The musical Oliver! is one of the greatest works in the history of musical theatre. It was adapted from Charles Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist although some think Lionel Bart, who wrote the music, lyrics, and book, actually based the musical on a 1948 film which had greatly condensed the book. The original Broadway production was nominated for nine Tony Awards including Best Musical (it won three). In 1968, the musical was turned into a film which captured the Academy Award for Best Picture as well as five others. The musical has been revived several times over the years on both sides of the Atlantic. Big name talents like Jonathan Pryce, Patti LuPone, Rowan Atkinson have, at one time or another, starred in Oliver! Several of the successful revivals were produced by the great Cameron Mackintosh.
Oliver’s place in musical theatre history is firmly secured. Did you know that the show also has a place in rock and roll history (albeit it’s a small one)? Oliver opened on Broadway, at the Imperial Theatre, on Jan. 6, 1963. It ended its run 774 performances later on Nov. 14, 1964. The original Broadway cast starred Davy Jones as “The Artful Dodger”—the same Davy Jones that went on to be in rock group The Monkees. To promote the show, and to sell a few Oliver tickets, Jones and four other members of the cast appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. They performed “I’d Do Anything” and “As Long As He Needs Me.”
Also on the show that night was a little rock and roll band from Liverpool. They called themselves The Beatles. Yes, the cast of Oliver! performed on The Ed Sullivan Show on Feb. 9, 1964. The same night that The Fab Four made their first U.S. television appearance. It’s arguably the greatest moment in the history of rock and roll and the cast of Oliver, including a future member of the Monkees (fabricated rivals of The Beatles), was there.