The curtain opens on the sinister interior of the workhouse with a bare dining table. Widow Corney, who runs the workhouse, and Mr Bumble, the parish beadle, enter to serve gruel to the boys. Alone amongst them Oliver takes the bowl to Bumble and asks, Please, Sir, I want some more. Bumble is outraged. Oliver is sold to Mr Sowerberry, the undertaker.
He runs away and meets the Artful Dodger and is taken to a hideout to meet Fagin and the apprentice thieves. Next morning Oliver goes with the boys and is arrested by the police, not for picking pockets but simply for looking guilty.
Fagin's boys tell of Oliver's arrest by the police but that, as he has been found to be innocent, he is now safe in the house of a kindly, rich gentleman. However, outside the house he is captured by Nancy and she returns him to Fagin.
Bumble and Mrs Corney, now married, discover that Oliver is the heir to a rich family and try to get him back. Oliver is restored to his benefactor who, as it turns out, is his own grandfather.
Oliver! is truly a masterpiece and shows off the talents of Lionel Bart at his best. As one reviewer put it, "With this show, the audience whistles the tunes as they COME IN to the theatre."