It premiered in the West End in 1960, enjoying a long run, a successful Broadway production in 1963 and further tours and revivals. It was made into a musical film in 1968. Major London revivals played from 1977–80, 1994–98 and again from 2008–11.
Oliver! was the first musical adaptation of a famous Charles Dickens work to become a stage hit. There had been two previous Dickens musicals in the 1950s, both of them television adaptations of A Christmas Carol. The plot of Dickens' original novel is considerably simplified for the purposes of the musical, with Fagin being represented more as a comic character than as a villain, and large portions of the latter part of the story being completely left out. (It may well be that Bart based his musical on David Lean's film, rather than Dickens' book.) Although Dickens' novel has been called antisemitic in its portrayal of the Jew Fagin as evil, the production by Bart (himself a Jew) was more sympathetic and featured many Jewish actors in leading roles: Ron Moody (Ronald Moodnik), Georgia Brown (Lilian Klot), and Martin Horsey.