As I noted here the other day, Ron Moody created the role of 'Fagin' in the original production of Lionel Bart's Oliver! that opened in London in 1960. He then recreated that performance starring in the 1968 Oscar-winning Best Picture, which got him a Best Actor nomination.
I have the Original London Cast recording, and it's terrific. It's a bit more muted in tone the slightly brassier Broadway recording, though what's most notable is that the musical arrangements for Fagin's songs clearly emphasize the character's Jewish roots, with more Hassidic-sounding violins. Two cast members from the West End came over to the Broadway version -- Georgia Brown as 'Nancy' and Danny Sewell who played 'Bill Sikes.' (In fact, when I saw the touring company in Chicago, I remember noting that Sewell was in it. Clearly, he found a good role for himself and stuck with it...) There also is a bit more material on the British recording, in particular the song "That's Your Funeral," sung mainly by Mr. Sowerberry the undertaker. The song is in the Broadway show, just not on the album -- and it was cut from the movie. But perhaps most notable -- and unsurprising -- is how wonderful Ron Moody is. That's why the filmmakers chose to bring him back eight years later for the role he originated.
Ron Moody actually played the role a third time. In 1984, there was a revival of Oliver! on Broadway, and the big selling point was that it brought back Moody to his famous role. (Co-starring in the production as Nancy was Patti Lupone.)
There's no video I can find of Ron Moody in that original 1960 stage production -- but...I did track down footage of him singing Fagin's iconic song, "Reviewing the Situation" on stage in that 1984 show!
Much of the intonation is similar to his earlier two performances, which shows how impeccable he has the role down pat. But what's interesting is that you'd think he could sleepwalk through it, night-after-night after all those years. But it's as fresh and vibrant as you might imagine first night. That's what's so impressive about how impeccably similar it is to how he's done it before. But there are also little twists that add a liveliness and impishness to the stage production that you don't get in the movie. And it's clear how appreciative the audience is of it all.
For good reason.
The quality of the video and sound is not very good, as you might imagine. But if you click on the option to open the browser and turn the volume up, it's just fine. And simply a treasure to have -- all the more so since this comes from long-before any audience member had a Smartphone camera.
One nice thing from whoever took this video: they were happily well-aware of the song and staging, so when Fagin comes to the line around the 5:15 mark, crying out plaintively, "But who will change the scene for me?", the fellow with his camera knew to adjust his angle to capture a joke that was understandably left out of the movie.
Here it all is, for you to review...
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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