For fans of the musical Oliver! (and I count myself high on the list), here's a treat. Last year, several of the principals of the 1968 film got together for a screening, and did a sit-down interview afterwards.
It's sort of an odd mix, but happily two are Ron Moody, who played Fagin, and is a spritely 88, and Mark Lester, who stared as Oliver Twist, and is now (if I do my math correctly) a 51-year-old chiropractor. The third cast member was someone I couldn't identify, Kenneth Cranham, who it turns out play Noah Claypole, the assistant at the Sowerbury undertakers, who gives Oliver such grief. The video lasts about 15 minutes.
Clearly, one of the principals missing is Shani Wallis, who played Nancy, so here she is at a Q&A prior to a screening in 1998, in honor of the film's 30th anniversary. With her is the famous Broadway choreographer Onna White, who staged the dance number for the film.
This was split into two parts, but I've put them together, and they should play one after the other for about 15 minutes, as well. The interview isn't all that substantive, particularly the first few minutes, though it gets better as it goes on. One thing interest to hear is Onna White talk about Jack Wild (as the Artful Dodger) helping during dance rehearsals by pulling the 7-year-old Mark Lester around -- notable because you can see that on film, as well, particularly during the "Consider Yourself" extravaganza.
I liked hearing mention of music arranger and conductor, who was also an accomplished songwriter and had 13 Oscar nominations (and five wins). Why I liked it is because late in career, in late 70s, he returned more to composing and conducting symphony orchestras around the country. At one point, he conducted a pop concert with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the summer Ravinia Music Festival, where I was working and assigned to be his guide. He was a very elegant, precise and dapper fellow (always wearing a boutonnière in his lapel), but quite nice, and we became friendly. When he found out that I was going to be coming to Los Angeles for graduate school at UCLA, he insisted I call him to come over to his house for lunch.
I remember being given a tour of his office, crammed with awards of all kinds (he was in the Songwriter Hall of Fame), nomination plaques, five Oscars, Grammys, photos with celebrities and more. I walked around in silence, taking it all in, and as we left, he said to his secretary, "You know, Mr. Elisberg here is the first person ever to go into that office and never say a word about the Oscars." I got the sense that he said that half in awe, and half a little disappointed. He had a healthy ego, but it was well-earned, and never overbearing. A good, thoughtful guy. I wish I had the chance to spend more time with him.
Mind you, his name is mentioned only briefly in the video, so that story went on far longer. So, here are the people who do the rest of the talking.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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