Whatsonstage.com Award winner Craig Purnell stars in Opera della Luna's new production of The Ghosts of Ruddigore, which sets off today on a two-month UK tour, including a one-week London engagement at the Bridewell Theatre (14-19 May). The musical, a revamped version of the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta Ruddigore, opens tonight (2 May 2002) at the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich before continuing to 20 further venues until 3 July.

Amanda and Kevin, stalwarts of their local G&S society, set off on a trip to Cornwall in search of Castle Ruddigore, the setting of the writing duo's famous tale of spooks and wicked baronets. But when their car breaks down in a storm, they get drawn into the plot as the opera unfolds around them. Will the couple fall victim to the deadly curse of the doomed Murgatroyd family?

A send-up of Victorian melodrama, the G&S original Ruddygore premiered in London in 1887 and went on to play 288 performances, though it never achieved the popular success of other G&S works such as The Mikado or The Pirates of Penzance. Opera della Luna's adaptation was first seen in 1997.

Purnell's previous musical credits include Oliver, Oklahoma and Martin Guerre in the West End; Sunday in the Park with George and Peter Pan at the Leicester Haymarket; and Floyd Collins at the Bridewell.

His recent productions, in Songs for a New World at the Bridewell and the RSC's The Secret Garden in the West End put him in the running for Whatsonstage.com's Theatregoers' Choice Awards 2002 - for both Best Actor in a Musical and Best Supporting Performance in a Musical respectively. He stunned many when he went on to win in not just one but both categories, beating off incredible competition from the likes of Brent Barrett, Paul Keating, Jonathan Pryce, Nicholas Le Prevost and his own Secret Garden co-star Philip Quast.

Purnell is joined in the cast of The Ghosts of Ruddigore by Louise Crane, Edward Gower, Ian Belsey, Kirsty Hoiles, John Griffiths and Kathleen Schueppert. The production is directed by Jeff Clarke and designed by Colin Winslow, with costumes by Hilary Lewis and lighting by Guy Dickens.

- by Terri Paddock