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Page last updated at 08:57 GMT, Thursday, 15 January 2009
Webber praises Nancy 'triumph'

By Sarah Jane Griffiths
Newsbeat entertainment reporter

After beating 11 other hopefuls on BBC talent show I'd Do Anything, perfecting her Cockney accent and squeezing herself into a very tight red corset, Jodie Prenger finally took to the stage in the West End version of Oliver! on Wednesday.

Jodie Prenger
Lord Lloyd Webber says the public 'got it right' with Jodie

More than six months after she won the competition, her debut performance in the role of Nancy was greeted with huge cheers and a standing ovation that went on for minutes.

"Ecstatic is a very mild word for how I actually feel," she told Newsbeat after changing into a slightly more comfortable evening dress.

"I was absolutely petrified before I went on. Really, I was rocking back and forth! Your nerves and your heart are going ten to the dozen and you've got butterflies in your stomach but the second you step out there…"

It might never have been Jodie that got to step out on that stage either. When it came to the final of I'd Do Anything back in May - it was actually the other contender Jessie that judges Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron McIntosh wanted in the role of Nancy. But it seems they've eaten their words.

Andrew Lloyd Webber, George Sampson, Alan Titchmarsh and Anneka Rice give 'Oliver' the thumbs up.

"Our Jodie? Only one word for it - a triumph," Lord Webber told Newsbeat on his way out of the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane.

"I was thinking all the way through, the public got it right," he added.

Jodie said the pair of them have given her their full backing too: "They've been so supportive and if you could hear what they've said to me and read the cards they've written to me.

"I just want the British public to know that they've been absolutely superb. They're so proud, I wish I could tape record it because I'd play it to my grandkids if I could."

Most of the failed Nancys turned out to support her too - and there were tears from some of them - which they promised were of joy for Jodie.

'Mr Bean moments'

There were plenty of celebrities watching, including Graham Norton, Denise Van Outen, Jeremy Clarkson, George Sampson, Craig Revel-Horwood and Barbara Windsor.

Just from the bottom of my big heart, thank you so much, because you've given me my dream and I could never ask for more and I'll be the best Nancy I can
Jodie Prenger thanks the public

Rowan Atkinson admitted he was nervous about taking on the role of Fagin - his first on the stage in twenty years - and he went down a storm.

He said: "I was surprised that it felt good tonight, as normally first nights are strange. They're half full of friends who are far too enthusiastic and then the press who are the opposite and it's a weird combination."

There were some Mr Bean-ish moments in Fagin's den - which got plenty of laughs - and his solo number Reconsider got one of the best receptions from the audience.

Getting broody

"The good thing about Fagin is it's a character role. It's not like playing the lead in the Phantom of Opera. You can get away with a slightly dodgy singing voice, which I sort of do. I hope," he said.

Of course the talent show also featured the search for three boys to share the role of Oliver.
Jodie Prenger
Jodie says working with the kids in Oliver! has made her broody

Last night 13-year-old Harry Stott took to the stage, but Laurence Jeffcoate and Gwion Wyn Jones (who take over on alternate nights) turned up suited and Converse-booted to support their mate - and insisted they weren't jealous.

Jodie told us she's become a huge fan of them and the other kids in the show, who play the Artful Dodger and the rest of Fagin's gang.

At some points - like crowd favourite Consider Yourself - their supreme confidence and little cockney accents threatened to totally steal the show. Especially the beyond cute 9-year-old Daniel Huttlestone who played Nipper.

"The kids are absolutely magic to work with," Jodie told Newsbeat.

"You know I always liked my Yorkshire terriers and my dogs - but I have grown such a love of children! Just be careful any man that comes by, I'm getting broody!"

She had a message for the public that voted for her too: "Just from the bottom of my big heart, thank you so much, because you've given me my dream and I could never ask for more and I'll be the best Nancy I can."

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