Further principal cast details have now been confirmed for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s much-anticipated The Woman in White (See News, 12 Dec 2003). The new musical, based on Wilkie Collins’ Victorian novel, receives its world premiere at the West End’s Palace Theatre on 15 September 2004 (previews from 28 August). Rehearsals begin 12 July.

First published in 1869, Collins’ thriller opens with a handsome young man stranded at a remote railway cutting. Out of the darkness, a mysterious woman dressed in white appears, burning to tell a chilling secret. Two sisters find themselves ensnared in a web of betrayal and greed. They will need all their courage and resourcefulness to outwit their villain.

The musical stars Olivier Award winner Maria Friedman (as sister Marian) and Michael Crawford (as the sinister Count Fosco), who returns to the West End stage for the first time since originating the role The Phantom of the Opera 18 years ago).

They will now be joined in the 21-strong cast by Olivier Award winner Edward Petherbridge (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Strange Interlude, Lord Peter Wimsey from TV’s Dorothy L Sayers’ mysteries), American Angela Christian (Thoroughly Modern Millie on Broadway) as the ‘woman in white’ Anne Catherick, Martin Crewes (Les Miserables, TV’s Bad Girls, The Grand) as Walter Hartwright and Oliver Darley (The Alchemist, Romeo and Juliet for the RSC) as Sir Percival Glyde.

The Woman in White has been adapted for the stage by playwright Charlotte Jones (Humble Boy, Dark, In Flame). Lloyd Webber’s score is set to lyrics by David Zippel (City of Angels, Disney’s Mulan, Hercules).

The premiere production is directed by former RSC and NT artistic director Trevor Nunn, whose previous blockbuster musicals include Cats, Starlight Express, My Fair Lady, Anything Goes and Les Miserables, the last of which vacated the Palace, after 18 years, in March 2004, heading to the Queen’s, to make way for The Woman in White (See News, 21 Nov 2003).

The new musical is designed by William Dudley (The Coast of Utopia, Hitchcock Blonde), with lighting by Paul Pyant, sound by Mick Potter, dance and movement by Wayne McGregor and musical supervision by Simon Lee. It’s co-produced by Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Theatre Company and Sonia Friedman Productions.

- by Terri Paddock