As previously tipped (See The Goss, 28 Jul 2005), Simon Callow will take over this month in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Woman in White. He’ll make his West End musical debut playing flamboyant villain Count Fosco, with a press night on 19 September 2005, following performances from the week commencing 29 August 2005 and continuing a limited engagement to November 2005 (exact start and end dates tbc).

Although Callow is best known to theatregoers for his roles in myriad plays such as, most recently, Through the Leaves, Holy Terror and The Mystery of Charles Dickens (not to mention his many film appearances in the likes of Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bright Young Things and Shakespeare in Love), The Woman in White casting isn’t as far a leap as it might seem. Callow has already played Count Fosco in the BBC’s 1997 (non-musical) TV adaptation of Wilkie Collins’ Victorian novel, which also starred Tara Fitzgerald and Andrew Lincoln. And, in terms of the Lloyd Webber connection, he played Andre in last year’s screen version of The Phantom of the Opera.

Callow will join the new cast which also stars Ruthie Henshall as Marian Halcombe and features Alexandra Silber (Laura Fairlie), Elinor Collett (Anne Catherick, aka ‘the woman in white’), Damian Humbley (Walter Hartright), Michael Cormick (Sir Percival Glyde) and original cast member Edward Petherbridge (Mr Fairlie).

In addition to the new company, the 19 September 2005 press performance will introduce creative changes that Andrew Lloyd Webber and director Trevor Nunn have initiated following the pre-production process for the Broadway transfer of The Woman in White, which opens at New York’s Marquis Theater on 17 November 2005.

Handsome young drawing master Walter Hartright is stranded at a remote railway cutting one night when a mysterious woman dressed in white appears out of the darkness. The two sisters he teaches, Marian Halcombe and her beautiful half-sister Laura Fairlie, find themselves ensnared in a web of betrayal and intrigues at the hands of the sinister Sir Percival Glyde, and his much more genial but equally underhand friend, Count Fosco.

Loosely based on Wilkie Collins’ 1869 novel, The Woman in White has a book by Charlotte Jones, with lyrics by David Zippel set to Lloyd Webber’s score. The musical is designed by William Dudley and produced by Sonia Friedman Productions and Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Company. Amongst its accolades are no fewer than five 2005 Theatregoers' Choice Awards, including Best Director and Best Designer. The musical is currently booking until 1 April 2006.

- by Terri Paddock