Earl Carpenter will assume the title role in The Phantom of the Opera, the West End's second longest-running musical, later this month. On Monday 28 February 2005, he takes over from the West End’s longest-serving Phantom, John Owen Jones, who finishes his three-and-a-half year stint in the role on Saturday 26 February.

Carpenter has previously covered the Phantom role for Owen Jones. His many other West End credits have included The Secret Garden, Beauty and the Beast, The Witches of Eastwick, Sunset Boulevard and Les Miserables.

Also new to The Phantom of the Operacast, from 7 March 2005, will be Heidi O'Brien, who takes over as Meg Giry. Rachel Barrell and Oliver Thornton continue as lovers Christine and Raoul (See News, 23 Aug 2004), with Sally Harrison (as Carlotta), Rohan Tickell (Piangi), Richard Hazell (Monsieur Firmin), Sam Hiller (Monsieur Andre) and Heather Jackson (Madame Giry). Celia Graham will play Christine at certain performances.

The Phantom of the Opera opened at Her Majesty's Theatre in October 1986. In 1999, the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, based on Gaston Leroux's gothic novel about a masked man who falls in love with an ingénue singer at the Paris Opera House, was named as the 20th century's most successful money-making show, dwarfing even Hollywood rivals like Titanic at the box office. Worldwide, it has grossed over £1.6 billion.

In 2002, the Cameron Mackintosh production received a special Laurence Olivier audience award for most popular long-running West End show. It is currently booking until June 2005. In December 2004, Lloyd Webber released the £55 million big screen version, directed by Joel Schumacher.

- by Terri Paddock