Comedian Jo Brand (pictured) and TV impressionist Alistair McGowan will guest star in Carl Rosa Opera’s upcoming productions of Gilbert & Sullivan operettas The Mikado and The Pirates of Penzance, as part of the company’s West End residency, from 30 January to 1 March 2008, at the Gielgud Theatre (See News, 2 Nov 2007).

McGowan, who made his West End musical debut earlier this year in Little Shop of Horrors (See News, 19 Jan 2007), will play the title role in The Mikado, which opens the G&S season from 30 January to 9 February 2008. The production will also feature a guest performance from Nichola McAuliffe as Katisha.

Brand will perform the Sergeant of Police in The Pirates of Penzance, which concludes the season, running from 18 February to 1 March 2008. In between, Iolanthe, currently on tour, will play 11 to 16 February 2008. The company will also include Eric Roberts, Bruce Graham, Steven Page, Charlotte Page, Lesley Cox, Sophie-Louise Dann, Barry Clark, Donald Maxwell, Gareth Jones, Karl Daymond, Victoria Ward, Michael Kerry, Beverley Klein and Deborah Myers.

The Mikado is choreographed by David Furnell and conducted by Martin Handley. Iolanthe and The Pirates of Penzance are choreographed by Steve Elias and conducted by Richard Balcombe. The productions are directed and designed by Peter Mulloy.

The Mikado (1885), Iolanthe (1882) and The Pirates of Penzance (1879) contain some of Gilbert & Sullivan’s best-known songs, such as “Three Little Maids from School”, “I’ve Got a Little List”, “A Wandering Minstrel I”, “The Nightmare Song”, “When Britain Really Ruled the Waves”, “The Modern Major General”, “Poor Wandering One” and “I Am a Pirate King”. The season is presented in the West End by Raymond Gubbay.

In other West End musical casting news, Any Dream Will Do finalist Daniel Boys will play Princeton/Rod in Avenue Q, which has extended until 27 September 2008 at the Noel Coward Theatre (See News, 1 Nov 2007).

From 3 December 2007, Boys takes over from Jon Robyns, while Rebecca Lock takes over from Robyns’ fellow original cast member Julie Atherton as Kate Monster and Lucy the Slut. Also new to the cast is Christopher Fry as Brian, with other replacements for Trekkie Monster/Nicky and Christmas Eve due to be announced shortly. Mary Doherty and Delroy Atkinson continue in the roles of Mrs T/Bad Idea Bear and Gary Coleman.

Along with Any Dream Will Do winner Lee Mead, now starring in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in the West End, Daniel Boys was already a professional actor when he took part in BBC One’s reality TV contest (See News, 10 Apr 2007). His pre-Dream West End credits include Grease and Rent. Since the programme aired, he’s appeared in the UK premiere of US musical I Love You Because and the Royal Festival Hall’s star-studded revival of Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd (See News, 22 Jun 2007).

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. The West End production opened at the Noel Coward on 28 June 2006 (previews from 1 June). 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. Amongst the show’s accolades to date, it won the Theatregoers’ Choice Award for Best Ensemble Performance.

- by Terri Paddock