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Bart, Lionel Biography




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biography of Bart, Lionel

Lionel Begleiter
1 August 1930, Stepney, London, England, UK
3 April 1999, Hammersmith, London, England, UK (liver cancer)
The son of a Jewish Tailor in London's working class East End young Lionel had no formal musical education and never learned musical notation but his music teacher at school declared him to be a genius. He gained a scholarship to St Martin's School of Art at age 16 and started work as a set painter in the theatre. When he saw a notice asking for song writers it was to change his life. His new name was inspired on a bus journey past St. Bartholomew's Hospital (affectionately known as Barts). He wrote his first musical in 1958, Wally Pone of Soho. It was not a success. However, the songs he wrote for the early British rock'n'rollers 'Tommy Steele' (qv) (Rock With the Caveman and Little White Bull) and 'Cliff Richard' (qv) (Living Doll - at No. 1 for 6 weeks in 1959) brought Lionel his first taste of success. His first musical success was with "Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be". By the end of 1959 both "Fings" and "Lock Up Your Daughters" were running successfully in London's West End. In June 1960 he opened "Oliver!" which had been turned down by a dozen promoters and had to be financed by Bart himself. An immediate hit it received 16 curtain calls on the opening night and had advanced sales of 30,000 in the first week. Oliver! was followed by other fairly successful shows such as Blitz and Maggie May. Bart was just 30 and earning £16 a minute! To finance his next musical "Twang!!" (based on the Robin Hood story) he signed away all rights to Oliver! The new show flopped badly and Bart estimated he lost about one million pounds in that and in the lost rights to Oliver! He filed for bankruptcy in 1972 with debts of £73,000. By the late 1970s his heavy drinking had brought on diabetes. He stopped drinking but one third of his liver had been destroyed. Lionel Bart died aged 68 after suffering cancer for 6 months.
Steve Crook



-   Won Broadway's 1963 Tony Award as Best Composer and Lyricist for "Oliver!," a show for which he also received two other Tony nominations: as Best Author (Musical) and as author of book, music and lyrics as part of a Best Musical nomination.

-   Born the youngest of 11 children.

-   His musical version, "Oliver!" was nominated for a 1973 Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Play Production at the Candelight Dinner Playhouse in Chicago, Illinois.

-   Friend of 'Alma Cogan' (qv).


-   Wally Pone of Soho (1958) (Musical)

-   The Tommy Steele Story (Stage Show [Ivor Novello Award])

-   Fings Ain't Wot They Used T'Be (1959) (Musical)

-   Lock Up Your Daughters (1959) (Musical)

-   Oliver! (1960) (Musical)

-   Blitz (1962) (Musical)

-   Maggie May (1964) (Musical)

-   Twang!! (1965) (Musical)

-   La Strada (1969) (Musical)

-   Lionel (1977) (Musical)

-   TV commercial for Abbey National. Music used: Happy Endings.

-   TV commercial for Halifax Building Society. The music used: Consider Yourself (featuring the cast of Oliver).

-   (1973) His musical version of Charles Dickens story "Oliver Twist" was performed at the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse in Chicago, Illinois.

-   (2006) His musical, "Oliver!," based on the Charles Dickens' novel, "Oliver Twist," was performed at the Marriott Theatre in Chicago, Illinois with Greg Vinkler in the cast. The crew included David H. Bell (director) and Nancy Missimi (costume designer).

-   (October 1960) He contributed to Dicks and Rudge's revue, "...And Another Thing," at the Fortune Theatre in London, England with Bernard Cribbins, Anna Quayle, Joyce Blair, Lionel Blair, Donald Hewlett, and Anton Rodgers in the cast. Charles Ross was director. Alan Melville, Charles Zwar, and Barry Cryer were also contributors.

-   (1959) Laurie Johnson and his musical, "Lock Up Your Daughters," was performed at the Mermaid Theatre in London, England with Stephanie Voss, Hy Hazell, Frederick Jaeger, Richard Wordsworth, and Terence Cooper in the cast.

-   (1959) Laurie Johnson and his musical, "Lock Up Your Daughters," was performed at the Mermaid Theatre in London, England with Stephanie Voss, Hy Hazell, Harry Locke, Frederick Jaeger, and Terence Cooper in the cast.

-   (1960) His musical, "Fings Ain't Wot They Used To Be," was performed at the Garrick Theatre in London, England with Miriam Karlin, James Booth, Wallas Eaton, Glynn Edwards, Barbara Windsor, Toni Palmer, Yootha Joyce, and George Sewell in the cast. Joan Littlewood was producer. John Bury was designer.

-   (1961) His musical, "Fings Ain't What They Used T'Be," was performed in a Joan Littlewood Production at the Garrick Theatre in London, England with Avis Bunnage, Victor Spinetti, Wallas Eaton, Glynn Edwards, Barbara Windsor, Toni Palmer, Yootha Joyce, and George Sewell in the cast. John Bury was designer.

-   (Janaury 1961) His musical, "Oliver," was performed at the New Theatre in London, England with Ron Moody, Georgia Brown, Paul Whitsun-Jones, Hope Jackman, Danny Sewell, Keith Hamshere, Martin Horsey, an Barry Humphries (played Mr. Sowerberry) in the cast. Peter Coe was director.

-   (May 8,1962) He directed his musical, "Blitz!," at the Adelphi Theatre in London, England with Amelia Bayntum, Bob Grant, and Toni Palmer in the cast.

-   (1965) Alun Owen and his musical, "Maggie May," was performed at the Adelphi Theatre in London, England with Georgia Brown, Kenneth Haig, Andrew Keir, Barry Humphries (played Dame Edna Everage), Margo Cunningham, Janet Webb, Billy Boyle, and Julia McKenzie in the cast. Ted Kotcheff was director. Sean Kenny was designer.

-   (1964) His musical, "Maggie May," was performed at the Adelphi Theatre in London, England with Rachel Roberts, Kenneth Haig, and Barry Humphries (played Dame Edna Everage) in the cast.

-   (1965) His musical, "Twang!," was performed at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London, England with James Booth, Barbara Windsor, Bernard Bresslaw, Ronnie Corbett, Bob Grant, Ben Aris, Tudor Davies, and Lesley Judd in the cast. Bert Shevelove was director. Oliver Messel was designer.

-   (1968) His musical, "Oliver," was performed at the Piccadilly Theatre in London, England with Robin Ramsay, Marti Webb, Martin Dell, John Hicks/Ian Ramsey, Thelma Rogers, Glyn Worsnip, Edna Dore, Philip Collins, and Stephen Leigh/Raymond Milross in the cast. Peter Coe was director. Sean Kenney was designer.

-   (1988) His musical, "Oliver," was performed at the Theatre Royal in York, North Yorkshire, England with Ted Richards, Linda Dobell, Andy Serkis, Julian Bleach, Simon Clark, John Fleming, Nick Murchie, and James Tomlinson in the cast. Jonathan Petherbridge was director. Melly Still was choreographer.


-   Songs should be like sneezes - spontaneous.


-   "The New York Times" (USA), 3 April 1999, by: Associated Press, "'Oliver' composer Bart dies"

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