Olivier Award-winning actor and comedian Griff Rhys Jones marked his opening night as Fagin in Oliver! at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane last night (15 December 2010), having inherited the role from fellow comics Rowan Atkinson and subsequently Omid Djalili (See News, 15 Sep 2009).

Rhys Jones was joined by director Rupert Goold and producer Cameron Mackintosh to celebrate his opening night, and was roundly cheered at the curtain call by co-stars Jodie Prenger (who has extended her contract through to March 2010) and Steve Hartley, who succeeded Burn Gorman as Bill Sikes in September.

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Griff Rhys Jones has won two Laurence Olivier Awards for Best Comedy Performance, for Charley’s Aunt in 1983 and An Absolute Turkey in 1994. His other theatre credits include The Front Page (Donmar Warehouse), The Wind in the Willows (National) and Horse and Carriage (West Yorkshire Playhouse). He was last seen on stage in 2001 in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum as part of the Covent Garden Festival. He also played a huge part in the restoration of the Hackney Empire.

Oliver! opened, with the West End’s largest-ever advance of £15 million, on 14 January 2009 (previews from 12 December) and is currently booking through to 27 February 2010 (See WOS TV, 15 Jan 2009).

The current cast also features Julian Glover (Mr Brownlow), Julius D'Silva (Mr Bumble), Wendy Ferguson (Widow Corney), Julian Bleach (Mr Sowerberry/Dr Grimwig), Louise Gold (Mrs Sowerberry/Mrs Bedwin) and Tamsin Carroll (alternate Nancy), as well as teams of alternating child stars.