Three musicals - Avenue Q, Mary Poppins and The Lion King - have announced extensions to their West End booking periods, taking them through to July 2007.

At the Noel Coward Theatre, Avenue Q has added an extra six months to its schedule. The Broadway import had its UK premiere on 28 June 2006 (previews from 1 June) and was previously booking to 27 January 2007 (See News, 8 Aug 2006). It is taking booking until 28 July 2007. The show has also announced a new cast member. From 20 November 2006, Naoko Mori (Miss Saigon on stage, Absolutely Fabulous, Spooks on TV) will take over from original Broadway cast member Ann Harada in the role of Christmas Eve.

Billed as an adult version of Seasame Street, Avenue Q began its life at Off-Broadway’s Vineyard Theatre before transferring in July 2003 to Broadway’s Golden Theatre, where it went on to win three 2004 Tony Awards including Best Musical. A cast of seven – three of them playing humans, the rest manipulating multiple puppets that include a closet gay puppet called Rod, a porn-addicted puppet called Trekkie Monster, and a puppet looking for love called Kate Monster – tell the characters’ tales of love and hardship on the downtown street.

Avenue Q has a score by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, and a book by Jeff Whitty, with puppets conceived and designed by Rick Lyon, musical supervision by Stephen Oremus, and choreography by Ken Roberson. The musical is produced in the West End by Kevin McCollum, Robyn Goodman, Jeffrey Seller, Vineyard Theatre, the New Group and Cameron Mackintosh.

The London cast also features Giles Terera (Gary Coleman), Julie Atherton (Kate Monster/Lucy the Slut), Jon Robyns (Princeton/Rod), Simon Lipkin (Nicky/Trekkie Monster), Clare Foster (Mrs T) and Sion Lloyd (Brian).

Meanwhile at the Prince Edward theatre, another Cameron Mackintosh production, Mary Poppins, has also extended to 28 July 2007, adding three months to its schedule. The musical, which opened on 15 December 2004 (following previews from 6 December), currently stars Scarlett Strallen as the eponymous nanny, Gavin Creel as Bert, Aden Gillett as George Banks and Eliza Lumley as Winifred Banks. A cast change is due on 6 November 2006, but no new principals have yet been officially confirmed.

Based on the children’s stories by PL Travers and co-directed by Richard Eyre and Matthew Bourne, Mary Poppins has a book by Julian Fellowes and new music and lyrics by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, in addition to many of the Sherman brothers’ original film songs. The production is choreographed by Bourne and Stephen Mear and designed by Bob Crowley, and co-produced by Thomas Schumacher for Disney Theatrical Productions.

And finally, another Disney musical, The Lion King, which was previously booking to 27 March 2007, has extended to 29 July 2007 at the Lyceum Theatre, where it had its UK premiere in October 1999.

Based on Disney's 1994 animated feature film, the stage adaptation opened first on Broadway at the New Amsterdam Theatre in November 1997. The original Broadway creative team, led by director and designer Julie Taymor, reunited for the London production, with choreography by Garth Fagan, costumes by Taymor, puppetry and masks by Taymor and Michael Curry and set design by Richard Hudson.

The Lion King features 15 songs, including the five from the film. Unlike the screen version, however, African sounds and rhythms are fused on stage with Western popular music to create the musical's distinctive sound. The stage score comprises three new songs written by Elton John and Tim Rice, with additional numbers by South African-born Lebo M, Mark Mancina, Hans Zimmer and Julie Taymor. The book is by Roger Allers and Irene Mecchi.

- by Caroline Ansdell