Comedian and actor Griff Rhys Jones is to take over from Omid Djalili as Fagin in Oliver! from 14 December.
Rhys Jones is probably best known for his television comedy double act with Mel Smith, though he is also a two-times Laurence Olivier Award winner.
Oliver!’s producer Cameron Mackintosh said: “I’ve wanted to work with Griff for years so I’m delighted that the marvellous role of Fagin has tempted him back to the stage this Christmas. Griff is an actor with an amazing array of successful talents, all of which will undoubtedly be poured into his unique and entertaining interpretation of one of Dickens’s most famous and beloved creations. I can’t wait!”
The comedian first found television fame on satire Not The Nine O’ Clock News and went on to create long-running sketch show Alas Smith And Jones with his long-time collaborator Mel Smith, with whom he set up the hugely successful production company TalkBack Productions.
His London stage credits include Charley’s Aunt and An Absolute Turkey, both of which earned him Laurence Olivier Awards for Best Comedy Performance in 1983 and 1994 respectively, The Wind In The Willows at the National Theatre in 1990 and Front Page at the Donmar Warehouse in 1997.
Rhys Jones’s recent television work has included presenting Rivers With Griff Rhys Jones, Restoration and several series of Three Men In A Boat.
When he takes over from Djalili, Rhys Jones will be the fourth comedian to play the role of Fagin in this production, which opened at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in January with Rowan Atkinson playing the pickpocket ringleader. Russ Abbot briefly stepped into Atkinson’s shoes in April while the Blackadder star recovered from a hernia operation.
Rhys Jones will join Jodie Prenger, who plays Nancy until March 2010, and Steve Hartley, who today takes over from Burn Gorman in the role of Bill Sykes.
Hartley played Sykes in the 1994 production of Oliver! at the London Palladium, upon which this production is based.
The Lionel Bart musical features the classic score including You’ve Got To Pick A Pocket Or Two, Food Glorious Food and Consider Yourself.