He will be joined by a Nancy that is yet to be determined, currently being cast by the BBC1 reality TV show "I'd Do Anything," whose 12 finalists were recently announced. Three boys are also being chosen to share the title role.
Atkinson was a founder member of the BBC satirical comedy series "Not the Nine O'Clock News," and in 1981 he became the youngest performer ever to have a one-man show in the West End. A subsequent transfer to Broadway's (Brooks) Atkinson Theatre, where his show was entitled Rowan Atkinson at the Atkinson, in 1986 ran for a notorious seven performances only, after opening on Oct. 14. His television credits include four series of "Blackadder," "Mr. Bean" (the highest-rated UK comedy of the '90s, which was seen in over 200 countries), and the Ben Elton-scripted sitcom, "The Thin Blue Line." His films include "The Tall Guy," "The Witches," "Four Weddings and a Funeral," "The Lion King," "Scooby Doo," "Love Actually," "Johnny English," "Bean: The Ultimate Disaster Movie" and "Mr. Bean's Holiday."
In a press statement, Atkinson said, "In the 1980s I enjoyed doing a lot of West End theatre and since then have been distracted very much by Mr. Bean and film making. I had been thinking for some time about returning to the stage and the idea of the role of Fagin, which has long intrigued me, (some time ago I even played the role in a school production), seemed like too good an opportunity to miss."
The production will be directed by Rupert Goold, who recently won the Best Director Award at the 2008 Olivier Awards for his production of Macbeth, which begins performances on Broadway on March 28. The new Oliver! is based on Sam Mendes' 1994 London Palladium production, with co-director and choreographer Matthew Bourne and designs by Anthony Ward.
Producer Cameron Mackintosh, who was also responsible for the 1994 production, stated, "I have wanted to give London some more of Olivier! for some time as I last produced Lionel Bart's masterpiece at the Palladium 14 years ago when it was staged by the, then, upcoming Sam Mendes and Matthew Bourne, with acclaimed sets by Anthony Ward. This time around, still based on Sam's original, the production is being directed by one of Britain's most exciting new directors, recent Olivier award-winner Rupert Goold. He, along with co-director and choreographer Matthew Bourne and designer Anthony Ward will be making full spectacular use of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane's majestic stage, which is almost twice the size of the Palladium." Of the casting of Atkinson, Mackintosh stated, "I'm thrilled that Rowan Atkinson has finally reviewed the situation and succumbed to his long-held ambition to play Fagin. We have been discussing the possibility on and off for many years and to me this idea has always promised the perfect marriage of a brilliant mercurial role with a brilliant mercurial comic actor."
Tickets go on sale April 7. For more information, call 0844 412 2955 or visit www.oliverthemusical.com.