I love London, and have been waiting for a theatrical justification to return to that wondrous city. But much of the stuff that's been opening recently in the West End, at least in terms of musicals, has been utter crap. (e.g. Dirty Dancing, Desperately Seeking Susan, Lord of the Rings. Yeesh.) Well, now I'm thinking that I may want to plan a trip across the pond sometime early next year.
I had heard that Andrew Lloyd Webber was doing the reality-TV thing again to choose a Nancy for yet another London revival of Lionel Bart's Oliver!. The show is titled "I'd Do Anything," and follows on the heels of a number of successful ALW-sponsored reality-casting efforts, including "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria," in which audience members chose a Maria for the current London revival of The Sound of Music, as well as "Any Dream Will Do," which focused on choosing the title character for a revival of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I'm sort of struck by the show name "I'd Do Anything." It really seems to sum up reality TV in a nutshell, don't it? "Any Dream Will Do" doesn't have the same sense of desperation.
Despite my historical associations with the show Oliver!, news of the revival didn't pique my interest at first. I mean, it's not a very good show, although it has many terrific songs. But then I heard that British comedian Rowan Atkinson is scheduled to play Fagin.
I'm a huge fan of British comedy: Monty Python, Beyond the Fringe, Flanders and Swann, "Absolutely Fabulous," "Little Britain," "The League of Gentlemen," etc. And I'm a particular fan of the old "Blackadder" shows from the 80s. Rowan Atkinson is a masterful comic, and across the four seasons of the show he portrays a delightful series of conniving historical footnotes, from a toadying member of the court of Elizabeth I, to a Machiavellian butler for George IV when he was Prince Regent. As for Atkinson's Mr. Bean, well, not so much. But the combination of Oliver! and one of my favorite performers has me planning frequent flier miles and thinking of floors and couches I can crash on in the general London area.
The TV show is also of interest because of the presence of host Graham Norton and celebrity judge John Barrowman. Both are openly gay, and each is adorable in his own particular way. Norton also hosts "The Graham Norton Show" on BBC America, and is easily the funniest man currently on television. Barrowman has appeared in such West End shows as Anything Goes and Sunset Boulevard, and currently stars in "Doctor Who" spin-off "Torchwood," also on BBC America. And he's yummy.
Oliver! opens at the Theater Royal, Drury Lane in January 2009.