Several major musicals – in London and regionally – have recently announced casting updates, including….

The world premiere production of Howard The Hired Man Goodall’s Two Cities, freely adapted from Charles Dickens’ literary classic A Tale of Two Cities, runs from 6 to 30 September 2006 (preview 5 September) at Salisbury Playhouse, kicking off the theatre’s 30th anniversary season (See News, 28 Jun 2006).

Glyn Kerslake (Phantom of the Opera, Miss Saigon), Rosalie Craig (Playing for Time, Hobson’s Choice), Ben Goddard (Jesus Christ Superstar) and Oliver Beamish (Sweeney Todd) will star. They are joined by David Ashley, Stefan Bednarczyk, Emily Butterfield, Laura Checkley, Mary Doherty, Chris Grierson, Paul Kemble, Guy Oliver-Watts, David Ricardo-Pearce, Nicola Sloane and Chris Thatcher.

Set against the dramatic backdrop of the Russian revolution, Two Cities is a timeless story of everyday heroics involving a love triangle and a young woman’s search for her imprisoned father. It features a book by Salisbury artistic director Joanna Read, who revived The Hired Man in 2003 and who directs the new piece, which has music and lyrics by Goodall.

Damian Humbley and Alexandra Silber, who starred opposite each other in the West End production of The Woman in White, will play love interests again in Sheffield Crucible’s new production of Fiddler on the Roof, alongside previously announced Henry Goodman, from 30 November 2006 to 20 January 2007 (See News, 17 May 2006).

Humbley is currently starring in the UK premiere of The Last Five Years, by Tony Award-winning American composer Jason Robert Brown, at the Menier Chocolate Factory (See News, 21 Jun 2006). His stage credits in his native Australia include Urinetown for Melbourne Theatre Company, and Giorgio Bachetti in Passion for Halogen Productions. He made his West End debut as Walter Hartright in The Woman in White. He will play Perchick in Fiddler on the Roof.

Silber also made her West End debut, playing Laura Fairlie, in The Woman in White. She will star as Hoddle, the second daughter, in Lindsay Posner’s production of the 1964 Broadway musical, which is set in Tsarist Russia where a poor milkman wants to marry off his five daughters to good homes.

Linzi Hateley will return to Chicago at the West End’s Cambridge Theatre, playing murderess Roxie Hart for a limited four-week season from 14 August to 9 September 2006. She will take over from Jennifer Ellison and star alongside current Billy Flynn Ian Kelsey, who has extended his run to 9 September (See News, 12 Jul 2006).

Hateley created the stage role of Mrs Banks in Mary Poppins at the West End’s Prince Edward theatre. Amra-Faye Wright and Julian Sims (Heartbeat) star as Velma Kelly and Amos Hart, while Brenda Edwards plays Mama Morton.

Chicago won the 1998 Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Musical Production as well as the 1998 Critics' Circle Award for Best Musical. The 1975 musical, about a wannabe jazz star turned murderess, is based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins and has a book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb.

The current stage revival is directed by Walter Bobbie and designed by John Lee Beatty, with choreography by Ann Reinking in the style of Bob Fosse. It opened at the Cambridge Theatre (where the original London production of the Kander and Ebb musical opened in April 1979 and ran for 603 performances) on 28 April 2006, after a record-breaking nine years at the Adelphi Theatre, where it opened in November 1997.

Meanwhile, another Mary Poppins star, Laura Michelle Kelly (pictured), who originated the role of the eponymous nanny in the West End stage musical (for which she won an Olivier Award), has been cast as Cinderella in the upcoming gala performances of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods (See News, 27 Jun 2006).

Sondheim and James Lapine’s 1989 musical will be presented – for two performances only – at the Royal Albert Hall in aid of the Children’s Society to celebrate the charity’s 125th anniversary, on Sunday 22 October 2006 at 3.00pm and 7.30pm. Kelly, who released her debut album earlier this year, will join the previously announced footballer-turned-film-star Vinnie Jones and Anita Dobson in the musical performance (See News, 11 Jul 2006).

Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel are joined by a new creation, the tale of The Baker and His Wife, in the musical, which features a different take on the idea of “happily ever after”. The original Broadway production of Into the Woods opened in November 1989 and ran for 764 performances at the Martin Beck Theater, directed by Lapine. The show opened in London in September 1990 at the West End’s Phoenix Theatre, where it ran until 23 February 1991.

No further casting has yet been announced for the Albert Hall concert staging, directed by Joe Harmston, but promotional material promises a collection of “well-known stage and screen actors”.

- by Caroline Ansdell