Rowan pockets Fagin role

West End comeback for Atkinson

Rowan Atkinson is to return to the West End stage after almost 20 years, to play Fagin in the revival of Oliver! next year.

In 1981, at the age of 26, Atkinson became the youngest performer to have a one-man show in the West End. He performed several stand-up shows on stage, and in 1984 took the lead in The Nerd, which he followed in 1988 by appearing in Chekhov’s The Sneeze.

He said: ‘In the Eighties I enjoyed doing a lot of West End theatre and since then have been distracted very much by Mr Bean and film-making.

‘I had been thinking for some time about returning to the stage and the idea of the role of Fagin, which has long intrigued me - some time ago I even played the role in a school production - seemed like too good an opportunity to miss.’

The cast of Oliver! will also include the winners of the current BBC One reality show I'd Do Anything - one actress will play Nancy and three boys will take turns to play the lead role.

It opens at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane on January 14, 2009 following previews from December 12. Tickets go on sale April 7.

Producer Cameron Mackintosh said: ‘I’m thrilled that Rowan Atkinson has finally reviewed the situation and succumbed to his long-held ambition to play Fagin. We have been discussing the possibility on and off for many years and to me this idea has always promised the perfect marriage of a brilliant mercurial role with a brilliant mercurial comic actor.’

The Theatre Royal Drury Lane is currently home to the stage adaptation of The Lord of the Rings – the most expensive production in West End history at an estimated £12.5 million. It will close in July, and no productions have yet been announced before Oliver! takes over.

Published: 26 Mar 2008

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