Theatre News

Willy Wonka and Victor/Victoria songwriter Leslie Bricusse has died aged 90

Bricusse was responsible for some of the most iconic music of the 20th century

Leslie Bricusse
Leslie Bricusse
© David Gordon

The British songwriter and playwright Leslie Bricusse has died. He was 90.

Best known for the songs he wrote for major motion pictures, Bricusse helped to write "Goldfinger," "You Only Live Twice," and "Two For the Road."

His songs for the 1971 cult classic Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory include "Candy Man," "Pure Imagination," and "(I've Got A) Golden Ticket" — instantly recognisable to musical theater fans and anyone who owned a television in the 80s and 90s.

The songs from Willy Wonka were the result of a long collaboration with Anthony Newley, with whom Bricusse composed two Broadway musicals: the major hit Stop the World — I Want to Get Off (1962) and the more modest success The Roar of the Greasepaint — The Smell of the Crowd (1965). Their 1972 musical, The Good Old Bad Old Days, played in London.

Bricusse contributed lyrics to the 1995 musical Victor/Victoria (an adaptation of the 1982 film) and the 1997 musical Jekyll & Hyde, for which he also penned the book. Several of his songs with Newley were transplanted into the 2017 Broadway musical Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which featured a mostly new score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.

Bricusse won a Grammy in 1963 for "What Kind of Fool Am I" from Stop The World – I Want To Get Off. He earned two Academy Awards during his long career: First in 1968 for the original song "Talk to the Animals" from Doctor Dolittle; then again in 1982 for the song score of Victor/Victoria. In 1989 he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.