Musical adaptation of Charles Dickens's classic tale of an orphan who runs away from the orphanage and hooks up with a group of boys trained to be pickpockets by an elderly mentor.
In Victorian England, Oliver Twist is the name given by a workhouse warden to a boy born in the workhouse orphanage, Oliver's mother who died in childbirth and whose identity is unknown. Now an adolescent, Oliver, who has never felt loved or accepted, manages to escape from both the harsh workhouse and his equally harsh placements "for sale". Managing to make his way to London, Oliver, feeling accepted for the first time in his life, is welcomed into a group of other young boys, headed by the Artful Dodger, who "make wallets" under the direction of Fagin. What Oliver is initially unaware of is that they are really a band of pickpockets, Fagin who hides away whatever riches he is able to obtain for his own personal benefit. One of Fagin's associates is the violent Bill Sikes, whose girlfriend, Nancy, is devoted to him despite his abuse of her. Oliver looks to Nancy as his one true friend, especially needed when he discovers what Fagin and the boys actually do. Oliver also comes to the attention of the wealthy Mr. Brownlow. Out of circumstance, Bill sees Oliver as both an asset and a liability, but one that needs to be kept enslaved under his direction. Nancy has to decide whether to be loyal to Bill to help him keep Oliver, or do what is best for Oliver by helping him escape, especially as she knows that Brownlow is looking for Oliver when he learns of Oliver's true heritage.
9-year-old orphan Oliver Twist falls in with a group of street-urchin pickpockets led by the Artful Dodger and masterminded by the criminal Fagin. When Oliver's intended mark, Mr. Brownlow, takes pity on the lad and offers him a home, Fagin's henchman Bill Sikes plots to kidnap the boy to keep him from talking.
Oliver Twist is sold to a Dunstable undertaker after asking for more dinner at the orphanage. Escaping to London he is taken in by Fagin to join his gang of child pickpockets. Wrongly accused of a theft he meets a more kindly gentleman who takes him in, to the concern of one of Fagin's old pupils, the violent Bill Sykes. In the middle is Nancy, Sykes' girl whom Oliver has come to trust.
After being sold to a mortician, young orphan Oliver Twist runs away and meets a group of boys trained to be pickpockets by an elderly mentor.
- The film opens sometime around the 'New Poor Law' of 1837. Thin, young, barefooted boys are in a workhouse. The governors of the workhouse, including Mr Bumble (Harry Secombe) enter. Mrs Bumble(Peggy Mount) rings a bell, summoning the boys to mealtime. They are served a small bowl of gruel, while singing about how they wished they had more food (Food, Glorious Food!). Afterwards, some of the boys draw straws, with a small boy drawing the longest. He walks to the front, with the glaring look of Mr and Mrs Bumble towering over him and utters 'Please Sir, I want some more.' Mr Bumble is outraged and sings of the boy (Oliver!), named Oliver Twist (Mark Lester) . He takes Oliver to the governors, and they order him to be thrown out.
Mr Bumble and Oliver, dressed in dirty rags wander the streets searching for someone to buy the boy (Boy For Sale). They meet an undertaker, Mr Sowerberry (Leonard Rossiter) who buys Oliver and sets him to work as a coffin follower. After a few days, Oliver attacks Noah, a fellow apprentice of the undertaker after he insults Oliver's biological mother and is thrown in the cellar as punishment. After singing of his mother's love (Where Is Love?) he escapes from the cellar and after climbing onto a passing carriage, makes his way to London.
Oliver makes it to London, and meets a boy who introduces himself as Jack Dawkins, better known as the 'Artful Dodger' (Jack Wild). He tells Oliver he knows of an old gentleman who can give him lodgings for nothing (Consider Yourself) and takes Oliver to him. Fagin (Ron Moody) tells him of what they do, which is pickpocket rich gentlemen of their kerchiefs and wallets (You've Got To Pick A Pocket Or Two). That night, while the boys are sleeping, Fagin makes his way to the local bar, where he meets Bill Sikes (Oliver Reed) to exchange valuables that Sikes 'acquired'. Nancy (Shani Wallis), Sikes' lover who works at the bar sings of her life and her love for Sikes (It's A Fine Life).