Several London shows have made casting announcements recently, with a former EastEnders star swapping soaps for Hairspray, new cast members for Billy Elliot and a comedian joining West End stars in panto at the Lyric Hammersmith.

It has been announced that EastEnders star Lucy Benjamin will join the cast of Hairspray for its forthcoming UK tour, which will begin at Manchester’s Lowry Theatre in February 2013.

Benjamin will play scheming TV executive Velma Von Tussle, archetypal ‘showbiz mom’ to protagonist Tracy Turnblad’s arch nemesis Amber. Based on the film written and directed by John Waters, with a book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan, Hairspray is set in 1960s Baltimore and tells the story of Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart, who has only one passion – dancing. She wins a spot on the local TV dance programme, The Corny Collins Show and, overnight, is transformed from outsider to irrepressible teen celebrity.

Benjamin’s role has been played on film by both Debbie Harry and Michelle Pfheiffer, and Benjamin will be joining Mark Benton (Edna) and Freya Sutton (Tracy Turnblad).

Lucy Benjamin is best-known for her portrayal of Lisa Fowler in the BBC’s EastEnders, but her earliest credits include the musicals Annie, Barnardo and Worzel Gummidge in the West End before making her television debut in Doctor Who. Recent theatre credits include The Pretender Agenda (West End) the UK tour of Framed and last year’s sell out production of Peter Pan at the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton.

Benjamin is excited about the role saying, “Hairspray is an absolute dream come true for me. I’m so excited to be returning to my musical theatre roots and to be cast in one of the biggest and best shows around”.

New additions to Billy

Billy Elliot has also announced some new additions to the cast.

From 12 November 2012 Killian Donnelly will join the cast to play Billy’s brother Tony. Donnelly is currently playing Raoul in the West End production of The Phantom of the Opera.  His previous theatre credits include the title role in Michael Collins for Cork Opera House and the 25th Anniversary concerts for both The Phantom of the Opera at the Royal Albert Hall and Les Miserables at the O2 Arena.

Other new cast members joining the show from November include Matthew Dale, David Muscat, Nic Greenshields, Ruri James and Spencer Stafford.

Giedroyc joins Atherton & Webb in Cinderella

The Lyric Hammersmith has announced that actress, broadcaster and comedian Mel Giedroyc (The Great British Bake Off, Eurobeat) will join the cast of Cinderella as the wicked stepmother.

Cinderella will be the Lyric’s forth annual pantomime following on from last year’s Aladdin. Steven Webb, who previously starred as the Lyric’s Dick Whittington and as the cheeky blue monkey Wishy Washy in Aladdin is also back this year, and West End star Julie Atherton, currently starring in the UK tour of Sister Act as Sister Mary Robert will play Cinderella.

Olivier Award-winning director Sean Holmes will direct his first panto at the Lyric Hammersmith.

- Leone Richmond