Oliver! Extends to Jan. 15, 2000 in Toronto Before Closing

News   Oliver! Extends to Jan. 15, 2000 in Toronto Before Closing The only North American appearance of the epic London revival of Oliver!, produced by Cameron Mackintosh, will extend to Jan. 15 at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto.

The only North American appearance of the epic London revival of Oliver!, produced by Cameron Mackintosh, will extend to Jan. 15 at the Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto.

There was talk of a possible appearance on Broadway, or stops in Chicago or Boston in 2000, but the producer chose not to continue the big, Les Miserables-style staging after its hit run in Toronto.

The late Lionel Bart's masterpiece, a retelling of Charles Dickens' "Oliver Twist," is directed by Olivier Award-winner Sam Mendes (Cabaret and the 1999 film, "American Beauty") and choreographed by Matthew Bourne (Swan Lake). Anthony Ward is the scenic designer, creating a dark, Victorian London of platforms, planks, hovels and ashen skylines.

Russ Abbot continues as Fagin and Sonia Swaby is Nancy.

The tuneful score includes "Food, Glorious Food," "Consider Yourself," "Where is Love?" and "As Long As He Needs Me." Previews began Nov. 4 and performances continue to Jan. 15.

The Princess of Wales Theatre is at 300 King Street West, Toronto. There are no shows Dec. 24, 25, 31 or Jan. 1.

Same-day $20 rush seats are available for all performances. Rush seats are located in dress circle boxes and on balcony sides. Rush tickets are on sale at the theatre box office only, from 10:30 AM. Cash only. Limit of two seats per person.

For tickets, call (416) 872-1212 or (800) 461-3333.

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Lionel Bart, the first major British songwriter of the postwar era to gain international ground in musical theatre -- a territory Americans had developed until then -- died of cancer April 4, 1999, seven months before a major North American revival of his Oliver! was to debut in Toronto.

Bart, 68, was a rare British triple-threat -- composer-lyricist librettist -- in a time when Americans Rodgers and Hammerstein, Bernstein and Sondheim and Lerner and Loewe ruled the musical theatre.

The 1960 Charles Dickens-based London musical, Mr. Bart's best-known work and biggest hit, enjoyed a recent, extravagantly-produced revival by Cameron Mackintosh in London, starring Jonathan Pryce as Fagin.

Oliver!, inspired by "Oliver Twist," opened in London in 1960 and New York in 1963. An album of the show's plucky, catchy songs was released prior to the New York engagement, and a tour of the West Coast preceded the Broadway run, so the "Consider Yourself," "As Long as He Needs Me" and "Where is Love?" were already dawning in the public consciousness.

The 1968 film version starring Ron Moody as Fagin won six Academy Awards including Best Picture. The stage musical not only influenced a new generation of musical writers, like Andrew Lloyd Webber, but prefigured a decade of British-influenced film musicals ("Goodbye, Mr. Chips," "Scrooge," etc.) and presaged the surge of British-written or produced mega-musicals that began with Jesus Christ Superstar and continued through Evita, Cats, The Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Miss Saigon and more.

In a statement, Lloyd Webber said, "Lionel was the father of the modern British musical. Lionel's genius has, in my view, never been fully recognized by the British establishment."

Bart won the Tony Award for his Oliver! score. David Jones, later known as Davey Jones of the pop group, the Monkees, played the Artful Dodger on Broadway, singing "Consider Yourself."

The writer, however, would not have as great a success with another project. He wrote Blitz, about World War II-era London, in 1962, and Maggie May, Twang! and La Strada, based on the Fellini film. Bart also wrote the theme of the film, "From Russia With Love," and a number of pop songs, including "Living Doll." He reportedly had no legitimate musical training

Following his international fame, Bart fell on hard times, according to reports, and struggled with addiction problems. He had financed his later shows by selling rights to tunes from Oliver! and filed for bankruptcy in the 1970s.

Oliver!, derided by some critics as too sweet and a glossing-over of the Dickens source material, nevertheless became one of the great hummable scores of the century. The score includes "Food, Glorious, Food," "You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two," "Oom Pah Pah," " I'd Do Anything," "My Name," "That's Your Funeral," "Who Will Buy?," "Reviewing the Situation," "Boy For Sale" and "Oliver!"

Oliver! played 2,618 performances in London and 744 performances on Broadway, and is a favorite in stock and amateur houses.

-- By Kenneth Jones