Graham and Andrew reunite to find new West End talent
Last year, the BBC One audience made a dream come true and shot Lee Mead to stardom in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. This year, the BBC is embarking on a talent search once again with a brand-new Saturday night show, I'd Do Anything.
Graham Norton is reunited with Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber as Britain's most unlikely small screen double acts teams up again, this time for a double challenge: to find talent for the roles of Nancy and a total of three youthful protégés to play orphaned urchin Oliver in the new Cameron Mackintosh forthcoming West End production of Oliver!, featuring one of the most memorable scores in contemporary musical theatre including Consider Yourself, You've Got To Pick a Pocket, Who Will Buy?, Food, Glorious Food and, of course, I'd Do Anything.
To help viewers choose their Nancy and mentor the hopeful aspiring Olivers, the I'd Do Anything panel is Torchwood star John Barrowman, Broadway and West End leading lady Denise Van Outen and, for the first time, actor, comedian, writer and star of musical theatre Barry Humphries CBE, who has appeared in several productions of Oliver! to great acclaim both in the West End and on Broadway. He created the role of Mr. Sowerberry in the original 1960 London stage production and went on to reprise the role on Broadway. In 1967 he starred as Fagin in the Piccadilly Theatre's revival, and subsequently reprised the role in Cameron Mackintosh's award-winning staging at the London Palladium.
The Story so Far...
Thousands of hopefuls began their quest to realise their dreams through a series of regional auditions.
'The role of Nancy is such an exciting one to cast' comments Andrew Lloyd Webber. 'It's so real, here we go with a role that will speak to a lot of kids today. Nancy is a girl of the street and yet she has a heart of gold underneath it all. We're looking for a girl who really is a rough diamond.'
'The search for our Olivers will be very different. Don't think of Oliver as a little drippy Victorian doll of a boy. He has to have a very special quality - real grit - after all, he has to hold his own around the rough streets of London. He's got to have a character of steel who can convey what the depths of Victorian life were like for these kids.'
The girls are whittled down to just over a hundred who are then called to London to perform before the panel: those who stand out at audition have the chance to win a coveted place at Nancy School, the next stage in the competition.
At the London call backs they all have to prove their worth performing two contrasting songs - including a contemporary pop number and learning the entire range of Nancy songs from Oliver! - before the panel make their deliberations and reduce the successful group to just over 40 girls.
There was no set criteria for the girls: the only stipulation to applicants was that they should be 17 or older by 1 January 2008. Past Nancys include Claire Moore, Shani Wallis, Sonia Swaby and Sophie Okonedo, and one of the aims is to encourage girls from many different backgrounds and ethnic groups to try out for the role.
The remaining select group enter Nancy School, where a team of the best coaches in the business work with them to hone their vocal, acting, choreographic and improvisation skills. The rigorous regime of individual scrutiny and group tasks reveals who among them has the sheer guts and verve as well as performing potential to survive to the final selection - and inevitably dreams are made but also broken.
Meanwhile fifty young boys aged between 9 and 14 (by 1 January this year) are selected to work with musical theatre experts before they perform for Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh. Twelve are then chosen to continue to the live shows.
The Live Shows
Each week the wannabe Olivers will be set a musical task and also perform as a group. They will not face a public vote, but must continue to impress Andrew and the panel to guarantee a place in the semi-final.
And in time-honoured tradition the Nancys will be vying to make their mark on Andrew and the panel, and from programme three will also need to gain viewers' support to keep them in with a chance of winning the coveted role to play Nancy in the West End.
Click here to find out more about the story of the show.
Click here to find out what happens in the story of Oliver!
Click here to find out more about Oliver! online