After a morning in the company of the acclaimed songwriter, lyricist and writer, alongside his wife Evie, you feel like you’ve journeyed through the past half-century of showbusiness as they recall the characters they’ve met during 59 years of marriage.
“We must sound like a couple of old name-droppers,” laughs Evie who, as Yvonne Romain, had a successful acting career in TV and movies, eventually starring in Double Trouble opposite Elvis Presley.
As we chat, Sir Michael Caine and a major theatre producer call the Bricusses in their elegant Thames-side flat.
They really do know the best people.
It really was the golden era when we first moved there, to Hollywood
Leslie’s extraordinary career meant that he has worked with the greatest talents and wrote some of the greatest show songs.
Compositions include What Kind Of Fool Am I?, The Candy Man, Pure Imagination (the last two from 1971’s Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory) and Feeling Good, all co-written with collaborator Anthony Newley.
He wrote the music – including Talk To The Animals – for Doctor Dolittle, co-wrote Bond themes Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice, and has written the musicals Stop The World, I Want To Get Off, Sherlock Holmes and Victor/Victoria, among many others.
Bricusse is now 86 and busy as ever, with one of his current projects being a revival of his musical Scrooge – co-written with Newley as a movie starring Albert Finney – at Curve in Leicester, which he says he’s been involved with “mainly on the phone so far”.
He adds: “Producer Bill Kenwright has staged a number of productions starring Tommy Steele and when he stopped doing it, producers Michael Harrison and Ian David took over.
They know about doing pantomime, so they really understand Christmas.”
The show, with Jasper Britton as Dickens’s famous miser, has one big change: the ghost of Marley is played by actress Karen Mann.
“I’ve written an extra scene to suggest the character might be the ghost of Scrooge’s mother – it is all a fantasy drama after all.
"The audience can take it as they wish but, whatever, it won’t spoil the show.”
Bricusse is also working on a musical about his friend Sammy Davis Jr, which will star Giles Terera: “We did Sammy six months ago at The Other Palace in London and he was brilliant in it.
Leslie with Joan
"But six months ago he was offered a leading role in Hamilton [the Broadway smash opening in London next month] and he said he was prepared to do Sammy and not Hamilton.
"I said, ‘Are you crazy? I know it means putting the show back a year but you’ve got to do Hamilton’.
"So we’re looking at spring 2019 for Sammy.”
It’s clear that Bricusse feels a great loyalty towards Davis.
He recorded 60 of his songs including The Candy Man, which gave Davis his first No1.
“It was so long in coming!” laughs Bricusse.
“He used to call us every week and go, ‘It’s 18!’, ‘It’s 14!’, ‘It’s 12!’ before it got to number one.
"That was the whole conversation!”
Bricusse’s musical career started at Cambridge when he brought the first Footlights Club revue to the West End.
He was spotted by musical comedy star Beatrice Lillie who asked him to be her leading man and write material for her.
It was the making of him: “I got the job because her leading man on Broadway couldn’t come over as he owed an ex-wife 28 years of alimony.
“Auntie Bea sort of adopted me; she lost her son in the Second World War and when Evie and I went on honeymoon we photographed her son’s grave in the war cemetery – she’d never seen it before.”
Bricusse and Newley wrote their musical Stop The World, I Want To Get Off while staying with Beatrice in New York and then moved on to – and conquered – Hollywood.
“It really was the golden era when we first moved there,” he recalls.
“When Evie and I went, Anthony had teamed up with Joan Collins and the four of us all became best friends.
"Joan had a house off Sunset Boulevard and she put us through what seemed like a marine sergeant’s drill in the form of going to parties and meeting wonderful people.
"I think we saw more people in those first two weeks than we have since!”
The Bricusses and Michael Caine used to take it in turns to host “the British refugees” in their Hollywood homes and he shows me a photograph taken during those happy times.
“That’s Christopher Lee, Samantha Eggar, Jackie Collins, Joan, Anthony Newley, David Niven Jr, David Hemmings...”
Their particular close friend was Sir Roger Moore, who died this year.
“He was such a darling.
"I still miss him every day,” says Evie.
“He was our best friend for 50 years,” reflects her husband.
“It started when Evie did The Saint with him; and we were neighbours in four countries over the years.
"I made a speech at his funeral in Monaco and said, ‘If Roger had a fault it was that he was perfect.
"Other than that, he was perfect’.”
Leslie & Evie with Newley & Joan & Beatrice Lilly
But while they reflect on friends who have gone, they’re very much a forward-looking couple.
As well as Leslie’s ongoing musical projects, which include productions of his musicals Sherlock Holmes and Cyrano de Bergerac in South Korea and China, they enjoy the company of their artist son Adam and two grandsons.
One wants to be a movie director.
They are also friends with rock legend Sir Rod Stewart, who is a neighbour at their South of France home, and they dine with Sir Elton John.
But no matter how many friends they have, international superstars or otherwise, you feel that Leslie and Evie Bricusse are still each other’s best friends.
“We met when Freddie Raphael and I helped a friend with a terrible musical called Jubilee Girl,” remembers Bricusse.
“In the show was a girl named Vilma Ann Leslie who called saying, ‘I’ve just started on a film and in that film is the girl of your dreams’.
"And Vilma delivered her to my door!”
● Leslie Bricusse’s Scrooge The Musical is at Leicester’s Curve from November 18 to January 7.