Four West End musicals – recent arrivals Billy Elliot and longrunners Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera - have announced extensions to their booking periods.

At the Victoria Palace, where Billy Elliot - The Musical opened to ecstatic reviews on 11 May 2005 (staggered previews from 31 March), the stage adaptation of the 2000 Brit flick has extended by more than six months to 1 April 2006 (See News, 12 May 2005). Set against the North-eastern mining strikes of the 1980s, the musical recounts the tale of a motherless boy whose father wants him to learn to box. Instead, he discovers a love for ballet that leads him from secret lessons to a place at the Royal Ballet School.

Billy Elliot - The Musical reunites the creative team behind the award-winning film: director Stephen Daldry, writer Lee Hall and choreographer Peter Darling. It features an original score by pop singer-songwriter Elton John, with lyrics by Hall. It's designed by Ian MacNeil, with costumes by Sue Blane and musical supervision by Martin Koch.

James Lomas (15), George Maguire (14) and Liam Mower (12) – discovered after a year-long, countrywide search – make their professional stage debuts alternating in the title role. The cast also features Haydn Gwynne (as dance teacher Mrs Wilkinson), Tim Healy (Billy’s father) and Ann Emery (Billy’s Grandma). The show is produced by Working Title and Old Vic Productions plc.

At the Shaftesbury Theatre, The Far Pavilions has added three months to its schedule, taking it up to 26 November 2005. Based on MM Kaye’s popular historical novel of the same name, it premiered on 14 April 2005 (previews 24 March) and had been booking until 4 September. The £4 million stage adaptation was in development for more than eight years, the brainchild of producer Michael E Ward, and features music by Philip Henderson and book and lyrics by Martin Guerre’s Stephen Clark. The production is directed by Gale Edwards and designed by Lez Brotherston. The 50-strong company is led by Hadley Fraser and Gayatri Iyer.

At Her Majesty’s Theatre, the West End's second longest-running musical, The Phantom of the Opera, which marks its 19th birthday this October, has extended by five months to 1 April 2006. The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical is based on Gaston Leroux's gothic novel about a masked man who falls in love with an ingénue singer at the Paris Opera House. The current cast features Rachel Barrell (as Christine), Oliver Thornton (Raoul), and in the title role, Earl Carpenter.

And, finally, at the Queen’s Theatre, the West End’s longest still-running musical, Les Miserables, has also added six months, taking its schedule to 1 April 2006 as well. The musical, based on Victor Hugo's humanitarian novel about a persecuted man in 19th-century revolutionary France, celebrates its 20th birthday in the West End in October. The show has been seen worldwide by over 50 million people in more than 38 countries and in 21 languages. In London, it ran for 18 years and over 7,500 performances at the Palace Theatre before moving down the road to its new home at the Queen’s this past April (See News, 21 Nov 2003).

The current cast features Sean Kingsley, Michael McCarthy, Gary Tushaw, Joanna Ampil and Gemma Wardle. Originally adapted and directed by Trevor Nunn and John Caird for the RSC, Les Miserables has a book by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil, with music by Schönberg and lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer, and design by John Napier. Both it and The Phantom of the Opera are produced by Cameron Mackintosh.

- by Terri Paddock