The Woman in White has posted closing notices at the West End’s Palace Theatre, where it will make way for the October opening of the Broadway transfer of Monty Python’s hit musical Spamalot (See Today’s Other News).

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s romantic musical drama received its world premiere at the Palace on 15 September 2004 and, following numerous extensions, had been booking until 1 April 2006. The production will now finish on 25 February 2006, ahead of a planned UK regional tour (as previously tipped, see The Goss, 3 Jan 2006), opening in Milton Keynes in January 2007. There are also plans to bring the show back to London in a re-conceived production, either before or after the national tour.

The Woman in White’s current leading lady Ruthie Henshall, who plays Marian Halcombe, is due to leave the production on 4 February 2006 with her understudy Yvette Robinson stepping into the role for the final weeks of the show’s run. The current cast also features David Burt (as Count Fosco), Alexandra Silber (Laura Fairlie), Damian Humbley (Walter Hartright), Michael Cormick (Percival Glyde), Edward Petherbridge (Mr Fairlie) and Elinor Collett (the woman in white).

Loosely based on Wilkie Collins’ Victorian novel, first published in 1869, the London production of The Woman in White celebrated its 500th performance in November last year (See News, 28 Nov 2005). The New York production opened on 17 November 2005 and is still running at the Marquis Theatre with original West End star Maria Friedman having battled a cancer scare to make her Broadway debut (See News, 17 Nov 2005).

Handsome young drawing master Walter Hartright is stranded at a remote railway cutting one night, when a mysterious woman dressed in white appears out of the darkness. His new pupils, Marian Halcombe and her beautiful half-sister Laura Fairlie, find themselves ensnared in a web of betrayal and intrigues at the hands of the sinister Sir Percival Glyde and his more genial but equally underhand friend Count Fosco.

Producer Sonia Friedman said: “I am very proud to have produced The Woman in White. A completely new musical is a rarity these days and, as is so often the case with Andrew Lloyd Webber's work, The Woman in White was a groundbreaking piece of musical storytelling and was also at the forefront of pioneering new technology with its innovative design. The musical has given enormous pleasure to hundreds of thousands of people during its tenure at the Palace.”

She added: “ It is soon to be the end of the road for the show at the Palace Theatre, however, it is certainly not the end of the road for The Woman in White. The Broadway production continues its successful run and I look forward to announcing plans for the re-conceived show in another London theatre and our full UK touring dates in due course.”

The Woman in White has a book by Charlotte Jones, with lyrics by David Zippel set to Lloyd Webber’s score. The musical is directed by Trevor Nunn, designed by William Dudley and produced by Sonia Friedman Productions and Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Company. Amongst its accolades are no fewer than five 2005 Theatregoers' Choice Awards, including Best Director and Best Designer.

- by Caroline Ansdell & Terri Paddock