Djalili, who will appear as the curmudgeonly pocket-picker from 20 July, is a British-Iranian actor and comedian who made his name with several successful seasons at the Edinburgh Festival before going on to tour the UK with his particular brand of comedy. The first BBC television series of The Omid Djalili Show, which he wrote and starred in, aired in 2007 and a second series is due this April. His screen appearances also include the US television series Whoopi and the films The Mummy, Gladiator and Pirates Of The Caribbean III.
Commenting on the casting of Djalili, Oliver! producer Cameron Mackintosh said: “Oliver! has been a success beyond my wildest dreams and I’m thrilled that Rowan Atkinson has had such a tremendous triumph in a role I always thought he was born to play. The only way to follow such a unique performance is with a talent just as unique yet entirely different. No one could fulfil this criteria better than Omid Djalili. Omid started his career as an actor but was soon to become a major television star and one of the funniest comic actors and writers in Britain who regularly plays unforgettable cameos in movies. It is his ability to inhabit his characters with such comic energy and wily cunning that will make his Fagin his own.”
In joining Oliver!, Djalili will star alongside Jodie Prenger, who was chosen to play Nancy through the BBC television series I’d Do Anything. Prenger is scheduled to remain in the role until 12 December, with Tamsin Carroll playing Nancy for two performances a week. The cast also currently includes Burn Gorman, Julian Glover, Rosemary Leach, Julian Bleach and Louise Gold.
Lionel Bart’s musical is based on Charles Dickens’s novel Oliver Twist and tells the story of young orphan Oliver and his journey through the underbelly of Victorian London society. The famous score includes the numbers Food Glorious Food, Consider Yourself, I’d Do Anything and Oom Pah Pah.
This production is a revival of the 1994 staging at the London Palladium and is directed by Rupert Goold after the original direction by Sam Mendes.
Oliver! is now booking at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane until 27 February 2010.