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BBC’s Anything Search for Oliver! Starts This Sat

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I’d Do Anything, the BBC’s latest reality TV competition, which will cast an upcoming West End revival of Lionel Bart’s Oliver!, will begin airing on BBC One at 7.30pm this Saturday 15 March 2008 (See News, 21 Dec 2007).

As with its predecessors, How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? and Any Dream Will Do, the new TV series will begin by charting the journeys of thousands of hopefuls from regional auditions – held in Belfast, Manchester, Glasgow and London earlier this year – through to the final shortlists. I’d Do Anything will find one actress to play the role of Nancy and three boys who will alternate in the title role of the orphan Oliver Twist.

In the first two broadcasts, the wannabe Nancys are whittled down to just over a hundred, who are called to London to perform before the panel, with those who stand out given the chance to attend “Nancy School”. From programme three, the actresses will also need to gain viewers' votes to stay in the competition to win their West End role.

Meanwhile, the audience will watch as a total of 50 boys are selected to train with musical theatre experts before a final 12 are chosen by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Oliver! producer Cameron Mackintosh to appear in the live broadcasts from programme three. Unlike the Nancys, the wannabe Olivers will not face a public vote, but they will be required to continue to impress Lloyd Webber and the panel – via individual musical tasks and group performances each week - to secure a place in the semi-final.

Though, unlike with The Sound of Music and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Lloyd Webber will not be producing the resulting stage production, on television he’s back “on the throne” as the supreme judge. John Barrowman (who appeared in both Problem and Dream) and Denise Van Outen also return to the judging panel, newly joined by Barry Humphries, aka Dame Edna Everage, who replaces vocal coach Zoe Tyler (See The Goss, 5 Mar 2008).

Humphries created the role of undertaker Mr Sowerberry in the premiere 1960 West End production of Oliver! and reprised this on Broadway in 1963. He went on to play Fagin in the musical’s 1967 revival at the Piccadilly Theatre, reprising that role in Mackintosh’s 1994 production, directed by Sam Mendes at the London Palladium.

Lionel Bart’s musical is based on Charles Dickens’ literary classic Oliver Twist and, beyond its theatre fanbase, 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.

No venue or dates have yet been announced for Oliver!’s new West End run.

- by Terri Paddock


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