He started earlier than planned and now he’ll be staying later than planned too (See News, 11 Apr 2005). Producers of Whatsonstage.com Award-winning musical The Woman in White today confirmed that Michael Ball will continue for an extra month, to 30 April 2005, in the role of Count Fosco.

Ball (pictured in costume) was originally due to take over from the absent and ill Michael Crawford for six weeks only from 21 February 2005 but, having advanced quickly in rehearsals, instead started ten days early, on 10 February. He will have performed for more than 11 weeks by the end of his extended term. It’s still hoped that Crawford, who has taken leave with a virulent flu on doctors’ orders, will be able to return to fulfil the remainder of his contract from the beginning of May.

Prior to The Woman in White, Ball was most recently seen in the West End in Singular Sensations at the Theatre Royal Haymarket and at the London Palladium, as the original Caractacus Potts in the stage musical version of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. His other West End credits include Passion, in which he starred with The Woman in White’s current leading lady Maria Friedman.

Loosely based on Wilkie Collins’ Victorian novel, first published in 1869, The Woman in White opens with a handsome young man stranded at a remote railway cutting. Out of the darkness, a mysterious woman dressed in white appears, burning to tell a chilling secret. Two sisters find themselves ensnared in a web of betrayal and greed. They will need all their courage and resourcefulness to outwit their villain.

The musical has been adapted by playwright Charlotte Jones, with David Zippel providing the lyrics to Lloyd Webber’s score. The premiere production is directed by Trevor Nunn, designed by William Dudley and co-produced by Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Theatre Company and Sonia Friedman Productions.

- by Terri Paddock