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UK Roundup - Woman in White, Iron Mask, Santa, Edinburgh Fringe

It's all change at Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Woman in White, with all of the original principals leaving their roles on July 9th. From one Olivier Award winner to the next, Ruthie Henshall replaces Maria Friedman as Marian, as Friedman is off to Texas/>/> to star as Momma Rose in Sondheim's Gypsy, Australia/>n actor Damian Humbley replaces Martin Crewes as Walter Hartright, Alexandra Silber replaces Jill Paice as Laura Fairlie, ensemble member Elinor Collet replaces America/>n Angela Christian as Anne Catherick and Mich/>ael Cormick replaces Oliver Darley as Percival Glyde. The only principal staying on is the star name who's drawing in the punters - Anthony Andrews. It was recently announced that the Broadway production will no longer be playing out-of-town in Chicago/>/> but opening in November as originally planned at the Marquis Theatre.


A new musical based on the novel The Man in the Iron Mask is to open at the Duchess Theatre with actress Sheila Fergusson, last seen in the West End/> as Muzzy in Thoroughly Modern Millie. Behind the Iron Mask, set in 17th Century France/>, dramatises the mysterious story of a masked prisoner whose identity remained a secret whilst held in jail by Louis XIV of France/>/>. The prisoner will be played by Robert Fardell, a former Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, whilst Fergusson takes the role of a gypsy. With music and lyrics by John Robinson, the world premiere production will be directed by Tony Craven. It opens on August 2nd with previews from July 20th. Currently playing at the Duchess is Pinter's The Birthday Party with Henry Goodman and Eileen Atkins, which announced it will close early on June 25th.

A new Christmas musical called Santa Claus the Musical looks like it could be a promising addition to the annual Christmas show scene. Starring Gary/> Wilmot, Anita Dobson and Roy Barraclough, the musical opens in December at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton/>, and has the potential to be an excellent production. Directed by Gillian Gregory, who won a Tony Award in 1987 for her choreography on Mike Okrent's production of Me and My Girl, and produced by Mich/>/>ael Rose – the producer behind Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – the show promises 'lavish sets and costumes' and 'incredible special effects'. Music and lyrics are by Anthony England and the set is designed by Alan Miller Bunford, with costumes by Stephen Metcalf. Wilmot was last seen on stage in London/> as Caractacus Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and Dobson recently returned to the London/>/> stage for a few performances in The Vagina Monologues.

The 2005 Edinburgh/>/> Fringe Festival programme has been unveiled, and as ever there's an eclectic mix of comedy, theatre, dance, musicals and opera. The high-profile highlights include The Odd Couple (see below), Nichola McAulliffe and Timothy West in National Hero, comedian Jimmy Carr – who in the past year has seen his profile dramatically increase on television, The Riot Group's new offering Switch Triptych (which will play at the Soho Theatre, London in September) and a transfer of Joe Tantalo's off-off-Broadway production of A Clockwork Orange. A strong terrorism theme has emerged, especially at the multi-award winning Traverse Theatre, where three of its productions focus on the issue. At the Traverse – a sort of Royal Court Scottish equivalent – the highlights include Richard Wilson's production of East Coast Chicken Supper, Mark Ravenhill starring in his own play as well as adapting a Mexican one and a play about Pte Lyndie England/>, who emerged at the forefront of photo scandals in Iraq/>/>. Full searchable programme on

One of the highlights of the festival is certain to be Guy Masterson's production of The Odd Couple with top British comedians Ala/>/>n Davies and Bill Bailey – a couple of dates have already sold out. Like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest with Christian Slater, the plan was to take it into London/> after an Edinburg/>h/> run, however due to the Matthew Broderick/Nathan Lane production on Broadway, Masterson has been denied the rights to take this production to the West End/>. What does this achieve? Everyone realises these productions are two completely different revivals – different directors, designers, stars, etc. The only similarity is the script. Broderick and Lane wouldn't be half as successful in London/>/> as on Broadway (it too is likely to sell out long before opening) and likewise Bailey and Davie/>s would be a flop on Broadway – so who is it hurting to have simultaneous transatlantic productions? Answers on a postcard.. or to the usual email above!

In other news, John Mahoney – who played Marty Crane in Frasier – is to lead the cast of David Mamet's Romance in September at the Almeida Theatre and Brooke Shields has extended her run as Roxie by five weeks.


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From This Author Jake Brunger

Jake is currently studying at Bristol University and hopes to eventually pursue a career in the theatre industry as a writer/director. His favourite writers include (read more...)