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Musical Cast: Rhys Jones Oliver!, Matilda & Bells

Griff Rhys Jones looks set to return to the role of Fagin in Oliver! this Christmas, repeating the spell he spent in the part from December 2009 to 12 June this year. Rhys Jones will take over the role from Russ Abbot who, as previously reported, will leave the show at the end of his contract on 4 December 2010. He will open in the part on 6 December and continue in the role until the show closes on 8 January 2011.

The role of Fagin has been played by a series of comedy and television stars since the show opened in January 2009. The musical opened with Rowan Atkinson in the role, a part producer Cameron Mackintosh said he had been wanting Atkinson to play for 15 years. He was succeeded by fellow comic Omid Djalili from July 2009 until Griff Rhys Jones took the part in December 2009.

Rhys Jones became a household name in the 1980s and 90s thanks to TV sketch shows Not the Nine O’Clock News and Alas Smith and Jones. On stage, Rhys Jones has won two Laurence Olivier Awards for Best Comedy Performance, for Charley’s Aunt in 1983 and An Absolute Turkey in 1994. 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.

Kerry Ellis will continue in the role of Nancy with Steven Hartley as Bill Sikes until the end of the run. The Theatre Royal Drury Lane's next tenants, Shrek the Musical previews from May 1 before opening 7 June 2011.

In other musical casting news, the full cast has now been announced for the London revival of Bells Are Ringing at the Union Theatre from 1 October to 23 October 2010 (previews from 29 September). With a score by Jule Styne (Gypsy and Funny Girl) and book by Betty Comden and Adolph Green (Singin' in the Rain and On the Town) the show was originally produced on the West End in 1957.

The production will star Anna-Jane Casey, who has recently been seen in the West End production of Chicago and the Open Air Theatre's Comedy of Errors, as Ella Peterson and Gary Milner, whose West End credits include Imagine This and Evita, as Jeff Moss.

The full cast has now been announced as: Marc Antolin (Paul Arnold), Carl Au (Carl), Michael Bryher (Francis), Fenton Gray (Sandor), Richard Grieve (Inspector Barnes), Bob Harms (Larry Hastings), Victoria Hinde (Olga), Aoife Nally (Gwynne), Tama Phethean (Blake Barton), Corinna Powlesland (Sue), Adam Rhys-Charles (Kitchell), Laura Selwood (Ensemble) and Sasi Strallen (Ensemble).

Directed by Paul Foster, the show tells the story of Ella Peterson who works at Susanswerphone, her cousin’s answering service for the celebrities on New York’s smart East Side. Events begin to spiral out of control as Ella falls for hard-drinking playwright Jeff Moss and her little white lies come back to haunt her.

Finally, the Royal Shakespeare Company has announced the full cast for its upcoming production of Matilda, A Musical which opens at the Courtyard Theatre on 9 December 2010 (previews from 9 November) for a 12 week run until 30 January 2011.

Three schoolgirls have been announced for the main role of Matilda with Adrianna Bertola (aged 11), Josie Griffiths (aged 10) and Kerry Ingram (aged 11) all playing the special little girl with extraordinary powers.

Joining them in the cast are Lauren Ward, whose RSC credits include Pericles and The Winter’s Tale as well as The Sound of Music at the London Palladium, as Miss Honey and Bertie Carvel, whose recent stage work includes Rope at the Almeida, Parade at the Donmar Warehouse and Coram Boy for the National Theatre, as formidable head mistress Miss Trunchbull.

Paul Kaye and Josie Walker take the roles of Mr and Mrs Wormwood, Matilda’s father and mother, and Peter Howe plays Michael, Matilda’s brother. Also in the company are: Verity Bentham, Emily-Jane Boyle, Michael Kent, Melanie La Barrie, Matthew Malthouse, Alastair Parker, Michael Rouse, Nick Searle and Emily Shaw. In addition, three teams of children will play alternate performances.

Matilda, A Musical has a book by playwright Dennis Kelly and music and lyrics by Australian comedian Tim Minchin. It is an adaptation of the Roald Dahl 1988 childrens' novel, which tells the story of a little girl with astonishing wit, intelligence and psychokinetic powers.

The production is designed by Rob Howell with choreography by Peter Darling, lighting designer by Hugh Vanstone, musical supervision and orchestration by Chris Nightingale and sound design by Simon Baker. Matthew Warchus directs.


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