Two pop stars are joining the casts of West End musicals Blood Brothers and Chicago, while Mary Poppins also has some new additions.

From 10 April 2006, former boyband member Antony Costa (pictured) will take over as twin Mickey in Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers at the West End’s Phoenix Theatre. Costa - whose previous acting credits include BBC series Grange Hill and Chalk - is best known as one quarter of chart-topping boyband Blue.

Others in the Blood Brothers cast are Maureen Nolan (Mrs Johnstone), Philip Stewart (Narrator), Mark Hutchinson (Eddie), Vivienne Carlyle (Mrs Lyons), Sophia Thierens (Linda), Stephen Pallister (Mr Lyons) and Michael Southern (Sammy), who are joined by Graham Martin (PC/Teacher), Simon Turner (Perkins), Caroline Hartley (Donna Marie), Alex Harland (Bus Conductor), Suzanne Carley (Brenda), Michael Everest (Neighbour).

Blood Brothers has a book, music and lyrics by Willy Russell. Bob Tomson and Bill Kenwright’s production opened on in August 1988 at the Albery Theatre before transferring to its current home at the Phoenix in November 1991. It’s designed by Marty Flood, with musical direction by Rod Edwards. It’s currently booking until January 2007.

Joining Bonnie Langford in the new cast of Chicago from 18 April 2006 (See News, 6 Mar 2006) are the musical stalwarts Amra-Faye Wright – who has previously starred as Velma Kelly both in the West End and on Broadway and now returns to the role – and Luca Barbareschi, who has played Billy Flynn in the Italian tour of the show and now makes his West End debut in the same role. They’re joined by The X Factor’s Brenda Edwards, making her stage debut after recently coming fourth in the TV talent contest. Victor McGuire continues as Amos Hart.

Chicago won the 1998 Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical Production as well as the 1998 Critics' Circle Award for Best Musical. The 1975 musical, about a wannabe jazz star turned murderess, 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 opened in 1996 on Broadway, where it continues to run, now in its third theatre. The subsequent London production reunited the US creative team. It’s directed by Walter Bobbie and designed by John Lee Beatty, with costumes by William Ivey Long, lighting by Ken Billington and sound by Rick Clarke. Musical supervision is by Rob Fisher and musical direction by Corin Buckeridge. Choreography is by Ann Reinking in the style of Bob Fosse.

Chicago closes at the 1500-seat Adelphi Theatre, where it opened in November 1997, on Saturday 22 April 2006 – making way for Michael Grandage’s revival of Evita (See News, 30 Jan 2006) - and reopens the following Friday, 28 April 2006, at the West End’s Cambridge Theatre, where the original London production of the Kander and Ebb musical opened in April 1979 and ran for 603 performances (See News, 26 Jan 2006).

Meanwhile, from 10 April 2006 at the Prince Edward theatre, Mary Poppins has a new Miss Andrew in the form of Louise Gold (Noises Off, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), who takes over from Rosemary Ashe, and a new Bird Woman in Diane Langton (Follies, Spend Spend Spend), who succeeds Julia Sutton.

The musical, which opened on 15 December 2004 (following previews from 6 December), currently stars Scarlett Strallen as the eponymous nanny, Gavin Lee as Bert, Aden Gillett as George Banks and Eliza Lumley as Winifred Banks.

Based on the children’s stories by PL Travers and co-directed by Richard Eyre and Matthew Bourne, Mary Poppins has a book by Julian Fellows and new music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, in addition to many of the Sherman brothers’ original film songs. The production is choreographed by Bourne and Stephen Mear and designed by Bob Crowley. The show is booking to 28 April 2007.

- by Caroline Ansdell