Stars celebrate life of legendary music writer in Stratford

LIONEL BART English musical composer in 1960

LIONEL BART English musical composer in 1960 - Credit: Stratford East Theatre Royal

The life and work of talented composer and musical writer, Lionel Bart, is set to be celebrated in a star-studded performance in Stratford.

Stars including, Lee Ryan, and BAFTA winning Jessica Hynes, will take to the stage for Big Time! at Theatre Royal Stratford East, which was once considered Lionel’s home.

The performance will take place over a period of two days and three performances. It will chart the musical star’s eventful life from childhood to his first step into the world of showbiz.

A spokesman for Stratford East Theatre Royal said: “Best known for writing Oliver!, he was the first British songwriter to have success in the American charts penning hits for Cliff Richard, Tommy Steele, Shirley Bassey, Anthony Newley, Adam Faith and a host of others, as well as being the original manager of The Rolling Stones.”

Lionel’s family moved to England after escaping the deadly pogroms against Jews by Ukrainian cossacks in Galicia during Polish and Ukrainian conflict between 1918 and 1919.


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He grew up in Stepney where his father worked as a tailor and was the youngest of seven surviving children. He was an accomplished painter and by the age of 14 he obtained a Junior Art Scholarship to Saint Martin’s School of Art.

Lionel entered the world of music in 1952 at The International Youth Centre.

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He first gained widespread recognition through his pop songwriting, penning numerous hits for the stable of young male singers promoted by artist manager and music publisher Larry Parnes.

Bart’s first professional musical was Lock Up Your Daughters in 1959, based on the 18th-century play Rape Upon Rape, by Henry Fielding.

He also won acclaim for Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be produced by Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop at the Stratford theatre.

“By 1964 he had gone on to have an unprecedented 5 West End hit shows,” the spokesman added.

“However by the mid-1960s Bart’s excessive lifestyle combined with drug and alcohol addiction saw his first failure and decline into obscurity.

“He re-emerged when Cliff Richard and the Young Ones had chart success with Livin’ Doll in 1986 and also won a Lifetime Achievement Ivor Novello award that same year.”

The production will feature a playlist of 27 classic Bart songs.

Other stars taking part include Neil McDermott, Sonny Jay, Tony Howes, David Charkham and Grazina Frame.

The production will also feature a 14 piece orchestra.

The show takes place between October 16 and 17.

Ticket prices start at £15.

For more information visit: stratfordeast.com

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