Two high-profile London productions currently in rehearsals have confirmed cast changes this week. At the Barbican, Anton Lesser (pictured) will replace Paul Rhys as Brutus in Deborah Warner’s epic staging of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, which has a limited London season from 20 April to 14 May 2004 (previews from 14 April) ahead of a European tour to Paris, Madrid and Luxembourg (See News, 21 Jan 2005). At the Victoria Palace, Anna Rogers, who was due to play Grandma in the stage adaptation of Billy Elliot (See News, 20 Dec 2004), has left the musical, which receives its world premiere on 11 May 2005 (staggered previews from 24 March).

Rhys has withdrawn from Julius Caesar citing a “combination of a virus infection and physical exhaustion following a demanding filming schedule”. In 2002, he withdrew from the National Theatre production of Ivanov on account of a personal bereavement (See News, 29 Jul 2005).

Lesser’s many stage credits include Cymbeline, Richard II, The Merry Wives of Windsor and The Taming of the Shrew (RSC), The Lucky Ones, Private Lives, The Birthday Party and Art. The 100-strong Julius Caesar cast (featuring 60 extras recruited from the public) also stars Ralph Fiennes (Mark Anthony), Simon Russell Beale (Cassius), Fiona Shaw (Portia) and John Shrapnel (Julius Caesar).

A statement released today by show producers explains that Rogers’ has left Billy Elliot - The Musical “by mutual agreement”. “As rehearsals progressed, the role of Grandma changed considerably leading to Ms Rogers’ departure from the production.” No replacement has yet been confirmed since Rogers’ exit from rehearsals last week.

The stage adaptation of the hit 2000 Brit flick, about a motherless Northern miner’s son whose love of ballet that leads him from secret lessons to a place at the Royal Ballet School, stars three alternating Billy’s – James Lomas (14 years old), George Maguire (13) and Liam Mower (12) – as well as Haydn Gwynne (dance teacher Mrs Wilkinson) and Tim Healy (Billy’s father) who lead a 38-strong cast.

Billy Elliot - The Musical reunites the creative team behind the award-winning film: director Daldry, writer Lee Hall and choreographer Peter Darling as well as producer Jon Finn. It features an original score by pop singer-songwriter Elton John, with lyrics by Hall. It's designed by Ian MacNeil, with costumes by Sue Blane and musical supervision by Martin Koch. It’s produced by Working Title and Old Vic Productions plc.

- by Terri Paddock