I'd written here about the little-known British musical, Lock Up Your Daughters, which was the first major West End show that Lionel Bart ever wrote, though just the lyrics. The next year, 1960, he would go off on his own and write both lyrics and music -- and the book -- for Oliver!
The show is based on a novel by Henry Fielding, who wrote Tom Jones, and has a wonderful, charming score. Bart's lyrics are particularly infectious and clever, and I'd embedded the lively title song, whose music is by Laurie Johnson. But there's one particular song that's not just my favorite in the show, but in that list of "favorites, period."
It requires a bit of an explanation. The song is the final number and sung by Mrs. Squeezum, played by a wonderful musical-comedy star, Hy Hazell, who I mentioned previously as having been in the musical Charlie Girl. (The closest that I can come to describing Hy Hazell is that she was like a British Ethel Merman -- a whirlwind dynamo who wouldn't be the romantic lead, but bowl you over with her strength and comedy.)
Mr. Justice Squeezum, the character's husband, is the antagonist of the story, a crooked magistrate who misuses his authority for ill gain and seduction. At last he has his comeuppance and is thrown in prison. His good lady wife is not the crook he is, but in every other way of loose morals she's a perfect match. But still, the Judge is her husband, and if he's in prison, then it's her wifely duty to go to him. And so she does, and sings her ode, "I'll Be There."
It's Lionel Bart's lyrics at their best, which is saying a lot. And Laurie Johnson's music at his most infectious.
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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