Desmond Barrit (pictured), currently starring as Hector in Alan Bennett’s play The History Boys at Wyndham’s Theatre, will stay on in the West End to make a return to the musical stage this summer. From 9 June 2008, he takes over from West End role originator Nigel Planer as The Wizard in Wicked at the Apollo Victoria.

Barrit’s previous musical credits include HMS Pinafore at the Open Air and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at the National, but he’s best known for his straight theatre credits – for the NT, RSC, Donmar Warehouse and elsewhere – including Henry IV Parts 1 & 2, Stuff Happens, Accidental Death of an Anarchist, Black Comedy and The Comedy of Errors.

Opened on Broadway in 2003, Wicked received its London premiere in September 2006 and has since been seen by over 1.2 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 New Musical, while this year, current Elphaba (until 7 June 2008) Kerry Ellis won Best Takeover in a Role.

The current cast also features Dianne Pilkington as Glinda, Oliver Tompsett as Fiyero and Susie Blake as Madame Morrible, who is replaced by Harriet Thorpe from 14 April (See News, 20 Feb 2008). 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 now booking until 4 April 2009.



In other musical casting updates, for eight weeks from 31 March 2008, American Claudia Shear will take over as prison matron Mama Morton in Kander and Ebb’s Chicago at the Cambridge Theatre. Shear’s previous credits include Mae West in her own play Dirty Blonde on Broadway and in the West End.

The current production of Chicago opened at the Cambridge Theatre (where the musical’s original London production ran for 603 performances from April 1979) on 28 April 2006, after eight-and-a-half years at the Adelphi Theatre. It won the 1998 Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical Production as well as the 1998 Critics' Circle Award for Best Musical. The musical celebrated its tenth birthday with great fanfare in December (See WOS TV, 6 Dec 2007).

Kander and Ebb’s 1975 musical is based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins and has a book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb. The current stage revival, which transferred from Broadway, is directed by Walter Bobbie and designed by John Lee Beatty, with choreography by Ann Reinking in the style of Bob Fosse.

- by Terri Paddock