Getting a First Rowan Seat
Most people know of Rowan Atkinson for his role as the silent Mr. Bean, or perhaps his popular portrayal in the classic British series Blackadder. Or any other number of comic roles, including the Johnny English films, or...well, you get the idea. But this is a very different side of him.
Back in 2008, Rowan Atkinson appeared on stage in the West End, in a revival of the musical Oliver!, playing the role of Fagin. And from all accounts, he was wonderful. Here's a video of him performing "Reviewing the Situation."
(It's an odd video of sorts. This is actually him recreating the role for a benefit in 2015. And it starts a bit into the song -- and was shot looking at a big video monitor, rather than directly at Atkinson on stage. I suspect he was too far away, and looked too small in the camera, so this was better. Also, given the constraints of the stage, he's limited in his movements, but it's still a terrific performance, and he's a very good singer.)
There's another video of him on stage during the original production, but that video has its photographic "issues," so this is far better.
In an article I read, producer Cameron Macintosh said he had been trying to get Atkinson for the show for 15 years. (He produced a revival in 1994.) But he turned it down then -- Jonathan Pryce ended up playing the role -- and turned it down again here, not wanting to return to the stage with such a long commitment. But at the last minute, he had a chance of heart and decided he couldn't pass up such an opportunity.
Oh, what the heck, here's a bonus. It's that other video I mentioned, Rowan Atkinson live on stage in the 2008 production of Oliver!, singing "You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two." As the person notes who shot the video, he didn't want to disturb anyone with the light from his camera, so he covered it with his program. (Sorry, programme.) The downside of that is he couldn't see what he was shooting. As a result, much of the time the stage is deeply off-center, and for a short while you even lose the stage entirely.
However, you hear the performance perfectly fine, and get to see most of it well-enough. And ultimately, it's worth having a record of it.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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