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Cast: Sheen & O’Hare Are Poppins, Finley Betwixt!

Caroline Sheen will take the title role in Mary Poppins when the multi award-winning Disney-Cameron Mackintosh musical, which finished its two-year West End run at the Prince Edward theatre in January, launches its first national tour from the Theatre Royal Plymouth on 4 June (See News, 12 Oct 2007). Sheen will perform in Plymouth, Birmingham and Edinburgh. From 27 October, former West End Mary Lisa O'Hare will then take over and continue from Edinburgh to Manchester and Cardiff, where the tour concludes on 18 April 2009.

Both West End stalwarts, Sheen’s other credits include Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Les Miserables, The Witches of Eastwick, Mamma Mia! and the Donmar’s production of Into the Woods, while O'Hare is currently reprising her role as Eliza Doolittle in the US touring production of My Fair Lady.

Joining the leading ladies in the Mary Poppins cast are Daniel Crossley (pictured with Sheen), who will play Cockney chimneysweep Bert for the duration of the tour, Martin Ball (as Mr Banks), Louise Bowden (Mrs Banks), Deryn Edwards (Miss Andrews), Shirley Jameson (Mrs Brill), Valda Aviks (Birdwoman) and Mark Anderson (Robertson Ay).

Following an out-of-town try-out in Bristol, the stage adaptation of Mary Poppins, originally starring Laura Michelle Kelly, premiered on 15 December 2004 (previews from 6 December) at the West End’s Prince Edward Theatre, where it closed on 12 January 2008. It had its Broadway premiere in November 2006. The musical is co-directed by Richard Eyre and Matthew Bourne, choreographed by Bourne and Stephen Mear, and designed by Bob Crowley.

In other musical casting news, the King’s Head Theatre has announced the full cast for next month’s world premiere of Ian Mcfarlane’s Betwixt!, the second production in the Fringe venue’s new in-house season (See News, 5 Mar 2008). Mcfarlane himself will star in the principal role of Cooper Fitzgerald, while Abi Finley, a semi-finalist in the BBC’s How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria? will play Miranda.

Betwixt! tells the story of fantasy novelist Bailey Howard and his flamboyant roommate Cooper Fitzgerald, who are magically transported to the world of In-Between. Their arrival fulfils an ancient prophecy and sets in motion a series of adventures involving a deranged theatrical troupe, a singing disembodied head and a seductive Nymph Queen.

Stephen Fletcher, who recently starred in Willy Russell’s 30th anniversary re-mix of Stags and Hens at the Royal Court Liverpool, plays Bailey Howard in a cast that also features David McGranaghan, Amanda Symonds, Mark Inscoe, Ross Aldred and Amy Griffiths. Betwixt! opens on 13 May (previews from 6 May) and runs until 22 June 2008.

After the recent announcement that Suzanne Shaw is set to take over as Roxie Hart in the West End production of Chicago (See News, 15 Apr 2008) on 2 June, producers have announced that in the interim period, the role will be played by Sarah Soetaert. Soetaert, who returns having starred as Roxie in 2007, will start her five-week run on 28 April 2008. Rachel McDowall continues as Velma Kelly, as does Terence Maynard as Billy Flynn and Paul Rider as Amos Hart.

- by Theo Bosanquet


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