Next week, Ramin Karimloo (pictured) will become the youngest ever actor to tackle the title role in The Phantom of the Opera in the West End. Currently the standby Phantom in the West End’s second longest-running musical at Her Majesty’s Theatre, from 10 September, the 28-year-old takes over full time from Earl Carpenter as the masked man.

The Iranian-born and Canadian-reared Karimloo’s other UK credits include Enjolras in Les Miserables in the West End, and Chris in Miss Saigon and the Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance on tour.

Also from 10 September, Alex Rathgeber will make his West End debut as Raoul and Benjamin Lake, who won a Newcomer of the Year Award for his portrayal of God in Jerry Springer, will take over as Piangi. The current cast also features Robyn North and Leila Benn Harris, who alternate in the role of ingénue singer Christine, the object of the Phantom’s affections. The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical celebrates its 21st birthday in the West End on 9 October 2007.

And at the West End’s Victoria Palace, 13-year-olds Sam Angell, from Glasgow, and Joshua Fedrick, from Saltash in Cornwall, will soon join the rotating team of boys who take the title in the multi award-winning screen-to-stage hit Billy Elliot the Musical. The multi award-winning musical – which scooped Best Musical prizes in the Laurence Olivier, Evening Standard, Critics’ Circle and Awards – celebrates its 1,000th West End performance on 4 October 2007.

Set against the North-eastern mining strikes of the 1980s, the musical recounts the tale of a motherless boy whose father wants him to learn to box but who instead discovers a love for ballet that leads him from secret lessons to a place at the Royal Ballet School.

The other current Billys are: Dean McCarthy, Layton Williams, Corey Snide and Oliver Taylor. The cast also features: Jackie Clune (as Mrs Wilkinson), James Gaddas (Dad), Ann Emery (Grandma), Chris Lennon (Tony) and Alex Delamere (Mr Braithwaite).

Billy Elliot has played to more than one million people since it opened in May 2005. The stage production reunites the creative team behind the 2000 film: director Stephen Daldry, writer Lee Hall and choreographer Peter Darling. It features an original score by pop singer-songwriter Elton John, with lyrics by Lee Hall.

- by Terri Paddock