Anita Dobson (pictured) will next month join the cast of West End musical Thoroughly Modern Millie, in which she'll replace Maureen Lipman as Mrs Meers. Lipman’s final performance will be 28 February 2004, with Dobson commencing a six-month contract from 1 March.

The multi award-winning Broadway musical, which had its UK premiere at the West End’s Shaftesbury Theatre on 21 October 2003 (previews from 11 October), has also added eight months to its booking period, now taking it up to 15 January 2005.

Anita Dobson's musical theatre credits include Chicago, Budgie and The Pajama Game while, last year, she was nominated for a Best Actress Olivier for Bryony Lavery's hard-hitting play Frozen at the National.

For the part of Thoroughly Modern Millie’s landlady with an evil side-business, Lipman has been nominated this year for an Best Actress in a Musical Olivier Award, for which she’s in competition with her co-star, Cutting It’s Amanda Holden. The cast also features Craig Urbani, Mark McGee and Helen Baker.

Based on the 1967 film starring Julie Andrews, the nostalgic musical comedy is set in 1920s New York where recent arrival-from-Kansas Millie Dillmount is determined to bob her hair, dance to jazz, get a job and marry her boss - all in the modern fashion.

The London production reunites the original Broadway creative team, including director Michael Mayer and designer David Gallow. Thoroughly Modern Millie features new songs by Dick Scanlan (lyrics) and Jeanine Tesori (music), with a book by Scanlan and Richard Morris.

- by Terri Paddock