:43am
I know a lot of productions delete "I Shall Scream" but I love that song. It's a great five minutes for a strong character actress. So if they did it on tv, my request would be to get a great character actress to do the number. Maybe Harriet Harris?
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newintown
Broadway Legend
joined:3/3/10
1984 Revival of Oliver
Posted: 1/7/14 at 09:55am
The use of "Oom-Pah-Pah" in the movie really is brilliant, as is the omission of "My Name." I never could imagine why Bart never came up with a better song for Sykes; "My Name" is about as threatening and scary as "I'm a Bad, Bad Man" from Annie Get Your Gun.
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doodlenyc
Broadway Legend
joined:11/5/04
1984 Revival of Oliver
Posted: 1/7/14 at 10:09am
I loved Patti in the revival and ADORE Shani Wallis in the film. I think they were both sexy and filled the character of Nancy. I think the film is as good as any of the other top films of 1968 and was not as undeserving of the Oscar as many other winners.

Having bopped around ibdb to check out each cast, I was surprised to see that Barry Humphries, aka Dame Edna, was the original Broadway Mr. Sowerberry, and understudied Clive Revill!
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best12bars
Broadway Legend
joined:6/29/05
1984 Revival of Oliver
Posted: 1/7/14 at 10:15am
For anyone who thinks "Oliver!" was a surprise win in 1968, it wasn't. It was predicted by many of the Hollywood press covering the race that year. Not that it was everybody's favorite film, but going into the awards, it was the odds-on favorite to win. And obviously enough Academy members voted for it.
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best12bars
Broadway Legend
joined:6/29/05
1984 Revival of Oliver
Posted: 1/7/14 at 10:19am
Many people do cut "I Shall Scream!" as well as "That's Your Funeral." Some people think they slow the plot down. I like both songs. "I Shall Scream" actually serves to advance the plot (only slightly) because Mr. Bumble and Mrs. Corney actually become engaged during the scene/song, and when they both show up for their last scene with the locket, they are married (she is now Mrs. Bumble).

In the movie, they just made them married from the start. She is already Mrs. Bumble.
"Jaws is the Citizen Kane of movies."
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themysteriousgrowl
Broadway Legend
joined:11/10/10
1984 Revival of Oliver
Posted: 1/7/14 at 10:30am

Oh, man, "That's Your Funeral" is one of my favorite songs in that score.
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Jonwo
Broadway Legend
joined:3/16/06
1984 Revival of Oliver
Posted: 1/7/14 at 11:52am
I wonder if the failure of the 1984 revival was what influenced Cameron Mackintosh to reinvent the show with the 1994 Palladium production which had new sets rather than the Sean Kenny set that had been used for many years.

Cameron also got Lionel Bart to write some new material to guarantee him royalties because Lionel had sold the Oliver! Rights years before and was broke.
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theatregeek6
Broadway Star
joined:6/19/13
1984 Revival of Oliver
Posted: 1/7/14 at 12:22pm
I saw the Palladium revival mid-nineties with Jonathan Pryce and Sally Dexter and it was visually wonderful and well produced. The show became even more dark and Dexter was an incredible Nancy.


It can succeed quite well on stage when approached correctly.
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best12bars
Broadway Legend
joined:6/29/05
1984 Revival of Oliver
Posted: 1/7/14 at 12:55pm
Cameron also got Lionel Bart to write some new material to guarantee him royalties because Lionel had sold the Oliver! Rights years before and was broke.

I'm curious about the new material. Can anybody cite examples? Was it in the book or were lyrics/music adjusted?
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Musicaldudepeter
Broadway Star
joined:3/18/10
1984 Revival of Oliver
Posted: 1/7/14 at 01:06pm
Yes but when Mackintosh re-mounted the Palladium production in 2009 in London, it was diluted once again, because of the new director - Rupert Goold who 'adapted' Mendes's original 1994 direction. Mendes approached Oliver! as a play with music; it was a grotesquely dark, terrifying production. He cast it with classical actors, not musical theatre stars (Jonathan Pryce as Fagin, Sally Dexter as Nancy and Miles Anderson as Sikes)... Just listen to Dexter on Fine Life reprise on the 1994 recording - it is truly breathtaking.

Unfortunately, I don't see how Oom-Pah-Pah would work in the show putting it at the end like in the film, as it is a strong opener for Act 2, and also the London Bridge chase scene happens directly after the Brownlow/Nancy scene in the show - the show would drag on if you went back to the pub to do Oom-Pah-Pah before Nancy's death...

I think one of the main problems with the show is that it takes so long to actually settle plot-wise... The three major characters, Fagin, Nancy and Sikes, are arguably supporting roles since the first two don't appear until the last scene in act 1, and the latter until the first scene in act 2...

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