Alexia Khadime will return to the starring role of Elphaba in Wicked at the West End’s Apollo Victoria theatre from 11 May 2009, taking over again from Whatsonstage.com Award winner Kerry Ellis, for whom she filled in for six months last year while Ellis made her Broadway debut in the musical’s New York production (See News, 2 Apr 2008).
At the same time, Sam Kelly and Natalie Anderson will join the cast as, respectively, The Wizard and Nessarose, succeeding Desmond Barrit and Caroline Keiff. Kelly is a familiar screen face from TV classics Porridge, On the Up and ’Allo, ‘Allo. His many stage credits include The Female of the Species, Kean, Aladdin and the musicals A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and HMS Pinafore. Anderson is best known Nurse Stella Davenport in TV\'s The Royal, a role she has played since 2004.
Amongst the rest of the company, Dianne Pilkington (Glinda), Oliver Tompsett (Fiyero) and Harriet Thorpe (Madame Morrible) have all extended their contracts. Current ensemble members Alex Jessop and David Stoller will take over the roles of Boq and Doctor Dillamond.
Opened on Broadway in 2003, Wicked received its London premiere in September 2006 and has since been seen by nearly two million theatregoers, taking £70 million at the box office to date. In 2007, the show also won four Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards including Best New Musical, while last year, current Elphaba Kerry Ellis won Best Takeover in a Role.
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 extended its booking period until 3 April 2010.
In other musical casting news:
This week’s Dancing on Ice victor Ray Quinn (pictured), who made his West End debut last year playing Doody in Grease (See News, 29 May 2008), will return to the musical revival at the Piccadilly Theatre to take over from Danny Bayne in the starring role of Danny Zuko, for a limited season from 11 May to 3 October 2009. Since going head-to-head with Leona Lewis in the 2006 series of The X-Factor, Quinn has released his Platinum-selling album Doing It My Way, launched a sell-out concert tour and appeared on TV soap Brookside. This past weekend, he triumphed in another reality TV final, in Dancing on Ice. He skates into Grease after a live Dancing on Ice tour.
Another reality TV contestant, Your Country Needs You Eurovision finalist Mark Evans, stars in a new production of Edinburgh Fringe hit Jet Set Go!, which runs at Jermyn Street Theatre from 2 to 18 April 2009 (previews from 31 March). The musical comedy about flight attendants has book and lyrics by Jake Brunger, music and lyrics by Pippa Cleary, and direction and choreography by Luke Sheppard. Prior to his Eurovision TV fame, Evans starred on stage as Troy Bolton in last year’s London premiere of High School Musical, and appeared in West End musicals Spamalot and Wicked.
And, two more TV competition victors to mention – Any Dream Will Do’s Lee Mead and I’d Do Anything’s Jodie Prenger – have joined the star-studded line-up this Sunday for the one-night-only Fire and Flood Benefit, in aid of the British Red Cross Australian Bushfires Appeal, at the Palace Theatre (See News, 17 Mar 2009). Others performing at the charity concert include Jason Donovan, Philip Quast and Tamsin Carroll.
And finally, outside of London, two soap stars - EastEnders’ Shaun Williamson and Brookside’s Philip Oliver – will lead the new touring production of Take That musical Never Forget, which opens on 3 April 2009 at Manchester Opera House before launching an eight-month, 22-stop schedule that concludes in Liverpool on 5 December. Others in the new, post-West End cast are: Aimie Atkinson, Adam C Booth, Tom Bradley, Scott Garnham, Kay Murphy, Mark Willshire and Penelope Woodman.
- by Terri Paddock