On 14 April 2008, Harriet Thorpe (pictured) will step into the role of Madame Morrible in the smash hit musical Wicked. Thorpe will be replacing Susie Blake who plays Madame Morrible for the final time on Saturday 12 April 2008. Thorpe is best known to the British public for her many television roles. She has enjoyed a long standing association with Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, appearing beside them in Eighties comedy Girls On Top and their two woman show French and Saunders amoung others. Thorpe also appeared in the popular BBC comedy series The Brittas Empire where she famously played a receptionist whose children lived under the counter. Thorpe's many stage credits include a stint as the delectable Mrs Lovett in the national tour of Sweeney Todd where she starred opposite Jason Donovan.
Opened on Broadway in 2003, Wicked received its London premiere in September 2006 and has since been seen by over one million London theatregoers, taking £40 million at the box office so far. Along the way the show has picked up a host of awards including three Tony Awards including Best Design and Best Costumes. In 2007, the show also won four Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards including Best Set Designer and Best New Musical. This year Wicked faired well again, picking up a nomination for Best Takeover in a Role for Kerry Ellis who is still appearing as Elphaba (See News, 7 Dec 2007).
Harriet Thorpe joins a company that also features Dianne Pilkington as Glinda, Oliver Tompsett as Fiyero and Nigel Planer as the Wizard. Wicked has music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and is directed by Joe Mantello. The musical is based on the book Wicked – The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire. The London production is one of several international productions appearing in five different countries around the world including Australia, Japan and the USA.
In other musical casting news, Mamma Mia!, based on the songs of ABBA, has announced its new London cast, which will begin performances Monday 3 March 2008. Mamma Mia! is currently playing at the Prince of Wales Theatre, where it recently extended its run and is now booking until 25 April 2009 (See News, 19 Dec 2007).
Richard Laing will take over the role of Sam Carmichael from Iain Fletcher, Paul Ryan takes over the role of Harry Bright from Steven Finch, Andrew Hall will take over the role of Bill Austin from Paul Hawkyard, Katie Brayben will take over the role of Sophie Sheridan from Hannah Robertson, Oliver Hembrough will take over the role of Sky from Paul Shelford, Jodie Read will take over the role of Ali from Lucy Miller, Laura Selwood will take over the role of Lisa from Tanya Robb, Giovanni Spano will take over the role of Pepper from Ben Heathcote, and Matt Wilman will take over the role of Eddie from Kieran Jae.
Remaining in their current roles, Linzi Hateley plays Donna Sheridan, Joanna Monro plays Rosie and Jane Gurnett plays Tanya. At certain performances, the role of Donna will be played by Melissa Jacques.
Mamma Mia! celebrates its ninth birthday this April. Having premiered in the West End, the show has gone on to achieve global success and is currently being adapted into a film version by Universal Studios. The world premiere of the film - starring Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Julie Walters - premieres this summer.
Written by Catherine Johnson, the musical takes place on a Greek island and follows the adventures of a young girl as she attempts to reunite her mother with a long lost father. Mamma Mia! features Abba hits including "Dancing Queen" and "Mamma Mia!". The musical has been staged around the world, appearing in Australia, North America, and Asia as well as grossing £155 million at the UK box office since it opened in 1999.
Also expecting major cast changes, Chicago three new leads at the Cambridge Theatre, where it's currently booking for performances until 28 February 2009.
The roles of Roxie Hart, Velma Kelly and Mama Morton will all be taken on by new cast members on 25 February 2008. Bonnie Langford hands the role of Roxie to Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, who has previously played the role in Copenhagen. Rachel McDowall, who played Ulla in the West End production of The Producers and who features in the film of Mamma Mia, steps into the role of Velma Kelly. And Zee Asha returns briefly as prison matron Mama Morton before handing over to Claudia Shear on 31 March.
Chicago, which celebrated its tenth birthday in December, is the longest-running Broadway musical in the West End (See News 6 December 2007). Amongst Chicago's many accolades are the 1998 Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical Production and the Critics' Circle Award for Best Musical.
- by Kate Jackson