Seven months after winning I\'d Do Anything, the \"people\'s Nancy\" Jodie Prenger claimed her prize last night (14 January 2009) when she opened, alongside Rowan Atkinson and Burn Gorman, in Cameron Mackintosh’s hugely anticipated production of Lionel Bart’s Oliver! (See Also Today’s 1st Night Photos and Review Round-up).

In the star-studded opening night audience, there was a strong contingent from I’d Do Anything - including Mackintosh, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Denise Van Outen and numerous would-be Nancys – who loudly cheered Prenger at the curtain call and at the close of her big solo, “As Long as He Needs Me”.

The entire 80-strong company received a standing ovation, with especially thunderous applause for Atkinson, who has made a rare stage appearance – and his musical debut – to take on Fagin, a part Mackintosh has been imploring him to play for 15 years. And both the audience and the company applauded the show’s late creator, a portrait of whom was unfurled as a backdrop. Lionel Bart passed away in 1999; this is the first major revival of his classic 1960 musical without his involvement.

Oliver! is based on Charles Dickens’ literary classic Oliver Twist and, beyond its theatre fanbase, found legions of fans from the 1968 film version. The score includes now-famous songs including “Consider Yourself”, “It’s a Fine Life”, “As Long as He Needs Me”, “Oom-pah-pah”, “Food, Glorious Food”, “I’d Do Anything” and the title song.

TO VIEW THE OLIVER! OPENING NIGHT TV FOOTAGE, JUST CLICK
ON THE ARROW IN THE MIDDLE OF THE TV SCREEN BELOW.

The musical is directed by Rupert Goold, based on Sam Mendes’ 1994 staging at the London Palladium. Goold is joined by two key members of Mendes’ original creative team, Matthew Bourne, who co-directs and choreographs the new outing, and set designer Anthony Ward. Lighting is by Paule Constable, sound by Paul Groothuis, orchestrations by William D Brohn and musical supervision by Martin Koch. Mendes’ production ran for 1,366 performances from December 1994 to February 1998 at the Palladium, where it grossed more than £40 million.

For Whatsonstage.com TV, interviewer Roger Foss and director John Gidley were on hand at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane for the Oliver! performance and at the Waldorf Hilton for the post-show party. Amongst our TV interviewees are Cameron Mackintosh, Rowan Atkinson, Jodie Prenger, Burn Gorman, Rupert Goold, Julian Glover, Harry Stott (opening night Oliver), Ross McCormack (opening night Artful Dodger), Sarah Lark, I’d Do Anything’s Niamh Perry and Rachel Tucker, and other first night guests including Terry Wogan, Alan Titchmarsh, George Sampson and Anneka Rice.

Gwion Jones and Laurence Jeffcoate alternate with Harry Stott in the title role; all three boys were chosen by Mackintosh and I’d Do Anything judge Andrew Lloyd Webber as part of the TV series. Eric Dibb Fuller and Robert Madge alternate with Ross in the role of the Artful Dodger. The cast also features Julius D\'Silva as Mr Bumble, Wendy Ferguson as Widow Corney, Julian Bleach as Mr Sowerberry/Dr Grimwig, Louise Gold as Mrs Sowerberry/Mrs Bedwin and Tamsin Carroll as the alternate Nancy. The stage production is presented by Mackintosh in association with the Southbrook Group Limited.

- by Terri Paddock