Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Woman in White celebrates its 500th performance tonight (28 November 2005), when David Burt also takes over from Simon Callow as the flamboyant Count Fosco in the Award-winning musical at the West End’s Palace Theatre.

Burt’s many credits include The Far Pavilions, Brighton Rock, The Beautiful and the Damned, Closer to Heaven, Jesus Christ Superstar, Chess, Les Miserables and Cats. He joins The Woman in White cast which currently features Ruthie Henshall (as Marian), Damian Humbley (Walter Hartright), Alexandra Silber (Laura Fairlie), Elinor Collett (Anne Catherick), Michael Cormick (Sir Percival Glyde) and Edward Petherbridge (Mr Fairlie).

Handsome young drawing master Walter Hartright is stranded at a remote railway cutting one night, when a mysterious woman dressed in white appears out of the darkness. His new pupils, Marian Halcombe and her beautiful half-sister Laura Fairlie, find themselves ensnared in a web of betrayal and intrigues at the hands of the sinister Sir Percival Glyde and his more genial but equally underhand friend Count Fosco.

The Broadway production of The Woman in White opened last Thursday (17 November 2005) at the Marquis Theatre with original West End star Maria Friedman battling a cancer scare to make her Broadway debut (See News, 17 Nov 2005). The musical is now in its second year in London, having received its world premiere last August at the Palace Theatre.

Loosely based on Wilkie Collins’ Victorian novel, first published in 1869, The Woman in White has a book by Charlotte Jones, with lyrics by David Zippel set to Lloyd Webber’s score. The musical is directed by Trevor Nunn, designed by William Dudley and produced by Sonia Friedman Productions and Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Company. Amongst its accolades are no fewer than five 2005 Theatregoers' Choice Awards, including Best Director and Best Designer. The London production is currently booking until 1 April 2006.

In other musical casting news, as previously tipped (See The Goss, 24 Oct 2005), Chicago’s new Mama Morton is Chrissie Hammond, the Eighties pop star who founded the bands Air Supply and Cheetah and had three top ten hits. The actress, who has previously played the role of the prison matron, has also had leading roles in Cats (in the West End and on tour), Jesus Christ Superstar, Smokey Joe's Cafe and Harry's Web. She started performances on Monday (21 November 2005) and is contracted to 28 January 2006.

- by Caroline Ansdell