Gary Wilmot (pictured) is now confirmed to succeed Michael Ball as the leading man in the West End production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

On 19 July 2003, Ball completes his extended contract as Caractacus Potts, the role he originated on stage when the musical had its world premiere at the London Palladium on 16 April 2002 (previews from 19 March). From 21 July, Wilmot will assume the role. He's joined a few days later (24 July) by former Royal Ballet principal and recent I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here contestant Wayne Sleep as the show's new Child Catcher (See News, 11 Jun 2003).

Actor, singer and all-round performer Gary Wilmot rose to prominence in 1992 when he took over the lead from Robert Lindsay in Me and My Girl, in the West End and later on tour. Since then, his stage credits have included, in the West End, Carmen Jones, Copacabana, Oliver! and The Goodbye Girl and, regionally, One for the Road, Music to Watch Girls Go By, Confusions, The Pirates of Penzance and last year's tour of Travels with My Aunt.

In the mid-1990s, Wilmot became a household name when he presented the BBC's Showstoppers television series, in which he performed and hosted various musical theatre guests each week. His other screen appearances have included Cue Gary, The Saturday Gang, Trigger Pullers, Copy Cats, Lazarus and The Royal Variety Performance. (Click here to read our 20 Questions interview with Wilmot.)

Others now in the cast of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang include: Caroline Sheen (as Truly Scrumptious), Victor Spinetti (Baron Bomburst), Sandra Dickinson (Baroness Bomburst) and Anton Rodgers (Grandpa Potts). The stage musical is adapted by Jeremy Sams with original music by the Sherman brothers. It's directed by RSC artistic director Adrian Noble, choreographed by Gillian Lynne and designed by Award winner Anthony Ward. The original children's book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, was written by Ian Fleming. The £6.2 million musical, based on the famous 1968 children's film, is currently taking bookings up to 13 March 2004.

- by Terri Paddock