Leanne Dobinson (pictured) and Nancy Sullivan - both reality TV contestants on, respectively, How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? and I’d Do Anything - will star in Les Miserables at the West End’s Queen’s Theatre from 23 June 2008.

Prior to competing as one of the finalists on How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, Dobinson appeared in the non-singing role of young Eponine in Les Mis. She now returns to the production as Cosette, whose numbers include “In My Life”, “A Heart Full of Love” and the solo “Castle on a Cloud”. Sullivan, who plays the grown-up Eponine, featured in the early stages of I’d Do Anything, the BBC’s current programme to cast the roles of Nancy and Oliver in Mackintosh’s upcoming revival of Lionel Bart’s Oliver!. Her other credits include the tour of Take That musical Never Forget.

In announcing the cast changes, Mackintosh also provided a ringing endorsement of musical theatre-themed reality TV programming. “It is very exciting to see new talent coming into the West End at the moment,” said the impresario. “Thanks to Andrew Lloyd Webber and the success of BBC television programmes such as How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? and Any Dream Will Do, new audiences are coming to the theatre. These programmes have also helped unearth some tremendous talent, many of whom have gone on to star in many other West End productions.

He continued: “Although both Nancy and Leanne may have missed out on the respective roles they were vying for in these shows, their talents did not go unnoticed. I was delighted to give them the chance to win parts in Les Miserables, which I’m sure they will be terrific in. I also recently cast Daniel Boys, one of the Joseph finalists in BBC’s Any Dream Will Do, in Avenue Q where he has enjoyed great success. Katie Hall, who featured in early episodes of I’d Do Anything, has also recently been cast in the ensemble of The Phantom of the Opera – where she will have the opportunity to cover the role of Christine.”

The West End’s longest-running musical Les Miserables is now in its 23rd year and is currently booking through to 25 April 2009. The current cast also features Broadway’s Drew Sarich as Jean Valjean (See News, 6 Sep 2007), alongside Hans Peter Janssens (as Javert), Joanna Ampil (Fantine), Chris Vincent (Thenardier), Gary Watson (Marius), Edward Baruwa (Enjolras) and Melanie La Barrie (Madame Thenardier).

Based on Victor Hugo's classic humanitarian novel about a persecuted man, Jean Valjean, in 19th-century revolutionary France, Les Miserables has a book by Alain Boublil, music by Claude-Michel Schonberg and lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer. It’s directed by Trevor Nunn with John Caird and designed by John Napier.

The landmark Royal Shakespeare Company production had its first performance on 8 October 1985 at the Barbican Theatre before transferring, care of Cameron Mackintosh, to the West End’s Palace Theatre two months later. It ran at the Palace for 18 years and over 7,500 performances before moving down the road to the Queen’s on 3 April 2004 (See News, 21 Nov 2003). Globally, the musical has been seen by over 55 million people in 40 countries and 21 languages.

- by Terri Paddock