(Vanessa Thorpe’s article appeared in the Observer, 1/24; Photo: Jack Wild (left) and Mark Lester in the 1968 film version of Lionel Bart’s Oliver!)
Songs from the composer’s doomed show about the Israeli stateswoman will make their debut online
The self-taught musical genius Lionel Bart was the Londoner who first successfully challenged the long-established dominance of Broadway shows. When he launched Oliver! on the West End in 1960 it took first Britain and then America by storm, breaking records and becoming a classic of musical theatre and then a beloved film. But Bart never reached such commercial heights again, despite his talent.
Now music from the lost show once set to relaunch Bart’s career as he struggled with ill health and debt is to be performed for the public for the first time.
Next month Dame Maureen Lipman will sing one of the songs Bart wrote with his collaborator, Roger Cook, for a musical the two composed in the mid-1970s about the extraordinary life of Golda Meir, the Israeli stateswoman and prime minister. The song’s debut performance is to be staged online as part of Jewish Music Institute’s upcoming World Tour of Jewish Music, and it comes as Cook makes a fresh attempt to finally bring the full musical into theatrical production.
Bart and Cook’s show, Next Year in Jerusalem, is billed as a kind of precursor to Evita, the Andrew Lloyd Webber show that shares its themes of political ambition and power.
“Hers is an extraordinary story. Meir went from pogroms in Minsk, out to Milwaukee and then to Palestine and the songs and lyrics are as good as anything Lionel ever did,” said Cook, 80, himself the composer of a string of hits, including I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony).
Speaking from his home in Nashville, Tennessee, Cook said that he believed the time was now right to let the world see and hear the musical once theatres can reopen. “I wish Lionel was alive and kicking, as he would be crazy proud that finally after all these years this lost musical is going to be heard and have a life,” he said.