Willy Wonka, Jekyll & Hyde Lyricist Leslie Bricusse Dies at 90

Obituaries   Willy Wonka, Jekyll & Hyde Lyricist Leslie Bricusse Dies at 90
 
The Oscar-winning and Tony-nominated writer also penned The Roar of the Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd and Stop the World - I Want To Get Off.
Leslie Bricusse
Leslie Bricusse

Four-time Tony nominated songwriter and playwright Leslie Bricusse has died at age 90. As confirmed to the BBC by Mr. Bricusse's agent, the Jekyll & Hyde lyricist passed away in his sleep October 19.

Born January 29, 1931, in a suburb of London, Mr. Bricusse began his theatrical career collaborating with Anthony Newley. The pair would be credited with writing book, music, and lyrics of their stage musicals, but Mr. Bricusse reportedly contributed primarily lyrics to the collaboration. Their Stop the World - I Want to Get Off premiered in Manchester before making its West End debut in 1961; Newley directed and starred. The production was brought to Broadway by producer David Merrick, one of the then-rare, pre-"British Invasion" West End productions to make the jump across the pond. The work came to the big screen in 1966 and enjoyed a Broadway revival in 1978 starring Sammy Davis Jr. (which was filmed for television broadcast as Sammy Stops the World) and a 1989 London revival again starring Newley. Peter Scolari starred in a 1996 made-for-TV movie production for the A&E Network.

Leslie Bricusse
Leslie Bricusse

Additional works written with Newley include The Roar of the Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd, which toured the U.K. in 1964 before coming to Broadway the following year, and the work that Mr. Bricusse may be best remembered for: the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. The latter earned Mr. Bricusse and Newley an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song Score. The songs from Willy Wonka eventually found their way into two different stage adaptations of the Roald Dahl novel. Willy Wonka, which includes the film's songs alongside new tunes penned by Bricusse and Newley, was created for youth and regional theatres in 2004. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with a new score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman and some of Bricusse and Newley's songs from the film, premiered in London's West End in 2013 before a rehauled 2017 Broadway bow.

Mr. Bricusse penned the book and co-wrote the lyrics for 1997's Jekyll & Hyde, collaborating with composer Frank Wildhorn and lyricist Steve Cuden on what would be his greatest Broadway success; the original production ran for just over four years and 1,543 performances, earning Mr. Bricusse a Tony nomination for Best Book of a Musical. The work was revived on Broadway in 2013 and has had many productions around the world. Mr. Bricusse would go on to collaborate with Wildhorn again on the stage adaptation of Victor/Victoria and Cyrano de Bergerac.

"My Leslie, my Brickman," Wildhorn wrote in a memorial statement. "You gave the world 'Pure Imagination,' you taught us to 'Talk to the Animals,' and to love 'The Candy Man.' You showed us that 'Once In a Lifetime,' 'You and I' can always find 'A New Life.' So, 'Who Can I Turn To' now, my partner, my mentor, my Brickman?

Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse
Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse Frank Wildhorn

"'If I Ruled the World,' I would listen and play 'What Kind of Fool Am I,' 'My Kind of GIrl,' 'The Joker,' 'Le Jazz Hot,' 'You Only Live Twice,' 'When I Look In Your Eyes,' 'Goldfinger,' 'Can You Read My Mind,' and 'Somewhere in My Memory' over and over again.

"'This is the Moment' now to say goodbye for a bit, but, my love, you have left all of us mortals 'Feeling Good!'

Forever,
Your Franklin"

Mr. Bricusse's other collaborators included Cyril Ornadel (pickwick), Henry Mancini (Victor/Victoria), and John Williams (Hook). He contributed both music and lyrics to 1960s movie musicals Doctor Dolittle and Goodbye, Mr. Chips; Doctor Dolittle's "Talk to the Animals" won Mr. Bricusse his first of two Academy Awards and became an American standard. Mr. Bricusse would win an Oscar again in 1982 for his work on Victor/Victoria, and a Song of the Year Grammy in 1963 for "What Kind of Fool Am I?," written for Stop the World - I Want to Get Off and recorded by Sammy Davis Jr.

A revue of Mr. Bricusse and Newley's works entitled Pure Imagination: The World of Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse premiered at Venice, California's Pacific Resident Theatre in 2013, playing London's St. James Theatre in 2015.

Mr. Bricusse is survived by his wife, actor Yvonne Romain, and son, Adam.