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Cast: Tucker Is Wicked Elphaba, Hairspray Tour

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Former I’d Do Anything finalist Rachel Tucker, who followed her reality TV success with a West End stint in We Will Rock You for which she was nominated in last year’s Whatsonstage.com Awards, is confirmed to take on the role of the green-skinned Elphaba in Wicked at the West End’s Apollo Victoria theatre.

She'll start performances on 29 March 2010, opposite a new “good witch” Glinda, Louise Dearman. Coincidentally, the two have previously appeared on stage together as Elphaba and Glinda, spoofing the competitive nature of the hit musical’s two leading ladies in the regular satirical sketch show, Jest End (See Photos, 24 Apr 2009).

Wicked tells the “untold story” of the Witches of Oz - popular blonde Glinda, aka the Good Witch of the North, and her spin-victim friend Elphaba – who were both immortalised in the 1939 film classic The Wizard of Oz. The musical has a book by Winnie Holtzman, based on Gregory Maguire’s novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. It’s directed by Joe Mantello.

Opened in 2003 on Broadway, Wicked received its West End premiere on 27 September 2006 (previews from 6 September). The current London company is led by Alexia Khadime as Elphaba and Dianne Pilkington as Glinda and also features Harriet Thorpe (Madame Morrible), Oliver Tompsett (Fiyero) and Sam Kelly (The Wizard).

In other musical casting news, Brian Conley and Phill Jupitus will join Michael Ball on the road with the upcoming touring production of Hairspray (See News, 10 Aug 2009), alternating as larger-than-life Edna Turnblad, the cross-dressing role that all three men have played at London’s Shaftesbury Theatre (with Conley nominated for Best Takeover in a Role in the current Whatsonstage.com Awards). Les Dennis, currently on tour with High School Musical 2 (also produced by Stage Entertainment), will co-star as Edna’s husband Wilbur Turnblad at selected venues.

The tour of Hairspray - which runs concurrently with the ongoing West End production – opens at the Cardiff Millennium Centre, where it runs from 30 March to 24 April 2010, before continuing through to 9 January 2011 to Glasgow, Southampton, Wolverhampton, Leeds, Manchester, Plymouth, Liverpool, Sunderland, Milton Keynes, Oxford, Birmingham, Bradford and Edinburgh, with further dates to be announced.

Hairspray premiered in August 2002 on Broadway, 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?

The musical has a book by Mark O'Donnell and Thomas Meehan, with music by Marc Shaiman and lyrics by Scott Whitman and Shaiman. It’s directed by Jack O'Brien and choreographed by Jerry Mitchell. In the UK, Hairspray had its West End premiere on 30 October 2007 (previews from 11 October) and won the sweep of Best Musical prizes at the 2007/8 year’s Evening Standard, Critics’ Circle, Whatsonstage.com and Olivier Awards.

For Michael Ball, the first-ever UK tour of Hairspray also heralds a new role for him, off-stage, as an associate producer with Stage Entertainment (See News, 10 Aug 2009). 


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