27 MARCH 2008

When Mr Bean star Rowan Atkinson makes his debut as cunning pickpocket Fagin in the West End production of Oliver! at the end of this year, it won't be his first appearance as the enterprising thief.

The 53-year-old undertook the same role in a 2005 production of the Dickens classic at his son Benjamin's Oxford prep school. The star - who's known the world over as the lovable, bumbling Mr Bean - took two weeks out of his regular schedule to prepare for the show, in which he appeared for free.

In December he's set to take the role to a whole new level by joining a 100-strong cast and an orchestra at London's Theatre Royal on Drury Lane.

"I had been thinking for some time about returning to the stage," says Rowan, who did several theatre shows in the Eighties and was the youngest performer to have a one-man show in the West End. "The idea of the role of Fagin, which has long intrigued me, seemed like too good an opportunity to miss."

While the UK funnyman gears up for his role, British composer Andrew Lloyd Webber is searching for new talent to play Nancy and three boys who will take it in turns to play Oliver in the show. The West End icon is a judge on I'll Do Anything, the follow up to his successful reality TV talent shows How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria and , which found stars for other West End Shows.

Photo: ©
After appearing as Fagin in his son's school production of Oliver, the Mr Bean star has signed up to play the role in a big-budget West End adaptation of the classic Dickens talePhoto: © Rex
Photo: ©
Playing the enterprising pickpocket, portrayed by Ron Moody in the big screen version of the musical (above), is apparently something Rowan has often considered
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