Jerry Springer - The Opera heralded a major comeback for American-born Michael Brandon, previously best known from the 1980s British television hit Dempsey and Makepeace, and no doubt his successor, a fellow American and cop show star, hopes the multi award-winning West End musical will work the same magic on his career.

Producers at Avalon confirmed today that, from 12 July 2004, David Soul - who, in the 1970s became internationally famous as Hutch (the blond one) in Starsky and Hutch - will take over from Brandon as the infamous TV talk show host in the “trailer trash tragedy”.

After four seasons, from 1975 to 1979, in Starsky and Hutch, Soul largely disappeared from the limelight, though he did make forays into the music industry with singles such as “Don’t Give Up on Us” and into television films such as Salem’s Lot and Rage.

In more recent years, Soul has been seen regularly on stage in the UK, where his credits have included Blood Brothers, The Aspern Papers, Comic Potential, Deathtrap, Speed the Plow (co-starring Michael Brandon) and The Dead Monkey, which he also co-produced. The last attracted headlines for Soul, who sued the Mirror newspaper when columnist Matthew Wright dismissed the black comedy as the worst play he’d ever seen in the West End, despite the fact that he hadn’t actually attended the performance in question (See News, 12 Dec 2001).

Earlier this year, Soul was back in the headlines riding a wave of nostalgia with the big screen Hollywood homage to Starsky and Hutch, starring Ben Stiller and, in Soul’s role, Owen Wilson. Soul and his original co-star Paul Michael Glaser made cameo appearances in the film.

Promising "triumph, tragedy and trailer trash as high art meets low life", Jerry Springer - The Opera is based on America's most lurid talk show and the host who has broadcast programmes such as "Pregnant by a Transsexual", "Here Come the Hookers" and "I Refuse to Wear Clothes".

Following its initial sell-out run at the National, the musical, by Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee, transferred on 10 November 2003 (previews from 14 October) to the West End’s Cambridge Theatre, where it’s currently booking up to January 2005. Amongst Jerry Springer’s many accolades are the full score of London’s major Best Musical prizes: the Evening Standard, Critics’ Circle, Laurence Olivier and Whatsonstage.com Awards (See News, 23 Feb 2004).

To date in London, the show has seen by 250,000 theatregoers and taken more than £8.5 million at the box office. It’s due to open on Broadway in October 2005, following a six-week season in San Francisco next spring (See News, 26 Apr 2004).

Original stars David Bedella (who won this year’s Best Actor Olivier for his role as the warm-up guy/Satan), Alison Jiear and Benjamin Lake (this year’s Whatsonstage.com Award winner for London Newcomer of the Year) will remain with the West End production following next month’s recast.

- by Terri Paddock