Michael Ball - Best Actor in a Musical contender in the Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers' Choice Awards - has extended his contract by four months in the £6.2 million production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the West End's London Palladium. He'll continue to star as Caractacus Potts until 19 July 2003.

From 17 March 2003, he'll be joined by new cast members Caroline Sheen (as Truly Scrumptious), Victor Spinetti (Baron Bomburst), Sandra Dickinson (Baroness Bomburst) and Derek Griffiths (The Child Catcher) who take over from, respectively, Emma Williams, Brian Blessed, Nichola McAuliffe and Peter Polycarpou. Original star Anton Rodgers (Grandpa Potts) will remain in the cast.

Sheen has starred in the West End musical productions of Mamma Mia!, The Witches of Eastwick and Grease, while Spinetti's many recent stage credits include The Lady Vanishes, The Lavender Hill Mob and The Relapse. Dickinson is familiar for her TV work in 2.4 Children and has been seen on stage in A Streetcar Named Desire, Not About Nightingales and Orpheus Descending. Best known as a children's television presenter, Griffiths' theatre productions include Noises Off, Loot and Beauty and the Beast.

In addition to Ball's nomination, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has been nominated for five other Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers' Choice Awards - Best New Musical, Best Actress in a Musical (Williams), Best Supporting Performance in a Musical and Best Set Designer (Anthony Ward) (click here to vote - closes 31 January 2003) - as well as three Laurence Olivier awards, including Best New Musical.

The stage musical is based on the famous 1968 children's film with Dick Van Dyke. It stars Michael Ball as the Van Dyke character, madcap inventor and widow Caractacus Potts, who restores an old car with the help of his two children and friend Truly Scumptious, but much to the chagrin of the evil Bombursts from Vulgaria. The cast also currently includes Anton Rodgers, Brian Blessed, Nichola McAuliffe, Edward Petherbridge and Emma Williams.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang - which opened at the Palladium on 16 April 2002 (previews from 19 March) - is adapted by Jeremy Sams with original music by the Sherman brothers, directed by RSC artistic director Adrian Noble, choreographed by Gillian Lynne and designed by Anthony Ward, with lighting by Mark Henderson, sound by Andrew Bruce, orchestrations and dance arrangements by Chris Walker, and musical direction and supervision by Robert Scott. The original children's book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, was written by Ian Fleming.

- by Terri Paddock