Nigel Harman (pictured) and Claire Sweeney will star in the tour of Michael Grandage’s multi award-winning production of Guys and Dolls (See News, 19 May 2006). Sweeney will star for the first three months of the tour, which kicks off in Glasgow this September, while Harman will perform over the Christmas period in Birmingham.

Harman has already proved popular in the London production of the show at the West End’s Piccadilly Theatre, having taken over from the original Sky Masterson Ewan McGregor (See News, 15 Sep 2005). Best known to TV fans from EastEnders, Harman’s many stage credits include Grandage’s production of Privates on Parade at the Donmar Warehouse, and musicals Mamma Mia!, Damn Yankees and Tommy. He recently appeared in The Exonerated at Riverside Studios, and is due to lead the cast of Harold Pinter’s The Caretaker in Sheffield this autumn (See News, 17 May 2006). He will reprise his role as Sky from 12 December 2006 to 6 January 2007 at the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham.

Well known from TV’s Brookside and Celebrity Big Brother, Sweeney’s previous theatre credits include Chicago and the recent touring production of Fosse. She will be starring as Miss Adelaide at the King’s Theatre in Glasgow (19 September – 7 October), the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff (10 – 28 October), Regent Theatre Stoke (31 October – 11 November) and the New Victoria Theatre in Woking (14 – 25 November).

The tour continues to Birmingham, Plymouth, Sunderland, Milton Keynes, Manchester, Sheffield, Oxford, Liverpool and Edinburgh, where it’s scheduled to conclude on 23 June 2007. No further casting has yet been announced.

Grandage’s version of Frank Loesser’s 1950 musical opened on 1 June 2005 (previews from 19 May) and is currently booking up to 2 September 2006 at the West End’s Piccadilly Theatre where the present cast is led by Adam Cooper, Neil Morrissey, Sally Ann Triplett and Kelly Price.

Based on Damon Runyon’s short stories about New York gamblers and their girls in the 1940s, the musical was made into a 1953 Hollywood film starring Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons and Frank Sinatra. Grandage’s revival, the first new production of Guys and Dolls in London for 23 years, is designed by Christopher Oram, with choreography by Rob Ashford, musical supervision by Jae Alexander, lighting by Howard Harrison and sound by Terry Jardine and Chris Full.

Meanwhile, Sally Dexter will take over from Laurence Olivier and Award nominee Haydn Gwynne in the role of dance teacher Mrs Wilkinson in another multi award-winning musical, Billy Elliot, at the West End’s Victoria Palace Theatre.

Dexter - whose credits include Theatre of Blood and Closer for the National Theatre and Oliver! at the London Palladium (for which she was nominated for an Olivier Award playing the role of Nancy) – joins the cast from 5 June 2006. Other newcomers include Sara Poyzer (The School for Scandal, The Merchant of Venice, All Quiet on the Western Front) as Billy’s Mum and, in the rotating company of child actors, Leyci Wightman as a new Debbie, Shaun Malone as a new Michael and new team of ballet girls who make up Mrs Wilkinson’s Dance Class.

The musical, which celebrated its first birthday last month (See News, 15 May 2006), has grossed over £30 million and been seen by more than 650,000 people since it opened on 12 May 2005. The stage production reunites the creative team behind the award-winning 2000 film of the same name: director Stephen Daldry, writer Lee Hall and choreographer Peter Darling. It features an original score by pop singer-songwriter Elton John, with lyrics by Hall. It's designed by Ian MacNeil, with costumes by Nicky Gillibrand and musical supervision by Martin Koch.

- by Caroline Ansdell