The Whatsonstage.com team was once again racing around the West End last night (30 April 2007) to raise a toast to new cast members in two hit comedies: Sixties sex farce Boeing-Boeing at the Comedy Theatre and, around the corner at the Criterion, Whatsonstage.com and Olivier Award-winning comic thriller The 39 Steps.

In Boeing-Boeing, Patricia Hodge started a limited season, to 23 June 2007 only, as the put-upon housekeeper who helps Roger Allam’s French architect Bernard keep the schedules of his three flight attendant fiancées straight. Hodge has taken over from Frances de la Tour (See News, 10 Apr 2007). The current cast also features Mark Rylance, Michelle Gomez, Daisy Beaumont and Tamzin Outhwaite, who from 14 May, will be replaced by Amy Nuttall.

For 1st Night Photos, our Whatsonstage.com photographer Dan Wooller caught Hodge and her co-stars in the show’s whimsical curtain call dance orchestrated by Strictly Come Dancing’s Bruno Tonioli. The updated revival of Marc Camoletti’s comedy, originally translated by Beverley Cross, is directed by Matthew Warchus and designed by Rob Howell, whose next joint project, the mega-musical version of JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, opens at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in June (See News, 11 Apr 2007).

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At the Criterion Theatre, Robert Portal has taken over from Charles Edwards as Richard Hannay, while Jimmy Chisholm has replaced Rupert Degas as one of the two “clowns”, alongside existing cast members Simon Gregor and Rachel Pickup in The 39 Steps, winner of the Best New Comedy prize in both the Laurence Olivier and Whatsonstage.com Awards this year (See News, 20 Mar 2007). In the comic stage adaptation of John Buchan’s whodunit (memorably filmed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1935) – which premiered in June 2005 at Leeds’ West Yorkshire Playhouse – the four actors play “150 roles” between them to tell the tale of London bachelor Hannay fleeing to Scotland and breaking a spy ring to prove his innocence after a woman is found murdered in his home.

After last night’s performance, Whatsonstage.com photographer Dan Wooller joined the cast, author Patrick Barlow and director Maria Aitken at a party held at the National Gallery Café, where other guests include Janet McTeer, Belinda Lang and Nicolas Kent, artistic director of the Tricycle Theatre, where the play had its London premiere last summer.

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