Emma Williams will play love interest to titular masked swordsman Matt Rawle in the West End transfer of Gipsy Kings musical Zorro, which opens at the Garrick Theatre on 15 July 2008 (previews from 30 June) following a regional tour(See News, 28 Apr 2008).

Williams, whose last West End role was playing the Madonna character in last autumn’s ill-fated musical version of the 1980s film Desperately Seeking Susan, takes over from Aimee Atkinson, who played Luisa in Zorro out of town. Amongst the other principals, Adam Levy (whose play credits include Angels in America) takes over from Adam Cooper as Zorro’s nemesis, Ramon, and Lesli Margherita reprises her role as Inez.

Emma Williams first rose to prominence when, as an 18-year-old newcomer, she was cast as Truly Scrumptious opposite Michael Ball in the premiere of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Her other musical credits include Bat Boy, Model Girl, Tomorrow Morning, Promises, Promises and Sex, Chips and Rock 'n' Roll.

The flamenco-fuelled musical of Zorro is based on the 2005 bestseller by Chilean novelist Isabel Allende about Don Diego de la Vega, a fictional wealthy caballero who defends the people of Spanish California against injustice, and includes Gipsy King standards “Bamboleo”, “Baila Me” and “Djobi Djoba” as well as specially written new songs.

The £3 million production - which was hit by technical problems that forced the cancellation of some performances on tour (See News, 28 Mar 2008) – is directed by Christopher Renshaw, choreographed by Spanish choreographer and dancer Rafael Amargo and designed by Tom Piper. Also on the creative team is co-composer and musical arranger John Cameron and book author Stephen Clark.


In other musical casting news, relative unknown Victoria Hamilton-Barritt has been cast as Alex Owens in the world premiere of Flashdance, the musical based on the blockbuster Eighties movie Flashdance, which launches a national tour at the Theatre Royal Plymouth on 19 July (See News, 8 Feb 2008).

Choreographer Arlene Phillips explained: “After searching the country high and low and seeing hundreds of girls for the part of Alex, I suddenly remembered the stunning Victoria Hamilton-Barritt who had played a leading role in Saturday Night Fever in the West End and invited her to audition. She is the only girl who we believe can sing, act and dance this role to the standard we need.”

Hamilton-Barritt will be joined by Coronation Street’s Bruno Langley as Jimmy as well as Bernie Nolan, of the Nolan Sisters, as dance mentor Hannah Owens and Hear’Say’s Noel Sullivan (pictured – principals with Phillips). Flashdance is directed by Kenny Leon, designed by Paul Farnsworth and choreographed by Arlene Phillips, with lighting is by Jason Taylor. The production is presented by Christopher Malcolm, David Ian and AEGON in association with Theatre Royal Plymouth and Paramount Pictures.

The 1983 film of Flashdance starred Jennifer Beals as Alex Owens, a Pittsburgh welder and exotic dancer who dreams of winning a place at a prestigious dance school and becoming a professional ballet dancer. Along the way, she has a passionate affair with Nick, the rich boss of the steel mill where she works. The film featured the songs “Maniac” and “Flashdance… What a Feeling”, which won an Academy Award for Best Song – it also launched a fashion frenzy for torn sweatshirts.

After opening in Plymouth, Flashdance travels to Southampton, Wolverhampton, Aberdeen, Manchester, Edinburgh, Bradford, Sunderland, Eastbourne, Cardiff, Torquay and Oxford which takes the production into January 2009, with further dates to be announced.

- by Terri Paddock