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‘Oliver’ Composer Bart Dies

April 3, 1999

LONDON (AP) _ Lionel Bart, the lyricist and composer who created ``Oliver!″ and other musicals, died of cancer Saturday at age 68, his family said.

The cause of death was not announced, but Bart’s nephew, Michael Pruskin, said he had been treated for cancer. Hammersmith Hospital in London confirmed the death.

Bart played a large role in reviving the English musical at a time when American productions dominated London’s stages. He also won dubious fame for losing his fortune from ``Oliver!″ and survived long years of alcoholism and excess.

His first musical, ``Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be,″ premiered in 1959 and had a two-year commercial run in London. He also produced for ``Lock Up Your Daughters″ that same year.

And then in 1960 came ``Oliver!″ based on Charles Dickens’ ``Oliver Twist.″ The play had a long run followed by successful revivals in 1967 and 1977. The show was also a hit in New York, and Bart won Broadway’s Antoinette Perry award (the Tony) for the music and lyrics of ``Oliver!″

Bart followed up with music and lyrics for ``Blitz!″ in 1962 and ``Maggie May″ in 1964, and did the music for ``Lionel″ in 1977.

He also produced two flops: ``Twang!″ in 1965 and ``La Strada″ in 1969, which had only one performance in New York.

The enormous success of ``Oliver!″ allowed Bart to carouse with royalty and celebrities, and one of his close friends was Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ manager.

Bart signed away his rights to ``Oliver!″ and other properties, in part to finance ``Twang!″ He admitted that he had been badly advised.

``If I hadn’t pretended to be such a genius child, King Baby, I would have paid more attention,″ he said in an interview with The Sunday Times in 1986.

Born Lionel Beglieter, Bart was the son of a Jewish tailor in London’s working-class East End, and had no formal musical education.

Bart had a long struggle with alcoholism, but said he had stopped drinking in the mid-1980s. In recent years he tried to revive ``Quasimodo,″ based on ``The Hunchback of Notre Dame,″ which he had written in the early 1960s.

Bart is survived by two sisters. Funeral arrangements were not immediately announced.

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