Jodie Prenger has won the chance to play Nancy in Cameron Macktintosh’s production of Oliver! after triumphing in the BBC television competition I’d Do Anything on Saturday night.
The 28-year-old former agony aunt from Blackpool beat off competition from fellow finalists Jessie Buckley and Samantha Barks to claim the coveted role. As Nancy she will star alongside Rowan Atkinson’s Fagin when the production opens at the Drury Lane on 14 January 2009 (previews from 12 December 2008).
On winning the role, Prenger told host Graham Norton and the audience “You have genuinely given me my dream, I can’t actually put into words how I feel. I’m so grateful and so chuffed.”
Barks, 17, was announced in third place at the end of the first of two live shows on Saturday, leaving Prenger and Buckley to battle it out for the final public vote in the second show.
The final showdown split the opinion of the programme’s panellists, with Prenger receiving support from John Barrowman and Denise Van Outen, while Barry Humphries, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Mackintosh chose Buckley as the performer they would most like to see win the role.
After the results were announced, Lloyd Webber commented: “She’s the people’s choice. I think people love her, they love her open personality. I think they relate to that personality and I think that’s what makes her Nancy for the public. Her strengths are her personality and her very, very strong voice.”
Mackintosh added: “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.”
During the competition the three finalists sang alongside the trio of boys who had already been chosen by Mackintosh and Lloyd Webber to share the role of Oliver in the musical. They are: Gwion, from Camarthenshire and Laurence from Cheshire, both 11, and 12-year-old Harry from Oxfordshire.
The winners now have six months to prepare for their West End debuts, before the Lionel Bart musical has its first performances in December. A revival of Sam Mendes’s 1994 production at the London Palladium, Oliver! is directed by 2008 Laurence Olivier Award-winning director Rupert Goold, with co-direction and choreography by Matthew Bourne and designs by Anthony Ward. Further casting has not yet been announced.