Les Dennis returned to the musical stage on Sunday (23 August 2009, preview 22 August) to star opposite GMTV “Search for Troy” winner Liam Doyle in the UK premiere of High School Musical 2 Live on Stage! (See News, 2 Mar 2009), which launched a four-and-a-half month tour from south London’s New Wimbledon Theatre with a celebrity gala.

In the first stage sequel to the global phenomenon, school’s out and the East High Wildcats need summer jobs! Troy, Gabriella, Taylor and Chad all land work at an exclusive country club, but it’s not going to be an easy ride as Ryan and Sharpay are vacationing there too. The scheming siblings, whose family owns the club, make it their mission to stir things up. The action builds to the club’s all-important Midsummer Night’s Talent Show, but will the Wildcats be ready in time?

Dennis, who plays teacher Mr Fulton, is best known from his TV credits, most notably as the host of Family Fortunes. His musical theatre credits include Me and My Girl, Chicago and, in the West End last year, Eurobeat. His autobiography, Must the Show Go On?, was published in 2008.

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Liam Doyle was voted into the role of teen heartthrob Troy Bolton via a competition in May on morning chat show GMTV (See News, 27 May 2009). The 18-year-old A-Level student and part-time barman from Coventry had decided on a career in performing arts following an injury which left him unable to carry on with a promising future in soccer. Doyle’s fellow TV finalists, Ian McIntosh and James Lacey, were also invited to join the cast.

Other principals include: Nikki Mae (as Gabriella Montez), Matt Kennedy (Ryan Evans), Lauren Hall (Sharpay Evans), Carlton Connell (Chad Danforth), Shakira Akabusi (Taylor McKessie), Dina Tree (Martha Cox) and Emma Dukes (Kelsi Neilson).

As with the series’ original screen-to-stage crossover, High School Musical 2 Live on Stage! has a book by David Simpatico (adapted from the original movie script by Peter Barsocchini), and is directed by Jeff Calhoun, with scenic design by Kenneth Foy and choreography by Lisa Stevens. The score features all the songs from the film soundtrack, including “What Time Is It?”, “You Are the Music in Me” and “Fabulous”.

Following Wimbledon, where it runs until 5 September 2009, High School Musical 2 Live on Stage! visits Plymouth, Sheffield, Oxford, Ipswich, Brighton, Wolverhampton, Southampton, Leeds, Belfast, Manchester, Birmingham, Derry, Liverpool, Bristol, Southend, Stoke-on-Trent, York and Cardiff, where the current schedule concludes on 29 May 2010.