Three of the West End biggest musicals – Mel Brooks’ The Producers, which swept up all of this year’s best new musical awards, and long-runners The Lion King and Blood Brothers - have announced extensions to their booking periods.

At the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, The Producers, which opened on 9 November 2004 (previews from 22 October), has added five months and is now taking bookings up to 1 April 2006. Based on Brooks' 1968 film classic and set in New York in 1959, The Producers revolves around washed-up theatre producer Bialystock who, with his timid accountant Bloom, cooks up a scheme to make a fortune by presenting a sure-fire flop called "Springtime for Hitler".

Following the show’s success on Broadway – where it premiered in 2001 and scooped no fewer than 12 Tony Awards, including Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical for Lane – the London production has collected the full sweep of major Best Musical prizes at the Evening Standard, Laurence Olivier, Critics’ Circle and Whatsonstage.com’s own Theatregoers’ Choice Awards.

From 25 April 2005, Fred Applegate and John Gordon Sinclair have taken over as Max Bialystock and Leo Bloom, the producers of the title. The current cast also features Nicolas Colicos as Franz Liebkind, James Dreyfus as Carmen Ghia, Conleth Hill (who won this year’s Best Supporting Performance in a Musical) as Roger De Bris and Leigh Zimmerman as Ulla. The Producers has music and lyrics by Mel Brooks, with a book by Brooks and Thomas Meehan. It’s directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman and designed by Robin Wagner.


At the Lyceum Theatre, Disney's multi award-winning Broadway hit The Lion King - which celebrated five years in the West End last October (See News, 19 Oct 2004) - has added another two months to its schedule. It's now taking public bookings up to 26 March 2006.

Based on Disney's 1994 animated feature film, The Lion King opened first on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theatre in November 1997. As with The Producers, the original Broadway creative team, led by director and designer Julie Taymor, reunited for the London production, with choreography by Garth Fagan, costumes by Taymor, puppetry and masks by Taymor and Michael Curry and set design by Richard Hudson.

The Lion King features 15 songs, including the five from the film. Unlike the screen version, however, African sounds and rhythms are fused on stage with Western popular music to create the musical's distinctive sound. The stage score comprises three new songs written by Elton John and Tim Rice, with additional numbers by South African-born Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Hans Zimmer and Julie Taymor. The book is by Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi.


Finally, at the Phoenix Theatre, Willy Russell's Liverpool-set musical about twin brothers separated at birth, Blood Brothers, has extended its booking period by four months until the 4 March 2006. This production first opened on 27 August 1988 at the Albery Theatre before transferring to its current home at the Phoenix in November 1991.

Maureen Nolan currently stars the twins' tragic mother, Mrs Johnstone, a role that's previously been played by the likes of Barbara Dickson, Kiki Dee, Petula Clark, Lyn Paul, Siobhan McCarthy as well as Maureen’s sisters, Denise and Linda Nolan. Blood Brothers is directed by Bob Thomson and Bill Kenwright and designed by Marty Flood.

- by Terri Paddock