Various MPs will be storming the stage over the coming weeks in the West End transfer of musical spoof Blair on Broadway, which runs at the Arts Theatre from 17 to 31 January 2008 following its sell-out Fringe dates at Islington’s Hens and Chickens theatre last year.

Amongst the MPs signed up to tread the boards, for one night only each for a charity of their choosing, are: Labour backbencher Bob Marshall-Andrew QC; former BBC reporter and independent MP Martin Bell; and Liberal Democrat and Cheeky Girl partner Lembit Opik. Other politicos who will be putting in cameo appearances are: South Bank Show host and member of the House of Lords Melvyn Bragg; Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell; former Blair speechwriter Rod Liddle; and journalists Polly Toynbee and Andrew Rawnsley.

Songs in the show, which has been revised and updated for the Arts run, include “Spin While You’re Winning”, a duet between the former PM and George Bush entitled “Shoulder to Shoulder”, and Blair power ballad “Purer Than Pure”. There’s also a rapping Jeremy Paxman and a chorus line of all-singing, all-dancing Blair Babes.

Blair on Broadway has book and lyrics by Iain Hollingshead, with music written by Timothy Muller. The ten-strong cast features Joshua Martin (as Tony Blair), William Hazell (Alastair Campbell), Tim McArthur (John Prescott), Peter McMillan (Peter Mandelson/Jeremy Paxman), Tara Siddall (Cherie Blair), Dan Wheeler (William Hague/George Bush). Jessica Dawes directs the Third Way Production.

Meanwhile, at the West End’s Shaftesbury Theatre, Ian Talbot (pictured) – who this past summer stepped down as artistic director of the Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park after 20 years in the job (See News, 6 Mar 2007) – will take over from Award nominee Mel Smith as Wilbur Turnblad, husband to a cross-dressing Michael Ball as Edna Turnblad, in hit musical Hairspray.

The musical, had its West End premiere on 30 October 2007 (previews from 11 October), has also added another five months to its run and is now taking booking through to 4 April 2009.

Ian Talbot directed and appeared in numerous musicals at the Open Air, including the recent acclaimed revival of Sandy Wilson’s The Boy Friend, which returned this past summer. He was an awarded an OBE in this year’s New Year Honours List (See News, 2 Jan 2008).

Hairspray premiered in August 2002 at Broadway’s Neil Simon Theater, where it’s still running, going on to win eight 2003 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Based on John Waters' cult retro 1988 film and set in 1960s Baltimore, it tells the story of geeky overweight teen Tracy Turnblad, who finds celebrity on a TV dance programme. Can she get the guy and still have time to change the world?

Ball is Tracy’s mum Edna Turnblad, starring alongside newcomer Leanne Jones as Tracy. The cast also features Tracie Bennett, Rachel Wooding, Paul Manuel, Adrian Hansell, Elinor Collett, Natalie Best, Johnnie Fiori and Any Dream Will Do’s Ben James-Ellis. The musical has a book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan, with music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Whitman and Shaiman. As on Broadway, it’s directed by Jack O'Brien and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell. A big screen version, starring John Travolta as Edna, was released last summer.

Hairspray is presented in London by Stage Entertainment. Amongst its UK accolades to date are the Evening Standard Award for Best Musical and no fewer than ten nominations in this year’s Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, including nods for Michael Ball, Leanne Jones, Mel Smith, Ben James-Ellis and Tracie Bennett as well as Best New Musical (click here to vote!).

Finally, further casting has now been announced for the West End premiere of Tony Award-winning Broadway Jersey Boys. The musical, which tells the story of The Four Seasons against a backdrop of their greatest hits, opens on 18 March 2008 (previews from 28 February) at the Prince Edward Theatre.

As previously reported (See News, 17 Oct 2007), Ryan Molloy, Stephen Ashfield, Glenn Carter and Philip Bulcock star as band members Frankie Valli, Bob Gaudio, Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi respectively. They’ll be joined by Simon Adkins (as Bob Crewe), Suzy Bastone (Mary Delgado), Michelle Francis (Francine), Jye Frasca (Joey), Tom Lorcan (Knuckles/Donnie), Stuart Milligan (Gyp Decarlo), Amy Pemberton (Lorraine), Joseph Prouse (Norm Waxman), Griffin Stevens (Hank Majewski) and Scott Monello (Frankie Valli alternate). Also in the cast are: Paul Ayres, Laura Brydon, Lucinda Gill, Mark Isherwood, Kieran Jae, Graham Vick and Ben Wheeler.

Jersey Boys follows four blue-collar boys – Valli, Gaudio and their friends Tommy DeVito and Nick Massi – on their journey from the wrong side of the tracks in New Jersey to international success as an American pop music sensation. They wrote their own songs, invented their own sounds and sold 175 million records worldwide – all before they were 30. Amongst their many hits included in the show are “Sherry”, “Walk Like a Man”, “December, 1963 (Oh What a Night)”, “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”, “Working My Way Back to You” and “Who Loves You”.

The West End production reunites the Broadway creative team, led by director Des McAnuff, choreographer Sergio Trujillo and designer Klara Zieglerova. Jersey Boys is written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, with music by Bob Gaudio and lyrics by Bob Crewe. Following a four-month try-out in La Jolla, California, Jersey Boys opened in November 2005 at Broadway’s August Wilson Theater, where it continues to run. Amongst its accolades to date, it won four 2006 Tony Awards, including Best Musical.

- by Terri Paddock & Tom Atkins