I’d Do Anything to visit London and see Oliver!
Following the popularity of the BBC’s ’How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?’ and the revival of The Sound of Music, ’Any Dream Will Do’ and the resultant success of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat; theatre producer Cameron Mackintosh is hoping for the same success story when the ’I’ll Do Anything’ winners join the cast of the new production of Oliver!
Television audiences for the BBC show reached weekly audiences of over 5 million and drawing much publicised criticism from Kevin Spacey, director of the Old Vic.
When the show was first staged almost 50 years ago it attracted a large amount of attention. Taking to the stage in June 1960, Oliver! was the first musical adaptation of a Charles Dickens novel. Prior to the musical only two adaptations of a Dickens novel had been seen and both were televised versions of A Christmas Carol during the 1950’s.
For Oliver! Lional Bart tackled and adapted Charles Dickens’ second novel, the 1838 Oliver Twist. An adaptation of such a dramatic novel called for a dramatic production and the original Oliver! even employed a revolving stage set. The role of Nancy in Bart’s production was written for Alma Cogan. Known as “The Girl With A Giggle In Her Voice,” Cogan was the highest paid British female entertainer of her era and, although she was eventually unable to commit, the possibility of her participation led to investment in the show from many theatre producers.
Opening on June 30 1960, Oliver! enjoyed an enormous amount of success and ran for a total of 2,618 performances. The original Oliver was Keith Hamshere, who went on to become a Hollywood still photographer, and Ron Moody played Fagin. The show launched the careers of many child actors including Davy Jones of The Monkees, Phil Collins and Tony Robinson - it is fitting that Robinson’s ’Black Adder’ co-star Rowan Atkinson is confirmed to play Fagin in the upcoming revival.
With West End success behind it, Oliver! headed to America in 1962 with a national tour before taking up residency on Broadway in 1963. A critical and commercial hit and scooped 10 Tony nominations, winning 3 including Best Score.
An ever-popular story, Oliver! returned to the West End once more in 1994 with additional music and lyrics by Lionel Bart. The revival also proved a success and the theatre going publics appetite for a dramatic story. In keeping with the career-launching nature of the first production, the 1994 revival of Oliver starred a number of future stars including Jon Lee and Tom Fletcher who would go on to be in pop bands S Club 7 and McFly, respectively, in the title roles and Danielle McCormack who would go on to star in television shows including “My Parents Are Aliens.”
The latest West End revival of Oliver! will open in December 2008 at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and star “I’ll Do Anything” winner Jodie Prenger as Nancy with Gwion Jones, Harry Stott and Laurence Jeffcoate as Oliver. A staggering number of viewers tuned in to the final.
Oliver! has already worked its star-making abilities on the winners and with the public anxious to see the chosen ones in action, demand for opening night is likely to be as high as when the show first opened.
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