The move, instigated by Olivier! and Les Misérables producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh is intended to give West End newcomer Prenger the opportunity to gain experience performing on the London stage before all eyes fall on her at the opening of the musical revival.
Prenger’s stint in the French revolution-set musical is due to start at the end of August and run for around a month.
An official statement from the producer’s office read: “Since winning the BBC show I’d Do Anything, Jodie has been working hard to build upon the training she underwent during the programme. Cameron Mackintosh has already arranged for Jodie to attend the Summer School at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and has given her the opportunity to join the company of Les Misérables as part of the ensemble, so she can experience what it is like to be regularly performing in a West End musical environment. Jodie has jumped at the chance of gaining experience before she starts rehearsals for Oliver! in November.
“The similar 19th century backdrop of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables is the ideal low key environment for Jodie to prepare herself for Dickens and Lionel Bart’s Oliver! this December at Drury Lane.”
Producers have confirmed that during her time in London theatre’s longest running musical, Prenger will play a variety of small roles within the ensemble and will not take any principal or featured character.
Prenger won the BBC’s latest search for a musical theatre star, I’d Do Anything, at the end of May, following the likes of Connie Fisher and Lee Mead whose stage careers were ignited through triumphant runs on reality television shows.
Unlike Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat star Mead, who had previously understudied the role of Raoul in The Phantom Of The Opera, Prenger has no London stage experience, though she has previously worked on the light entertainment circuit in Blackpool and on a cruise ship.
The former agony aunt and award-winning slimmer has already impressed Mackintosh with her dedication. The impresario said of his newest star: “One of the great things about Jodie is that she grasps every opportunity offered to her and she is eager to work. When she won I'd Do Anything, Jodie told me that she didn't want to sit around for six months but wanted to really use the time before going into rehearsals. I'm delighted that this is one of the things she's chosen to do.”
When Prenger does step onto the Drury Lane stage as Nancy in Bart’s musical Oliver!, she will be joined by Rowan Atkinson as Fagin, Burn Gorman as Bill Sykes, Julian Glover as Mr Brownlow, Rosemary Leach as Mrs Bedwin and Julian Bleach and Louise Gold as the Sowerberrys. Gwion Jones, Harry Stott and Laurence Jeffcoate, who also appeared in I’d Do Anything, share the role of Oliver.
Oliver! opens at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane on 14 January 2009, following previews from 12 December.