The three boys who will star in Cameron Mackintosh’s upcoming West End revival of Oliver! were announced this weekend as part of the BBC One casting competition I’d Do Anything (See News, 12 Mar 2008). They are: Gwion Jones, 11 years old, from Carmarthenshire; Harry Stott, 12 years old, from Oxfordshire; and Laurence Jeffcoate, 11 years old, from Cheshire.

The trio will alternate in the title role, appearing alongside Rowan Atkinson as Fagin, in the Lionel Bart musical, which opens on 14 January 2009 (previews from 12 December 2008) at the West End’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane (See News, 26 Mar 2008). The actress who will play Nancy will be decided in the live I’d Do Anything final next Saturday, 31 May 2008. As broadcast this weekend, the final three contestants vying for the public vote to win the role are: 18-year-old Jessie from County Kerry in Ireland; Jodie, a 28-year-old agony aunt from Blackpool; and Samantha, a 17-year-old from the Isle of Man currently studying at London’s Arts Educational.

From initial open auditions attracting thousands, 50 boys were selected to train with musical theatre experts, from which a final 12 were chosen by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh to appear in the live broadcasts over the past two months. Unlike the Nancys, the wannabe Olivers did not face a public vote, but they were required to perform tasks each week to impress Lloyd Webber and Mackintosh and secure a place in the semi-final. The eight semi-finalists had to perform the song “Where Is Love” from Oliver! in front of the two men.

Commenting on the choice of Gwion, Harry and Laurence, Lloyd Webber said: “Cameron and I agree we have three very different Olivers, but I think it’s a great result and I think whichever Oliver you go and see, you’re going to get a fantastic performance.” Mackintosh added: “The talent we have unearthed as been terrific.”

Oliver! is based on Charles Dickens’ literary classic Oliver Twist and, beyond its theatre fanbase, the 1960 stage musical found legions of fans from the 1968 film version starring Mark Lester as Oliver, Shani Wallis as Nancy, Ron Moody as Fagin, Jack Wild as the Artful Dodger and Oliver Reed as Bill Sikes. 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.

- by Terri Paddock

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