Entertainer Russ Abot Takes Over as Fagin in Oliver!

OLIVER! will bid cheerio to Griff Rhys Jones on 12 June. Russ Abott, one of the most popular entertainers in Britain, will play Fagin from 14 June.

Russ is no stranger to OLIVER! having played the role of Fagin at the Palladium, Theatre Royal and on tour. He is probably best known for his TV comedy programme, The Russ Abbot Show, which enjoyed more than ten series on different channels, but his varied career has also encompassed releasing a single “Atmosphere”, which made it into the top ten, as well as television success with September Song, Married for Life, Mad House and TV to Go. He was also known as the face of Hamlet cigars. His many awards include Top Variety Act at the 1990 British Comedy Awards. Last year, the BBC announced that Abbot would be joining the cast of Last of the Summer Wine for the show’s 30th series.  Despite his television fame, Abbot is no stranger to the West End having starred in shows such as Neil Simon’s Little Me, Willy Russell’s One for the Road and the 2001 farce Caught in the Net, Ray Cooney’s sequel to Run for Your Wife. His other musical credits include Fagin in Oliver! at the London Palladium, UK tour and in Toronto, the title role in the UK tour of Dr Dolittle, Alfred P Doolittle in the multi award-winning revival of Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, Grandpa Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the London Palladium and Roger De Bris in the UK tour of The Producers.

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Griff Rhys Jones will be next Fagin in OLIVER

Cameron Mackintosh has announced that award-winning actor Griff Rhys Jones will be the next star after Omid Djalili to play ‘Fagin’ in the triumphant new production of Lionel Bart’s smash hit musical OLIVER! at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane from Monday 14 December 2009 until June 2010.

Jodie Prenger has extended her run in the role of Nancy through March 2010 and Steve Hartley comes to the role of Bill Sikes on 15th September after having enjoyed a huge success in the original London run of OLIVER! at the Palladium.

Giff Rhys Jones’ Biography:

Griff Rhys Jones was born in 1953 in Cardiff. Educated at Brentwood School in Essex, he won an exhibition to Emmanuel College, Cambridge to read History, transferring later to English. After a varied gap year including a job looking after a plethora of Canadian schoolgirls on the P&O ship Uganda he took up his place at Cambridge. He joined the Footlights Club (becoming its vice president in 1976), and was president of the Mummers and the ADC, appearing in and directing various productions.

After University (and after a short stint as a bodyguard to visiting Arabs) he joined the BBC as a trainee radio producer. Having played a selection of minor roles in the first series of Not The Nine O’Clock News, he was brought in as a regular member of the cast alongside Rowan Atkinson, Pamela Stephenson and Mel Smith after Chris Langham’s departure.

When Not The Nine O’Clock News finished he continued working with Mel Smith, and in a bid to stave off unemployment they founded Talkback Productions to produce their own shows and those of other performers. The company has gone on to produce and manage some of the major British comedy performers of the last twenty years. His writing and performing partnership with Mel Smith took off in 1984 with Alas Smith and Jones, one of the most successful and long running double acts on TV, running until the late 90s. He and Mel Smith sold the company in 2000 and it has continued to produce major hits for both BBC and commercial television.

Griff also continued working in the theatre, primarily in comedy and farce, winning Olivier awards for best comedy performance in Charley’s Aunt (1984) and An Absolute Turkey (1994), and appearing at the National Theatre as Toad in The Wind in the Willows. He also undertook some more serious acting roles for television, including A View of Harry Clarke in which he starred alongside Elaine Paige.

Recently he has become best known as a presenter, firstly of Bookworm and latterly of Restoration, which ran for three series. He was the driving force behind the restoration of Hackney Empire theatre in London, and has undertaken several projects of his own, notably the restoration of a Pembrokeshire farm, which was filmed for the BBC and was inspired by his own interest in architecture and conservation. He has also written and presented documentaries on Arthur Ransome, Rudyard Kipling and John Betjeman, and one on Thomas Hardy for broadcast later this year, as well as three Three Men in a Boat films with Dara O’Briain and Rory McGrath, and Mountain, which won a Scottish BAFTA in 2007. His latest outdoor series, River Journeys with Griff Rhys Jones, is due to be screened in 2009. Griff also took over as presenter of It’ll Be Alright on the Night in 2008. He has continued to work as a television actor, starring in Russell T Davies’s Mine All Mine, as well as roles in Riot at the Rite, Marple, Casualty and Jonathan Creek, and providing the voices for the children’s cartoon Funnybones.

