A complete guide to all the songs from 'Oliver!'

As the Lionel Bart classic returns to London this winter, we take a look at the beloved score, including "Consider Yourself," "You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two," and "As Long as He Needs Me."

Julia Rank
Julia Rank

Consider yourself at home! A new production of Lionel Bart’s Oliver! will premiere at Chichester Festival Theatre this summer and transfer to the West End in December. Celebrated director/choreographer Matthew Bourne takes the helm.

Oliver! was the first musical theatre adaptation of a novel by Charles Dickens and remains, without a doubt, the most successful. Bart, who provided the music, lyrics, and book, was a self-taught songwriter who came from a Jewish family in Stepney, east London. The musical's songs are imbued with music hall and Jewish influences, and Fagin’s character, while still morally dubious, became much more of a lovable rogue for the musical.

Carol Reed’s Oscar-winning 1968 film version cut some songs and reprises and expanded some of the dance sequences into bigger production numbers. It’s interesting to note that in the stage version, “Oom-Pah-Pah” opens Act 2 and Bill Sikes gets a chance to sing (or growl). Read our guide to these wonderful songs - we challenge you not to sing along!

Check back for Oliver! tickets on London Theatre soon.

“Food Glorious Food”

The workhouse boys are fed on a dismal diet of gruel but there’s nothing to stop them from conjuring up a feast in their imaginations: “Hot sausage and mustard! / While we’re in the mood / Cold jelly and custard!” Sadly, none of these boys are ever likely to know the joys of indigestion.


Oliver Twist utters the immortal words, “Please sir, I want some more” and a riot ensues. The cruel workhouse superintendents Mr Bumble and Widow Corney parade Oliver around and the governors decided that he’ll be put up for sale.

“I Shall Scream”

Mr Bumble makes advances to Widow Corney. She pretends to resist his attentions but ends up sitting on his lap as he proposes marriage.

“Boy For Sale”

Oliver is offered for sale for the bargain price of seven guineas. This melancholic number is infused with klezmer (Jewish folk music) influences.

“That’s Your Funeral”

Undertakers Mr and Mrs Sowerberry express interest in purchasing Oliver as a funeral mute. Mr Bumble is not amused by their antics and demands payment.

“Where is Love”

Poor Oliver is sent to sleep among the coffins. Invoking the mother he never knew, he ruminates on a life lived so far without love and his mission to seek it out: “Must I travel far and wide / Till I am beside / The someone who I can mean something to.” Sung in an angelic treble, there’s rarely a dry eye in the house after this number.

“Consider Yourself”

Oliver escapes to London, where he meets a friendly and streetwise boy called the Artful Dodger who invites him to join him and his friends. The number is an exuberant overture of friendship: Oliver is invited to consider himself “well in,” “one of the family,” and “part of the furniture.” They don’t have a lot but, “Whatever we’ve got, we share.” It’s all very cheery and little Oliver has no idea that he’s joining a gang of pickpockets.

“You’ve Got to Pick a Pocket or Two”

It’s time to meet Fagin, the gang’s den father of sorts. Oliver is inducted into the group with this masterclass in pickpocketing. After all, “Why should we break our backs / Stupidly paying tax?” Fagin is many things, including a showman through and through.

“It’s a Fine Life”

Introducing the splendid Nancy, the gang’s maternal figure and mistress of the fearsome Bill Sikes. She celebrates her unconventional and far from respectable way of life filled with small pleasures – even the fact that she’s a victim of domestic violence doesn’t dampen her spirits.

“I’d Do Anything”

Nancy and Dodger imitate the way respectable ladies and gentlemen behave and she sets him a series of theoretical challenges: “Would you climb a hill / … Even fight my Bill?” (“What, fisticuffs?”) Nancy invites Oliver to join in.

“Be Back Soon”

Oliver leaves for “work” with the boys, under the supervision of Dodger and Charley. Fagin sees them off in an orderly fashion. They promise to bring back lots of pocket handkerchiefs, and maybe even a wallet stuffed with cash or a gold pocket watch.

“The Robbery”

Dodger and Charley steal a handkerchief from a gentleman called Mr Brownlow. They run away, leaving Oliver to face arrest.


Opening the second act with a real knees-up, Nancy performs this suggestive music hall pastiche to the customers at the Three Cripples tavern. In the film, it’s moved near the end when Nancy performs it as a distraction to help Oliver escape. Regardless of the placement, it perfectly encapsulates Nancy’s earthy and extroverted personality.

“My Name”

We finally meet the fearsome Bill Sikes – and he sings in the stage version. Everybody shudders at the mention of his name.

“As Long as He Needs Me”

Dodger tells Fagin and Bill about Oliver’s removal to Mr Brownlow’s home. Afraid that Oliver will grass them up, they plan to kidnap him. Nancy refuses to help at first but is forced into subordination. She knows that Bill’s abuse is wrong (“Who else would love him still / When they’ve been used so ill”) but she loves him and believes he cares for her too, steadfastly declaring “I won’t betray his trust / Though people say I must / I’ve got to stay true, just / As long as he needs me.” No, the sentiments aren’t politically correct but what a torch song it is.

“Where is Love” (Reprise)

Mr Brownlow’s housekeeper Mrs Bedwin sings a reprise of “Where is Love” to Oliver. Is there a deeper connection between Mr Brownlow and Oliver?

“Who Will Buy”

The street-sellers start work for the day. Red roses, fresh milk, and ripe strawberries are on offer. Oliver has never seen anything so beautiful (“Who will tie up with a ribbon and put in a box for me?”).

“It’s a Fine Life” (Reprise)

Nancy is deeply ashamed of her role in forcing Oliver back to the den and bitterly regrets her life of crime and poverty.

“Reviewing the Situation”

Fagin’s soliloquy in which he contemplates his life of crime and villainy. Is he as bad as people think? Would marriage help? Could he go straight? He’s too far gone to be reformed: “I’m a bad ‘un and a bad ‘un I will stay / You’ll be seeing no transformation / But it’s wrong to be a rogue in every way”. But someone so unemployable is never going to make an honest living. “I think I’d better think it out again!”

“Oliver!” (Reprise)

At the workhouse, Mr Bumble and Widow Corney learn that Oliver may be from a wealthy family when they receive a visit from Old Sally, who stole a locket from Oliver’s mother before she died. They visit Mr Brownlow, who retrieves the locket. The picture inside is of his daughter, which proves that Oliver is his grandson.

“As Long as He Needs Me” (Reprise)

Nancy visits Mr Brownlow and promises to deliver Oliver to him on London Bridge – but she won’t betray Bill. This reprise explores the tension between her unconditional love for Bill and her maternal feelings towards Oliver.

“London Bridge”

Sikes follows Nancy and Oliver and clubs Nancy to death. Fagin and the boys flee their den when the police arrive and Dodger is arrested. Sikes holds Oliver hostage at the top of London Bridge. One policeman shoots him and the other grabs Oliver. Oliver goes home with Mr Brownlow.

“Reviewing the Situation” (Reprise)

Fagin has lost everything but it’s never too late to turn over a new leaf. It’s certainly kinder than his fate in Dickens’s original, in which he’s hanged, but it's not as jolly as the film, which sees Fagin and Dodger skipping off into the sunset. A bittersweet ending for an outsider.

Check back for Oliver! tickets on London Theatre soon.

Originally published on

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