From tonight, 29 November 2004, Clarke Peters (pictured) joins the cast of Simply Heavenly at the West End’s Trafalgar Studios (see News, 16 August 2004). Peters and Melanie Marshall fill in for Clive Rowe and Ruby Turner over the Christmas period while they fulfil other commitments – which for Rowe means a stint as the dame in Hackney Empire’s pantomime Aladdin.

Peters plays love-struck Melon and Marshall, who normally plays Madame Butler, will take over the role of Miss Mamie, the part she has covered for Turner since mid-November. Rhashan Stone continues in the role of leading man, Jesse B Semple, in Josette Bushell-Mingo’s production of "poet laureate of Harlem" Langston Hughes’ musical comedy.

Simply Heavenly - which first ran on Broadway in 1957, and briefly in London the following year - is born out of a series of short stories featuring the bar room philosophies of Jesse, an offbeat Harlem everyman in a rapidly changing America. As Jesse attempts to raise the money necessary to marry girlfriend Joyce, his friends from Paddy's bar indulge in beer and the blues.

Peters’ extensive musical credits include Five Guys Named Moe and Unforgettable (for both of which he received a Best Actor nomination at the Olivier Awards), while he’s also been seen on stage in Mourning Becomes Electra, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, The Iceman Cometh, Chicago and Kiss of the Spiderwoman.

Ruby Turner and Clive Rowe return to their roles on 3 and 17 January 2005, respectively. Simply Heavenly is currently booking until 5 March 2005.

- by Hannah Kennedy