Full cast details of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s upcoming production of The Sound of Music have now been released. As previously reported (See News, 17 Sep 2006), How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? winner Connie Fisher, who plays nun-turned-nanny Maria Von Trapp, will be joined in the cast by Lesley Garrett as the Mother Abbess, Simon Shepherd as Captain Von Trapp, Lauren Ward as the Baroness, Ian Gelder as Max, Sophie Bould as Liesl and Neil McDermott as Rolf.

The revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s musical, directed by Jeremy Sams, has also changed its opening performance schedule at the West End’s London Palladium, where it will now start previews on 3 November 2006, a day earlier than previously announced, ahead of a press performance on 15 November 2006, a day later than originally scheduled.

Since the height of her operatic career with English National Opera, the Royal Opera House and others, Lesley Garrett has performed in operas and concerts around the world, released 11 solo CDs and regularly appeared on TV on programmes including her own series The Lesley Garrett Show (See News, 9 Jun 2006). She was awarded a CBE in 2002 for Services to Music. The role of Mother Abbess will be played by Margaret Preece at some performances. Simon Shepherd is best known as the star of five series of Peak Practice. His stage career includes the London productions of Art, Bent and The Secret Rapture.

Lauren Ward’s credits include The Philadelphia Story at the Old Vic and Camelot at Regent’s Park. Ian Gelder’s many credits at the National and RSC include the recent West End transfer of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. Sophie Bould’s credits include Coram Boy at the National, and Neil McDermott starred in Bad Girls the Musical at Leeds’ West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Also in the cast are: Christopher Blades, Anthony Cable, Ian Caddick, Vivien Care, Tanya Caridia, Christopher Connah, Kate Coysten, Deborah Crowe, Christopher Dickens, Katie Fabel, Susie Fenwick, John Griffiths, Amanda Hall, Paul Kemble, Emma Lindars, Ian Male, Claire Massie, Nicholas Maude, Gavin Mitford, Jo Napthine, Verity Quade, Katie Ray, Simon Schofield, Nicola Sloane, Alan Vicary, Helen Walsh, Elen Mon Wayne, Jane Webster, Kerry Winter and Vanessa Woodfine.

The Sound of Music originally premiered on Broadway in 1959, when it won six Tony Awards, including Best Musical. The show first opened in London in 1961 and its last London revival was in 1981, both productions having record-breaking runs. The 1965 Hollywood film, which starred Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, won five Oscars, including Best Picture.

The London revival is designed by Robert Jones, with choreography by Arlene Phillips, sound by Mick Potter, lighting by Mark Henderson and musical supervision by Simon Lee. It is presented by Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Ian, the Really Useful Group and Live Nation.

Meanwhile, Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, the West End's second longest-running musical (which celebrates its 20th anniversary on 9 October), has announced new cast members.

From 16 October 2006, Celia Graham returns to the role of Christine alongside Katie Knight Adams as the ingénue. Michael Xavier (Mamma Mia!, My Fair Lady) will play Raoul, Heather Jackson returns to play Madame Giry and Lindsey Wise (Show Boat) will play Meg. Earl Carpenter continues to star in the title role, while Rohan Tickell remains as Piangi, Wendy Ferguson as Carlotta, James Barron as Monsieur Firmin and Sam Hiller as Monsieur André.

The Phantom of the Opera is based on Gaston Leroux's gothic novel about a masked man who falls in love with an ingénue singer at the Paris Opera House. The current cast (until 16 October) features Rachel Barrell and David Shannon (See News, 23 Aug 2004).

Elsewhere, Hollywood screen star Patrick Swayze has once again extended his contract in Guys and Dolls. Swayze made his West End debut playing Nathan Detroit in Michael Grandage’s multi award-winning revival at the West End’s Piccadilly Theatre, where he started performances – belatedly – on 27 July 2006 (See News, 24 Jul 2006). Because of the delay, Swayze had already agreed to stay on until 23 September. Having then added a further fortnight, taking him through to 7 October, Swayze is now scheduled to stay in the show until 25 November 2006.

Swayze - who stars alongside Adam Cooper and Kelly Price as Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown - will have a week's holiday, from 9 to 14 October 2006, when the role of Nathan will be played by understudy Andrew Playfoot.

- by Caroline Ansdell