The West End’s three longest running productions – musicals Les Miserables and The Phantom of the Opera and Agatha Christie’s Guinness World Record-breaking thriller The Mousetrap - have all announced extensions to their current booking periods.

Longest still running musical Les Miserables, which celebrates its 19th birthday on 8 October 2004, has added three months to its schedule, taking it up to 2 April 2005. Based on Victor Hugo's humanitarian novel about a persecuted man in 19th-century revolutionary France, the show has been seen worldwide by over 50 million people in more than 38 countries and in 21 languages. In London, it ran for 18 years and over 7,500 performances at the Palace Theatre before moving down the road to its new home at the Queen’s Theatre this past April (See News, 21 Nov 2003).

The current cast includes Sean Kingsley, Gary Tushaw, Joanna Ampil and Gemma Wardle (See News, 24 Jun 2004). Originally adapted and directed by Trevor Nunn and John Caird for the RSC, Les Miserables has a book by Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil, with music by Schönberg and lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer. The production is designed by John Napier and produced by Cameron Mackintosh.

At Her Majesty’s Theatre, the West End's second longest-running musical, also produced by Mackintosh, The Phantom of the Opera, has similarly added three months up to 2 April 2005 to its current booking period. The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, based on Gaston Leroux's gothic novel about a masked man who falls in love with an ingénue singer at the Paris Opera House, will mark its 18th birthday on 9 October 2004. The current cast features Rachel Barrell, Oliver Thornton (See News, 23 Aug 2004), and in the title role, John Owen Jones.

Finally, the ultimate longrunner, Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap - which celebrated its 50th West End anniversary, with HM The Queen in attendance, on 25 November 2002 - has added yet another six months to its booking period at St Martin's Theatre (where it transferred in March 1974, after 20 years at its original home, the Ambassadors, next door).

A national and theatreland institution, the world record-breaking murder mystery, according to one commentator, is to the West End what the ravens are to the Tower of London - if it were to leave, British theatre may well collapse. The Mousetrap is now booking to 28 May 2005.

- by Terri Paddock