Ahead of its 20th West End anniversary in October, Les Miserables, now at the Queen’s Theatre, will see one of its biggest cast changes in years from this Monday 27 June 2005.

Welsh tenor John Owen-Jones, who recently completed 1,400 performances as the lead in The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s, is the new Jean Valjean; Cornell John, who has previously starred in the West End productions of The Lion King and The Full Monty is his nemesis Javert.

Also new to the cast are: Kerry Ellis (We Will Rock You, My Fair Lady and, on tour, Miss Saigon) as Fantine, Shonagh Daly (The Beautiful Game) as Eponine, Julia Moller (Christine in the Madrid production of The Phantom of the Opera) as Cosette, R&B artist Shaun Escoffery (Smokey Joe’s Café and Tommy on stage) as Enjolras and New Zealander Hayden Tee as Marius.

Former company members Barry James and Claire Moore return to play the Thenardiers, playing opposite each other for the first time since they co-starred in the original 1983 London production of Little Shop of Horrors. The principals will be joined by 18 new ensemble members.

Based on Victor Hugo's humanitarian novel about a persecuted man in 19th-century revolutionary France, Les Miserables has been seen worldwide by over 53 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 Theatre in April of last year (See News, 21 Nov 2003). It marks its 20th birthday in the West End on 8 October 2005.

Originally adapted and directed by Trevor Nunn and John Caird for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the musical has a book by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil, with music by Schönberg and lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer. The production is designed by John Napier and produced by Cameron Mackintosh.

- by Terri Paddock