West End favourites Michael Ball (pictured) and Henry Goodman will make their English National Opera debuts next year at the London Coliseum. In March 2007, Goodman will star in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers; in June, Ball will lead Kismet, the first new West End production of the 1953 Broadway musical in nearly 30 years (See News, 16 Mar 2006).

Two years after its Broadway premiere, Kismet opened at London’s Stoll Theatre in 1955, the same year that it was made into a Hollywood film directed by Vincente Minnelli. The Arabian Nights-inspired piece – with a book by Charles Lederer and music and lyrics by Grand Hotel’s Robert Wright and George Forrest - follows the remarkable changes of fortune that engulf a poor poet during the course of one incredible day when Kismet (fate) takes control.

According to an ENO press release, the musical is “an eclectic choice to suit ENO’s abilities and resources, with special emphasis on the chorus…. The symphonic score incorporates a string of great numbers, a major dance element and requires a blend of performance styles from musicals and opera to carry off its stratospheric vocal demands. This makes Kismet ideally suited to an opera ensemble and to a stage such as that of the London Coliseum, the premier venue for big American musicals in the 1940s and 1950s.”

The new ENO production, in which Ball will play Hajj/Poet (played by Howard Keel in the screen version), runs for 19 performances only from 27 June to 14 July 2006 (previews from 25 June). The production marks the first time that ENO has scheduled a consecutive run of performances.

Ball’s most recent West End roles have been Caractacus Potts in the stage premiere of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Count Fosco in The Woman in White, for which he won Whatsonstage.com’s Theatregoers’ Choice Award for Best Takeover in a Role. He reprised his performance last year in the Broadway premiere of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.

Ball made his West End debut in 1985, originating the role of Marius in Les Miserables. He went on to star in The Phantom of the Opera, Passion and Aspects of Love. It was the last that had perhaps the most dramatic impact on his career, transferring to Broadway and also producing the #1 hit song "Love Changes Everything", which has become one of Ball's signature tunes on his ongoing concert tours.

Kismet will be directed by Gary Griffin, whose 2003 production of Pacific Overtures at the Donmar Warehouse won an Olivier for Outstanding Musical Production. The production is conceived by Griffin in collaboration with Luther Davis (who was one of the musical’s original creative team) and Kit Hesketh-Harvey. It’s conducted by Richard Hickox and Simon Lee and designed by Ultz.

Martin Duncan’s 1950s-set production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s 1889 operetta The Gondoliers will first be seen this autumn, running in rep from 18 to 27 November 2006. It will then return in the new year, running for seven performances only from 6 to 29 March 2007, when Henry Goodman will replace Geoffrey Dolton as the Duke of Plazatoro. The new production follows ENO successes with Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado and The Pirates of Penzance.

Swapping regularly between plays and musicals, Goodman’s many London stage credits include The Birthday Party, Art, Guys and Dolls, Angels in America, Feelgood, Follies and Chicago as well as The Merchant of Venice and Assassins, both of which won him Oliviers. Most recently, he’s been seen in Brian Friel’s Performances at Wilton’s Music Hall, The Hypochondriac at the Almeida and The Exonerated at Riverside Studios.

Ahead of his ENO engagement, Goodman will play Russian milkman Tevye in Lindsay Posner’s revival of classic Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof (See News, 17 May 2006), which runs at Sheffield Crucible from 5 December 2006 (previews from 30 November) to 20 January 2007.

Other more mainstream musical offerings in ENO’s new season include the return of its 2005 hit On the Town. Leonard Bernstein’s 1944 musical is re-directed by Jude Kelly and choreographed by Stephen Mear, and features original cast members Lucy Schaufer as Claire de Loone, Rodney Clarke and Andrew Shore. It will be conducted by Simon Lee and runs in rep for 20 performances from 23 April to 25 May 2007 (preview 20 April).

- by Terri Paddock