The new cast of Les Miserables officially takes over at the West End's Palace Theatre tonight (28 July 2003), with a returning Jeff Leyton and former Miss Saigon Joanna Ampil joining S Club star Jon Lee (See News, 3 Jun 03) amongst the new principals.

The casting of Lee (pictured), in the role of Marius, follows a recent spate of pop-to-stage transitions that has, in the West End, seen Lee Latchford Evans (ex-Steps) do a stint as Grease's Teen-Angel and Stephen Gateley (ex-Boyzone) playing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Now 21 years old, Lee last appeared on the West End stage at the age of 12, when he played the title role in Cameron Mackintosh's production of Oliver!, directed by Sam Mendes, at the London Palladium.

Elsewhere in the new Les Mis company, Leyton returns to the cast in the role of Jean Valjean, Ampil takes over as Fantine, Katy Secombe joins to play Madame Thénardier, Lydia Griffiths takes over as Cosette and Oliver Thornton plays Enjolras. Michael McCarthy, Sophia Ragavelas and Stephen Tate continue in the roles of Javert, Eponine and Monsieur Thénardier, respectively.

Based on the novel by Victor Hugo, Les Mis has been seen worldwide by over 50 million people in more than 38 countries and in 21 languages. It's now in its 18th year in the West End. Originally adapted and directed by Trevor Nunn and John Caird for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the musical is written by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schonberg. It's produced by Cameron Mackintosh.

- by Mark Shenton