Producers Whoopi Goldberg and Stage Entertainment have also announced that Sheila Hancock, who plays the Mother Superior and is currently a judge on the BBC's Over the Rainbow, has extended her contract by three months to stay with the show until the end of August.
Goldberg, who starred in the 1992 film on which the show is based, said: “We're so thrilled that the fabulous Sheila Hancock will continue to trade her judge's robes for a nun's habit for another three months. She is truly a force of nature and we're so grateful to have her in our production of Sister Act. And, what can I say about the delicious and talented Simon Webbe, except that we are honoured to welcome him to the family.”
Since leaving Blue, Simon Webbe has released two solo albums and is currently working on a third. He has also appeared on numerous television shows, including a run on series eight of I’m A Celebrity... on ITV1, while film credits include The Truth About Love and Rolling With The Nines. His role in Sister Act marks his West End debut.
He commented: “I knew from the minute the curtain went up and the band kicked in that this was a show I wanted to be in. The audition process was nerve-wracking of course, but it just made me more determined to get the part. I’ve performed to thousands and thousands of people with Blue, but to be playing this role, on stage at the London Palladium is going to be something else completely, and I’m honoured to be doing it opposite Patina, Sheila and this brilliant company.”
Other new cast members joining from 31 May include Jacqueline Clarke (Sister Mary Lazarus) and ensemble members Lauren Appleby, Kiara Jay, Rachel John, Aaron Lee Lambert, Ellie Leah, Amanda Minihan, Grant Murphy, Nathaniel Morrison, Ashley Russell and Carrie Sutton.
In other musical casting news, Harold Prince and Susan Stroman will direct an all-American cast in the world premiere of Paradise Found at the Menier Chocolate Factory, which opens on 26 May 2010 (previews from 19 May).
The production is based on the 1939 novel The Tale of the 1002nd Night by Austrian author Joseph Roth and set to the classical music of 'Waltz King' Johann Strauss Jr, adapted by Jonathan Tunick with a book by Richard Nelson and lyrics by Ellen Fitzhugh.
Set in Vienna during the Austro-Hungarian empire, the story centres on the Shah of Iran who, despite already having 139 wives, falls in love with the empress.
Joining the previously announced Mandy Patinkin (who plays the Shah's eunuch) are: John McMartin (as the Shah), Judy Kay, Kate Baldwin, Shuler Hensley, George Lee Andrews, Lacey Kohl, Herndon Lackey, Pamela Winslow Kashani, Amanda Kloots-Larsen, Daniel Marcus, Nancy Opel, Jim Poulos and Martin van Treuren.
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