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Breaking News: Michael Ball to Fill in for Flu-Ridden Michael Crawford in London's Woman in White (Updated)

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As first reported on January 27th by the Michael Crawford International Fan Association, Michael Crawford will be out of the Woman in White for several weeks recovering from the flu. Previously day to day, the star has been advised to take the proper time to recover before re-entering the hit musical.

As first reported on this site, it's been announced that Michael Ball will fill in during the time period of Michael Crawford's recovery. Michael Ball, who is already in rehearsals for the part is set to open in the role on February 22, with Michael Crawford set to return on April 4 pending doctor's approval. In the meantime, Steve Varnom, Michael Crawford's understudy who has been playing the part will continue to do so until Michael Ball steps in. It's anticpated that Michael Ball might step into the show earlier if ready. On the subject, Michael Ball said "I am delighted to have been offered this opportunity. Stepping into the great Michael Crawford's shoes represents an enormous challenge and I am thrilled to be working once again with Maria."

Michael Crawford, currently playing the role, has been forced to take a temporary break due to an acute 'flu' virus and is under doctor's orders not to return to work until he has made a complete recovery. He expressed his frustration at being unable to appear having established a legendary record for his West End appearances across four decades. After returning to the show in April, Crawford is expected to appear through the end of May.

"THE WOMAN IN WHITE" opened at the Palace Theatre on September 15. Freely adapted from Wilkie Collins's Victorian thriller, "THE WOMAN IN WHITE" brings to the stage a musical of startling brilliance. A dashing young man, employed as the art tutor to two devoted sisters, is stranded at a remote railway cutting. Out of the darkness looms a woman, a mysterious figure dressed in white, desperate to share a chilling secret.

He and the sisters soon find themselves trapped in a web of betrayal and greed, the victims of a seemingly flawless crime. Together they will need all their resourcefulness and courage to outwit a hugely charismatic and ingenious villain, 'Count Fosco'. As the compelling plot twists and turns, low villainy vies with high romance in a world where nothing is as it first appears and where it is impossible to know who to trust.

This new musical has been adapted for the stage by Charlotte Jones, whose award-winning plays include "Humble Boy", with lyrics by David Zippel, whose credits include "City of Angels" and the Disney classics "Mulan" and "Hercules". Andrew Lloyd Webber has composed the captivating and romantic score. Internationally renowned director Trevor Nunn, responsible for, amongst others, "Cats", "Starlight Express", "Les Misérables" and, most recently, "Anything Goes", will direct the production.

The Palace Theatre Box Office is now open on 0870 895 5579.

Michael Ball, is one of Britain's leading musical stars and The Variety Club of Great Britain's Best Recording Artist for 1998, has starred on Broadway and dominated many leading West End Shows for more than a decade. A proven and varied talent, Michael has won acclaim and the hearts of the public with his memorable performances on stage, film, and television.

Michael's theatre career to date boasts numerous roles including Frederic in The Pirates of Penzance at the Manchester Opera House. His star performance captured the attention of Cameron Mackintosh and led to his being offered the role of Marius in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Les Miserables. This was soon followed by the role of Raoul in Andrew Lloyd's Webber's The Phantom of the Opera and a memorable performance as Alex in both the London and New York production of Aspects of Love. The title song, Love Changes Everything, gave Michael his first #1 hit single and it soon became his signature song. In 1996, he went on to win rave reviews for his performance as Georgio in Stephen Sondheim's critically acclaimed new musical, Passion. In 1999, Michael was presented with the Theatregoers Club of Great Britain's award for Most Popular Musical Actor of the last 21 years.

Michael has the unique distinction of appearing on three of the four major cast recordings of Les Miserables and was delighted to be invited to recreate the role of Marius for the 10th Anniversary Gala Concert of Les Miserables. He was equally honoured to perform in Andrew Lloyd Webber's 50th Birthday Concert and at Cameron Mackintosh's tribute concert - Hey, Mr. Producer. All three concerts were released internationally on video and have been televised around the world, with Michael receiving overwhelming plaudits for his personal performances.

Other career highlights include representing Great Britain at the Eurovision Song Contest, watched live on TV by an audience of 600 million worldwide. His song entry, One Step Out of Time rocketed to the top of the UK charts and his first solo album, Michael Ball simultaneously captured the top of the Album's list. He has since experienced the thrill of watching ten consecutive albums go Gold, including his latest release, "This Time…It's Personal".

Since 1992, Michael has undertaken 7 sell-out UK tours, and many open air concerts including appearances at Hyde Park, the Liverpool Summer Pops, Hampton Court, and at the Chelmsford Spectacular. Other special appearances include singing at the European Youth Olympics, the 1999 Rugby World Cup Opening Ceremony, and performing for H.M. The Queen at The Royal Variety Show and the VE Day 50th Anniversary Concert at Hyde Park.

His other notable achievements include hosting two seasons of his popular television series "Michael Ball" on Carlton TV which attracted international acclaimed performers including Cher, Gloria Estefan, Monsterrat Caballe, The Bee Gees, Take That, Robert Palmer, Harry Connick Jr., Shirley Bassey, and James Brown. In 1995, Michael made his film debut starring in Tony Palmer's film England, My England playing Henry Purcell.

In 1999, Michael's video Live at The Royal Albert Hall entered the UK video charts at #1 and reached Platinum status just weeks after its release. The video was recently screened on PBS and Michael travelled to the US and underwent a promotional tour of five states. Once again, he embraced the US audiences with his incredible voice and unique stage and studio presence. In March 2001, Michael was able to fulfil a long-held career dream when he performed in a sell-out concert at the Lyric Theatre in Sydney, Australia. This was his first performance for the Australian audience and their welcome was one of the best he has ever experienced and has hopefully paved the way for a full concert tour.

In spite of his busy schedule, Michael has found time to record a charity single The Rose for the charity ROC (Research into Ovarian Cancer). As a founding member, he continues to be heavily involved in their work with sell-out fund raising concerts. September will see Michael's returning to his musical theatre roots when he makes his highly anticipated Donmar Warehouse debut in the West End. A new CD, Centre Stage, is due for release in the autumn by which time he will have completed a select tour of one off summer concerts throughout the UK.


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