As previously reported (See News, 12 Jun 2006), Richard Fleeshman, teen heartthrob from Coronation Street and winner of Soapstar Superstar, will join Frances Ruffelle, Donna McKechnie and Diane Langton in the Sherman Brothers’ 1940s-set musical comedy Over Here, which soon receives its UK premiere 33 years after it first opened on Broadway. Originally due to open in the West End in November, it is now confirmed to open in January. It will run for 49 performances only, from 8 January to 16 February 2007, at Shaftesbury Avenue’s Apollo Theatre, ahead of a brief regional tour.

Billed as a “nostalgic journey across World War II America at the height of the big-band era”, Over Here takes place on a cross-country, New York-bound train, on which the DePaul sisters (Langton and McKechnie) are listening out for a third voice to complete an Andrews Sisters-style showbiz trio. Unwittingly, they recruit a Nazi spy named Mitzi (Ruffelle), who weaves top secret codes into the new group’s musical arrangements.

Over Here became a vehicle for two of the real-life Andrews Sisters but - though it was the highest-grossing musical of the 1974 Broadway season and helped launch the careers of then up-and-coming performers Ann Reinking, Treat Williams and John Travolta – it closed after 341 performances owing to a legal dispute. The show’s Forties pastiche music is now little known by comparison with Richard and Robert Sherman’s scores for film classics such as Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

The new production, directed and choreographed by Broadway’s Tony Stevens, will see McKechnie and Langton starring together for the first time - although both were cast in the 1976 London premiere production of A Chorus Line at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. McKechnie was due to reprise her Tony Award-winning performance as Cassie, which she originated on Broadway a year earlier, opposite Langton as Morales but was forced to leave the country when her work permit fell through.

McKechnie’s other credits include Company, On the Town, Promises Promises and State Fair on Broadway and Can Can and No Way to Treat a Lady in the West End. Langton’s other West End credits include A Little Night Music, Stepping Out, Side by Side by Sondheim, Cats, Chicago, Spend Spend Spend, Follies and, most recently, Mary Poppins.

Ruffelle created the role of Eponine in Les Miserables in London and New York, where she won a Tony Award for her performance. Her other West End credits include Chicago, Starlight Express and Children of Eden. Fleeshman is best known as Craig from TV soap Coronation Street. The son of theatre actors Sue Jenkins and David Fleeshman, he’s been singing as an amateur since the age of three. Earlier this year, he won the TV singing competition Soapstar Superstar. The Sherman Brothers musical will mark his professional stage debut.

Over Here is designed by Christopher Hone – whose set will be built around a live 18-piece big band – with lighting by Shane Lomman and musical supervision by David Barber. It’s presented in London by Swingtime One Ltd. Currently at the Apollo, Adrian Noble’s revival of Tennessee Williams’ rarely seen 1947 play Summer and Smoke, starring Rosamund Pike, will now finish on 25 November 2006, having opened on 18 October 2006 (previews from 11 October) following initial dates in Nottingham. after just six weeks.

- by Terri Paddock