According to a press statement, "he has been nursing the problem for a few weeks, but it flared up badly whilst on a break with his family this week. He has cut short his holiday to fly back to have surgery immediately to speed the recovery process. The condition, whilst neither serious nor dangerous, is extremely painful and prevents normal movement, making performing impossible."
It also states that Atkinson's doctors "are confident that he will be well enough to return to the role of Fagin on April 27, following a three-week recovery period."
Tim Laurenti, who was scheduled to play Fagin during Atkinson's holiday, will continue playing the role until April 11. He will then be succeeded by Russ Abbot, for two weeks from April 13. Abbot previously played the role at the London Palladium in 1997, and again on tour around the U.K. and in Toronto the following year. In a press statement, producer Cameron Mackintosh has said, "Our sympathy goes out to Rowan and all our best wishes for a speedy recovery and return to the production. I regret the disappointment this will cause to many but I am delighted that Russ has so ably stepped into the breach. He is a consummate all-round performer and had a personal triumph in this role when I last produced the show in London and on tour."
Abbot is best known for his TV comedy show "The Russ Abbot Show," which enjoyed more than ten series on different channels, as well as further TV success in "September Song," "Married for Life," "Mad House," "TV to Go" and "Last of the Summer Wine." His eclectic career also includes a Top Ten chart single "Atmosphere," and being the face of Hamlet cigars. He has appeared in the West End in the Neil Simon/Cy Coleman musical Little Me (at the Prince of Wales Theatre in 1984), Willy Russell’s One for the Road (Lyric Theatre, 1987) and Ray Cooney's Caught in the Net (Vaudeville Theatre, 2001), and taken over as Alfred P. Doolittle in My Fair Lady (Theatre Royal, Drury Lane) and as Grandpa Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (London Palladium). He has also toured in Dr. Dolittle and appeared as Roger de Bris in the tour of The Producers.