The West End’s two longest-running musicals – Cameron Mackintosh’s productions of Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera - have both announced nine-month extensions to their current booking periods. Both are now taking bookings through to 27 September 2008.

At the Queen’s Theatre, Les Miserables will also welcome several new cast members next month. From 25 June 2007, Gary Watson (Evita) will play Marius, with Melanie Barrie (Daddy Cool, Mary Poppins) as Madame Thenardier, Edward Baruwa (Porgy and Bess, Rent) as Enjolras, Cassandra Compton (runner-up in TV’s The X Factor 2004) and Claire-Marie Hall, making her West End debut as Cosette. John-Owen Jones (Jean Valjean), Hans Peter Janssens (Javert), Joanna Ampil (Fantine) and Chris Vincent (Thenadier) remain in the cast.

Based on Victor Hugo's humanitarian novel about a persecuted man in 19th-century revolutionary France, the show has been seen worldwide by over 53 million people in more than 38 countries and in 21 languages. In London, it ran for 18 years and over 7,500 performances at the Palace Theatre before moving down the road to its new home at the Queen’s in April 2004 (See News, 21 Nov 2003).

Originally adapted and directed by Trevor Nunn and John Caird for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Les Miserables has a book by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil, with music by Schönberg and lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer. The production is designed by John Napier. The show celebrated its 21st birthday in the West End on 8 October 2006.

The West End's second longest-running musical, The Phantom of the Opera, will mark its 21st birthday this October. It premiered on 9 October 1986 at Her Majesty’s Theatre, where it continues to run. The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical is based on Gaston Leroux's gothic novel about a masked man who falls in love with an ingénue singer at the Paris Opera House. Robyn North and Leila Benn Harris joined the production this month, evenly sharing the role of Christine for the first time (See News, 21 May 2007). The current cast also features Michael Xavier (Raoul), Wendy Ferguson (Carlotta) and, in the title role, Earl Carpenter.

- by Terri Paddock