Griff holds honorary degrees from University of East Anglia, APU and University of Glamorgan and is a Fellow of Welsh College of Music and Drama, Emmanuel College, Cambridge and the Royal Society of Arts. He gives a lot of time to charitable causes, from Comic Relief to the Lucie Blackman Trust, and in 2004 led the demonstration at Senate House, Cambridge to prevent the closure of the Architecture degree course at Cambridge. In 2007 he became Vice-President of the River Stour Trust, and in 2008 President of the Civic Trust; since its demise in 2009 he has been instrumental in setting up the Civic Society Initiative to replace it. An enthusiastic sailor, he owns the classic yacht Undina, which took the starring role in Three Men in Another Boat in 2007.

He has written and co-written many of the shows in which he appears, together with a number of books associated with them, and in 2002 began writing his first “proper” book To the Baltic With Bob, an account of a haphazard journey to St Petersburg. In 2006 his early autobiography Semi-Detached was featured as one of the recommended reads on Richard and Judy’s Book Club, and Mountain, the book accompanying his television series, was published in 2007.

Griff has been married for near on 30 years to designer Jo, whom he met when she had to throw water over him in a state of semi-nakedness for a Not The Nine O’Clock News sketch. They have a son and daughter (and a dog) and divide their time between homes in central London and Suffolk.

Courtesy: www.griff-rhysjones.co.uk

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Rowan Atkinson Forced TO Take Three Weeks Off From Oliver!

Rowan Atkinson has sustained an indirect inguinal hernia.  His doctors advise immediate surgery to avoid exacerbating the condition.  They are confident that he will be well enough to return to the role of Fagin in Oliver! on the 27th April following a three week recovery period.  Rowan has been nursing the problem for a few weeks but it flared up badly whilst on a break with his family this week. He has cut short his holiday to fly back to have surgery immediately to speed the recovery process.  The condition, whilst neither serious nor dangerous, is extremely painful and prevents normal movement, making performing impossible. 

Cameron Mackintosh is delighted to announce that we have been lucky enough to get Russ Abbot to return to the role of Fagin for two weeks from 13th April.  Russ played the role to considerable acclaim at the London Palladium in 1997 and again triumphantly on tour around the UK and in Toronto the following year.  Cameron Mackintosh said today, “Our sympathy goes out to Rowan and all our best wishes for a speedy recovery and return to the production.  I regret the disappointment this will cause to many but I am delighted that Russ has so ably stepped into the breach.  He is a consummate all-round performer and had a personal triumph in this role when I last produced the show in London and on tour.” 

Actor and Comedian Omid Djalili ‘Fagin’ in Olivier! from 20 July 2009

Actor and comedian Omid Djalili will be the next star to play ‘Fagin’ in Oliver! at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane from Monday 20 July 2009.

Omid Djalili is an award-winning British-Iranian actor/comedian. Not only acclaimed as one of Britain’s funniest stand up comedians, he has also featured in films including ‘The Mummy’, ‘Gladiator’, ‘Spy Game’, ‘Modigliani’, ‘Sky Captain & The World of Tomorrow’, ‘Casanova’, and will soon be seen in ‘The Allottment’ and ‘Pirates of the Caribbean III’. On TV he did two seasons of ‘Small Potatoes’ on Channel 4. In the States he signed a talent holding deal with NBC in 2002 and co-starred with Whoopi Goldberg in her sitcom  ‘Whoopi’ which ran from 2003-04. Most recently Omid has been commissioned to do his own series for BBC1, ‘The Omid Djalili Show’ to be seen in 2007.

Cameron Mackintosh presents his triumphant new staging of Lionel Bart’s masterpiece Oliver! at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, which was last seen at the Palladium in 1994. Oliver! is one of the most beloved British musicals, vividly bringing to life Dickens’ timeless characters with its ever popular story of the boy who asked for more.

Winner of BBC reality show ‘I’d Do Anything’ Jodie Prenger will continue to play ‘Nancy’ until to 12 Dec 2009.

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