Two of the West End’s long-running musicals - Mamma Mia! and Blood Brothers - have both announced extensions to their booking periods, while Whatsonstage.com Award Best Actor in a Musical nominee Michael Ball (pictured) has added six months to his contracted run in recent Broadway import Hairspray.


At the Prince of Wales, Mamma Mia! has added ten months to its schedule, taking it up to 25 April 2009. The musical had its world premiere at the Prince Edward Theatre in April 1999 and, after five years, moved to the refurbished Prince of Wales in May 2004. The feature film of the musical, starring Meryl Streep, is released in the UK next July (See The Goss, 13 Dec 2007).

Set on a Greek island, the show centres on young Sophie who, preparing for her wedding day, has invited three of her mother's ex-lovers in an attempt to discover the identity of her father. Mother Donna’s former band members come along for the festivities too. The musical's original book, by Catherine Johnson, is interspersed with Abba disco classics such as "Dancing Queen", "Thank You for the Music", "Take a Chance on Me" and the title song.

The production is directed by Phyllida Lloyd and designed by Mark Thompson. Since opening in the West End, Mamma Mia! has been seen by more than 30 million people in over 170 cities around the world. The feature film of the musical, starring Meryl Streep, is released in the UK next July (See The Goss, 13 Dec 2007). The current West End cast is led by Linzi Hateley (as Donna), Joanna Monro, Jane Gurnett and Hannah Robertson.


At the Phoenix Theatre, Blood Brothers has extended its run by eight months and is now taking bookings through to 1 November 2008. This production of Willy Russell's Liverpool-set musical about twin brothers separated at birth first opened on 27 August 1988 at the Albery Theatre before transferring to its current home at the Phoenix in November 1991.

Sarah Hay currently stars as the twins' tragic mother, Mrs Johnstone, with Linda Nolan filling in from 7 to 26 January and Lyn Paul returning to the role from 28 January 2008. The Narrator is Craig Price. Blood Brothers is directed by Bob Thomson and Bill Kenwright and designed by Marty Flood.


And at the Shaftesbury Theatre, Michael Ball is now signed up to continue in the cross-dressing role of Edna Turnblad in hit musical Hairspray through to 25 October 2008, the end of its current booking period.

Hairspray premiered in August 2002 at Broadway’s Neil Simon Theater, where it’s still running, going on to win eight 2003 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Based on John Waters' cult retro 1988 film and set in 1960s Baltimore, it tells the story of geeky overweight teen Tracy Turnblad, who finds celebrity on a TV dance programme. Can she get the guy and still have time to change the world?

Ball is Tracy’s mum Edna Turnblad, starring alongside newcomer Leanne Jones as Tracy and Mel Smith as husband Wilbur. The cast also features Tracie Bennett, Rachel Wooding, Paul Manuel, Adrian Hansell, Elinor Collett, Natalie Best, Johnnie Fiori and Any Dream Will Do’s Ben James-Ellis.

The musical has a book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan, with music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Whitman and Shaiman. As on Broadway, it’s directed by Jack O'Brien and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell. A big screen version, starring John Travolta as Edna, was released earlier this year.

Hairspray had its West End premiere on 30 October 2007 (previews from 11 October). It’s presented in London by Stage Entertainment. Amongst its UK accolades to date are the Evening Standard Award for Best Musical and no fewer than ten nominations in this year’s Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, including nods for Michael Ball, Leanne Jones, Mel Smith, Ben James-Ellis and Tracie Bennett as well as Best New Musical (click here to vote!).

- by Terri Paddock