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Oliver! Closes at Drury Lane 8 Jan, Moody Guests

Oliver! has posted closing notices at the West End’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Impresario Cameron Mackintosh’s production of the Lionel Bart musical opened, with the West End’s largest-ever advance of £15 million, on 14 January 2009 (previews from 12 December). It will now close on 8 January 2011.

A spokesperson told Whatsonstage.com: “For a show as enormous as Oliver!, a two-year run at Drury Lane (which at 2,200 seats is one of the West End’s largest venues) is just fantastic, so we are going to have a sensational six-month send-off.”

The send-off will include a special “50th birthday” appearance this month for legendary Fagin Ron Moody. Moody first appeared in Oliver! on 30 June 1960 at the New Theatre. He’ll return to the musical for one night only at Drury Lane on 30 June 2010.

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

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.

The current cast features Kerry Ellis (as Nancy), Russ Abbot (Fagin), Stephen Moore (as Mr Brownlow), Christian Patterson (Mr Bumble), Claire Machin (Widow Corney), Jason Morell (Mr Sowerberry/Dr Grimwig) and Louise Gold (Mrs Sowerberry/Mrs Bedwin) as well as teams of alternating child stars.

Today’s closure news clears the way for the Broadway transfer of screen-to-stage adaptation Shrek!, based on the Dreamworks animated films, which has been tipped to open at Drury Lane in March 2011, with an official announcement expected shortly.