Full casting has now been announced for the upcoming UK premiere of Hairspray, which opens at the West End’s Shaftesbury Theatre on 30 October (previews from 11 October).

Headliners Michael Ball (as Edna), Mel Smith (Wilbur) and Leanne Jones (Tracy) as well as Ben James-Ellis (Link Larkin), Tracie Bennett (Velma Von Tussle), Johnnie Fiori (Motormouth Maybelle), Adrian Hansel (Seaweed), Paul Manuel (Corny Collins) and Rachel Wooding (Amber Von Tussle) have already been announced (See News, 24 Jul 2007).

They’ll be joined by Natalie Best (Inez), Dermot Canavan (Male Authority Figure), Elinor Collett (Penny Pingleton) and Wendy Somerville (Female Authority Figure). Also in the cast are: Gavin Alex, Fem Belling, Philip Catchpole, Lewis Davies, Helen Dixon, Emma Dodd, Tim Frater, Kate Gillespie, Ewan Gillies, Nicky Griffiths, Jenii Hickes, Holly James, Sandra Marvin, Terel Nugent, Michael Peters, Adam Price, Charlotte Riby, Dominic Shaw, Neil Toon, Michael Vinsen, Zara Warren and Jacqui Zvimba.

Hairspray premiered in August 2002 at Broadway’s Neil Simon Theater, where it’s still running, going on to win eight 2003 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Based on John Waters' cult retro 1988 film and set in 1960s Baltimore, it tells the story of geeky overweight teen Tracy, who finds celebrity on a TV dance programme. Can she get the guy and still have time to change the world?

The musical has a book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan, with music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Whitman and Shaiman. It’s directed by Jack O'Brien and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell. The film of the musical was released in the UK this summer.


In other musical casting news, Lauren Ward, Ian Gelder, Sophie Bould and Neil McDermott leave the London production of The Sound of Music on 22 September 2007 with their roles being taken over by Fiona Sinnott (the Baroness), Paul Grunert (Max), Amy Lennox (Liesl) and Luke Fredericks (Rolf), beginning on the 24 September. The new cast members join Simon Burke, the previously announced new Captain Von Trapp (See News, 15 Aug 2007).

Connie Fisher, winner of the BBC’s How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, will continue to star as Maria for six performances a week with runner-up Aoife Mulholland playing the role on Monday evenings and Wednesday matinees. Margaret Preece will also stay on as the Mother Abbess, a role she took over full-time from Lesley Garrett earlier this year (See News, 27 Apr 2007).

The Sound of Music 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 directed by Jeremy Sams and designed by Robert Jones, with choreography by Arlene Phillips, sound by Mick Potter, lighting by Mark Henderson and musical supervision by Simon Lee. It’s presented by Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Ian, the Really Useful Group and Live Nation. The production is currently booking until 29 March 2008. In this past year’s Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Awards, The Sound of Music won Best Musical Revival and London Newcomer of the Year for Fisher, while How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? was named Theatre Event of the Year.

- by Tom Atkins