Dorothy Gale is swept away from a farm in Kansas to a magical land of Oz in a tornado and embarks on a quest with her new friends to see the Wizard who can help her return home to Kansas and help her friends as well.
(Bill Sikes' theme)
Music by Lionel Bart
Adapted by Johnny Green from Lionel Bart's song for the original stage production
Heard as background music throughout many of the scenes involving Bill Sikes See more »
But I know that not everyone loves musicals. So: if you find the musical genre contrived or unnatural or kitschy, if it's just not your thing, then don't bother with this movie because it is unabashedly and outstandingly a MUSICAL.
The songs: "Food, Glorious Food," "Consider Yourself," "You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two," just for starters. These are wonderfully singable, indelibly memorable, and they move the plot and action along the way musical numbers in a film should. This is a lost art now, I'm convinced, although maybe with the TV series "Glee!" now riding a wave of popularity, there will be some talented musicians and lyricists who will revive this art-form. Anyway, suffice it to say: "Oliver!" is the musical at its best.
The actors: Oh my lord. Here we have Ron Moody in the role of Fagin, and he is INDELIBLE. He doesn't just act the role, he doesn't just sing it and dance it, he slips into the character's skin and he IS Fagin, in a way that makes it impossible to imagine anyone else in this role.
Jack Wild as the Artful Dodger. He's just superb, audacious and sassy and swaggering, and you can't help but like him even as you see him cheerfully taking up a life of crime. He makes us accept the character as someone basically good-hearted who is just adapting to the life he has to live. Matter-of-factly and without malice, and leaping to grab joy when the opportunity presents itself.
Shani Wallis as Nancy: tender and tough, tough and tender, she has the virtues of loyalty and honesty even as those values become hindrances to survival. She is who she is and she doesn't apologize for it, she's key to saving young Oliver.
Oliver Reed as Bill Sikes. I love Oliver Reed, always have, and he dominates every scene he has in this movie. You look at him and you see what the Artful Dodger would turn into if he had malice in his soul. Sikes is dangerous; he has no code but survival for himself, and he'll throw anyone else to the wolves without pausing to think about it if it serves him to do so. Oliver Reed really makes the movie work, because he brings genuine menance and sexuality to his role, which serves as a counterpoint for the sweetness of the musical as a whole.
And finally, Mark Lester. He is beyond winsome as the title character, a completely believable innocent who is without guile and imbued with a natural sense of goodness. I just love looking at Mark Lester, he's such a beautiful and dreamy-looking child.
This movie is about as good as a musical gets: it's visually stunning, in the sets and the cinematography and the costumes, and in the staging of the musical numbers. The characters are wonderful, they're classics. The plot is pared down to the basics and conveys the material as Dickens wrote it without being slavish or getting bogged down in detail.
When I saw this movie for the first time, I laughed and I cried and I sat at the edge of my seat, and when it was over I wanted more. Since the first time I saw it, I've seen it more than a dozen times more, and it's a movie I can watch again and again and again.
As a musical, it's tops. But not everyone likes musicals. Maybe because not every musical is as good as "Oliver!" on every level.
Maybe, just maybe, we'll see a renaissance of the genre soon, and more people who "don't like musicals" because they've only seen bad ones will understand that when a musical is good, it's really, really good.
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