As previously tipped (See The Goss, 8 Jun 2007), the League of Gentleman’s Steve Pemberton (pictured) will be the new Man in Chair in the West End production of The Drowsy Chaperone. He replaces role originator and show co-creator, Canadian Bob Martin, who is returning home for the birth of his child and to launch the musical’s North American tour in the autumn, from 10 July 2007 at the West End’s Novello Theatre.

A parody of 1920s romantic musicals, The Drowsy Chaperone begins with a modern-day musical theatre addict, the Man in Chair, who, to chase his blues away, drops the needle on his favourite LP, the 1928 musical comedy The Drowsy Chaperone. From the crackle of his hi-fi, the musical bursts to life on stage, telling the tale of a pampered Broadway starlet who wants to give up show business to get married, her producer who sets out to sabotage the nuptials, her chaperone (Elaine Paige), the debonair groom, the dizzy chorine, the Latin lover and a pair of gangsters who double as pastry chefs.

As part of the League of Gentlemen, Steve Pemberton won the Perrier Award for comedy, a BAFTA and the Golden Rose of Montreux Award. The troupe’s acclaimed, cult BBC2 TV show spawned two live stage productions and two feature films. Pemberton’s other credits include Churchill: The Hollywood Years and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy on film, and Art (with his fellow Leaguers, Mark Gatiss and Reece Shearsmith), The Rocky Horror Show (which he narrated) and The Exonerated.

In addition to Martin/Pemberton and Paige, The Drowsy Chaperone also features Summer Strallen, Nickolas Grace, John Partridge, Selina Chilton, Joseph Alessi, Anne Rogers, Nick Holder, Enyoman Gbesmete, Cameron Jack, Adam Stafford and Sean Kinglsey. It has music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert and Greg Morrison and a book by Don McKellar and Martin. Broadway’s Casey Nicholaw, who made his West End debut with his choreography on Spamalot, both choreographs and directs.

The Drowsy Chaperone, which started life in 1998 as a sketch for a stag do in Toronto, opened at the Marquis Theatre in New York in May last year and won five 2006 Tony Awards, including Best Book and Best Score. It opened on 6 June 2007 (previews from 14 May 2007) in the West End (See WOS TV, 7 Jun 2007).

In other musical casting news, the Royal Festival Hall has released further details of the two theatrical highlights in its reopening schedule (See News, 29 May 2007).

Emma Williams, Any Dream Will Do finalist Daniel Boys and Rosemary Ashe will join the stellar line-up for the RFH’s concert presentation of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, running for performances only from 5 to 7 July 2007. The 1979 thriller is set in Victorian London and based on the infamous tale of the vengefully bloodthirsty “demon barber of Fleet Street” and his pie-making proprietress.

Williams (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Bat Boy, A Model Girl) will play Johanna with Boys (Grease, Rent) as Anthony and Ashe as the Beggar Woman (Les Miserables, Mary Poppins, The Witches of Eastwick). As previously reported (See News, 14 Jun 2007), the production also stars Olivier Award winners Maria Friedman (Mrs Lovett), Philip Quast (Judge Turpin) and Daniel Evans (Tobias) and, as Sweeney, Welsh opera star Bryn Terfel. David Freeman directs.

Later this summer at the RFH (See News, 6 Mar 2007), the fully staged production of Carmen Jones, Oscar Hammerstein II’s 1943 musical adaptation of Bizet’s classic 1875 opera, will be performed by a 40-strong company for six weeks from 31 July to 2 September 2007 (previews from 25 July).

South African Tsakane Valentine Maswanganyi will play the title role with Andrew Clarke (as Joe), Sherry Boone (Cindy Lou), Rodney Clarke (Husky Miller), Andee-Louise Hypolite (Frankie), Philip Browne (Rum), Akiya Henry (Myrt), John Moabi (Dink), The X Factor’s Brenda Edwards (Pearl), Rolan Bell (Morrel), Joe Speare (Sargeant Brown), Joanna Francis (Mrs Higgins) and George Daniel Long (Mr Higgins).

Also in the cast are: Josie Benson, Stuart Bowden, Peter Brathwaite, Jina Burrows, Angela Caesar, Ian Carlyle, Darren Chalres, Laurence De Maeyer, Leroy Dias Dos Santos, Ramon Diaz Crosdale, Herve Goffings, Celia Grannum, Yolanda Grant-Thompson, Divine Harrison, Welly Locoh Donou, Tania Mathurin, Terel Nugent, Kelechi Sara Nwanokwu, Ngo Oemene-Ngofa, Joanna Riseboro, Tarisha Rommick, AleSandra Seutin, Nadine Smith, Antontio Tengroth, Jordene Thomas and Kenny Thompson.

Transplanting the story from a gypsy to an African-American setting, Carmen Jones follows a parachute maker who pursues first a soldier and then a boxer with a violent temper. When she rejects the latter, he turns murderous. Hammerstein wrote the book and dialogue, while the music, essentially Bizet’s original score, was re-orchestrated by Robert Russell Bennett. The musical ran for more than 500 performances in New York, where it premiered in 1943, and was made into a 1954 film starring Harry Belafonte and Dorothy Dandridge (who became the first African-American woman nominated for an Oscar thanks to her title performance).

Carmen Jones is directed by Southbank Centre artistic director Jude Kelly, designed by Michael Vale, with choreography by Rafael Bonachela and musical direction by Simon Lee. The cast will be backed by a full 60-strong symphony orchestra, with performances shared equally between the London Philharmonic and the Philharmonia. Impresario Raymond Gubbay produces.

- by Terri Paddock