Two West End musicals – the multi Olivier-nominated Mary Poppins and the Liverpudlian long-runner Blood Brothers - have announced extensions to their current booking periods.

At the Prince Edward Theatre, Cameron Mackintosh and Disney’s £8 million stage adaptation of Mary Poppins has added more than six months to its season. The musical opened on 15 December 2004 (following previews from 6 December and a eight-week tryout at the Bristol Hippodrome) and had been booking until 24 September 2005. It’s now taking bookings up to 1 April 2006.

Laura Michelle Kelly plays the eponymous nanny of the title with Gavin Lee as chimneysweep Bert, played respectively by Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke in the Oscar-winning 1964 film (See News, 14 Jul 2004). The cast also features David Haig, Linzi Hateley and Jenny Galloway.

The stage version of Mary Poppins has a book by Julian Fellows, who draws on PL (Pamela) Travers original books as well as the screen version, and new music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, in addition to many of the Sherman brothers’ film songs. The production is co-directed by Richard Eyre and Matthew Bourne, choreographed by Bourne and Stephen Mear and designed by Bob Crowley.

Mary Poppins leads the way in the race for the 2005 Laurence Olivier Awards, with a total of nine nominations including Best Musical, Best Actress and Actor in a Musical, Best Supporting Performance in a Musical, Best Director, Best Choreographer and Best Set Design (See News, 20 Jan 2005).

Meanwhile, at the Phoenix Theatre, Willy Russell's Liverpool-set musical about twin brothers separated at birth, Blood Brothers, has extended its booking period by seven months until the 29 October 2005. This production first opened on 27 August 1988 at the Albery Theatre before transferring to its current home at the Phoenix in November 1991.

Linda Nolan currently stars the twins' tragic mother, Mrs Johnstone, a role that's previously been played by the likes of Barbara Dickson, Kiki Dee, Petula Clark, Lyn Paul, Siobhan McCarthy and Denise Nolan. Blood Brothers is directed by Bob Thomson and Bill Kenwright and designed by Marty Flood.

- by Terri Paddock