“Consider Yourself One of Us”: The Dickens Musical on Stage and Screen

  • Anthony Barker University of Aveiro
Keywords: Dickens, musical, stage, screen, Oliver!

Abstract

Charles Dickens’s work has been taken and adapted for many different ends. Quite a lot of attention has been given to film and television versions of the novels, many of which are very distinguished. The stage and screen musical based on his work, essentially a product of the last fifty years, has been neither as studied nor as respected. This paper looks at the con­nection between Dickens’s novels, the celebration of “London-ness” and its articulation in popular forms of working-class music and song. It will argue that potentially unpromising texts were taken and used to articulate pride and a sense of community for groups representing the disadvantaged of the East End and, more specifically, for first-generation Jewish settlers in London. This is all the more surprising as it was in the first instance through depictions of Oliver Twist and the problematic figure of Fagin that an Anglo-Jewish sensibility was able to express itself. Other texts by Dickens, notably Pickwick Papers, A Christmas Carol and The Old Curiosity Shop, were also adapted to musical forms with varying results, but the period of their heyday was relatively short, as their use of traditional and communitarian forms gave place in the people’s affection to manufactured pop/rock and operetta forms. I will argue that this decline was partly the product of changing London demographics and shifts in theatre economics and partly of the appropriation of Dickens by the academy.

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Author Biography

Anthony Barker, University of Aveiro

Anthony Barker is Associate Professor in the Department of Languages and Cultures at the University of Aveiro and the Coordinator of a Cultural Studies research group. He obtained a DPhil at Oxford in 18th century literature and was Munby Fellow in Bibliography at Cambridge University. He is director of the Doctoral Programme in Cultural Studies. He now teaches film, literary and cultural disciplines and academic writing. His publications include collections The Power and Persistence of Stereotyping (2005), Success and Failure (2009) and articles on televisualizing the 50s, Henry James on Film, the American and the British road movie, and British film and television comedy. He has edited a volume Television, Aesthetics and Reality (2007). Recent works include articles on zany film and television comedy, ultra-violence in 1970s cinema, and a book Identity and Cultural Exchange in Travel and Tourism (2015). He is currently editing a volume on the First World War.

References

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Dickens of London. Dir. Marc Miller. Yorkshire Television, 1977. Television.

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Lerner, Alan Jay. The Musical Theater: A Celebration. New York: McGraw- Hill, 1986. Print.

Mankowitz, Wolf. Dickens of London. New York: Macmillan, 1976. Print.

Meyer, Susan. “Antisemitism and Social Critique in Dickens’s Oliver Twist.” Victorian Literature and Culture 33.1 (2005): 239–52. Print.

Rosen, Michael. “What Larks! My Father, Dickens and Me.” The Guardian 2 Jan. 2012: G2 supplement. Print. [Reprinted from “Memories and Expectations.” Stop What You are Doing and Read This! London: Vintage, 2011.]

Stafford, David, and Caroline Stafford. Fings Ain’t Wot They Used to Be: The Lionel Bart Story. London: Omnibus, 2011. Print.

Published
2017-10-16
How to Cite
Barker, A. (2017). “Consider Yourself One of Us”: The Dickens Musical on Stage and Screen. Text Matters: A Journal of Literature, Theory and Culture, (7), 241-257. https://doi.org/10.1515/texmat-2017-0013