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TV Winner Prenger Does Six Oliver! Shows a Week

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Theatregoers who have already purchased tickets for Cameron Mackintosh’s forthcoming West End revival of Oliver! may run the risk of missing Jodie Prenger (pictured), the publicly-voted winner of BBC One casting programme I’d Do Anything (See Today’s Other News), in the key role of Nancy.

Currently, Prenger, who judge Andrew Lloyd Webber described on Saturday’s live final as “the people’s choice”, is only committed to performing six shows a week, rather than the full eight. In a statement on the show’s official website, the production team says, “sickness and holiday permitting, we have decided that Jodie Prenger is scheduled to perform on Monday and Tuesday evenings, Wednesday matinees, Friday evenings and both performances on Saturday”.

Those who have already booked for Wednesday and Thursday evenings but wish to attend on a night when Prenger is scheduled to perform should contact the box office or agency from which the tickets were purchased to see if their tickets are transferrable. According to the show website, until performances begin – with previews at the West End’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane from 12 December 2008 ahead of a press night on 14 January 2009 (See News, 26 Mar 2008) – the schedule is still subject to change and “we cannot make a final decision on any additional performances”.

A spokeswoman from Cameron Mackintosh Ltd told Whatsonstage.com today that there’s still a chance Prenger will perform all eight shows. The reduced schedule, she said, “is only a precaution as we enter the rehearsal period”. She added that Rowan Atkinson will be performing a "full eight shows a week" in the role of Fagin.

Mackintosh, who reportedly expressed doubts about Prenger being too “big” for the role and publicly named runner-up Jessie Buckley as his choice for Nancy (See The Goss, 30 May 2008), said after Prenger’s win on Saturday: "I'm thrilled for Jodie. She is obviously the public's view of what they want to see as Nancy. She'll give a terrific performance, and I really look forward to putting her into training and getting her into rehearsals."

It’s not the first time that TV casting has caused controversy over scheduled appearances. In 2006, when Connie Fisher initially won the role of Maria in The Sound of Music via the first BBC One casting programme, How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, plans for an alternate (originally West End alumna Emma Williams was hired) to perform twice a week were scrapped due to audiences demanding to see the “people’s Maria”. But eight shows a week took a toll on the then relatively inexperienced Fisher, who was off for several weeks with strained vocal chords and, on doctor’s advice on her return, cut back to six shows a week, with her one-time Problem adversary Aoife Mulholland joining the cast as the new Maria alternate (See News, 20 Mar 2007).

The decision to put Prenger on a similar schedule may be an attempt to prevent similar vocal problems, despite the supporting role of Nancy being significantly smaller than that of Maria. Due to licensing issues, schedules for the three boys who will share the title role in Oliver! - Gwion Jones, Harry Stott and Laurence Jeffcoate who were selected last week by Mackintosh and Lloyd Webber as part of the I’d Do Anything series (See News, 27 May 2008) - cannot be decided until shortly before the performance starts.

- by Theo Bosanquet & Terri Paddock



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