While we’re just about getting into the swing of 2019 over here (and desperately clinging on to those tricky New Year’s Resolutions), for plenty of members of the West End community, massive change is afoot. Because not only are there new shows galore on the way, but there’re new casts, too – including new faces in some very familiar roles.
Of course, cast changes are always a time of mixed emotions. But while we’re bidding a fond farewell and celebrating the achievements of some true stars of the stage this month, we also can’t wait to see some newcomers hit the spotlight, ready to bring a whole new interpretation of the show to the theatrical table.
So to celebrate the opportunity (read: excuse) to revisit these stunning shows, here are just a handful of the recent cast handovers – some from last month, and some still to come…
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
Blue blazer and tie. Big red lips. A galaxy of stars above his head. You’ll have seen him plastered all over posters since the hit musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie first arrived in the West End. But the Olivier Award-nominated John McCrea is soon to graduate from the role of schoolboy sensation Jamie New, playing his final performance in the part on 26 January.
But surging into the Apollo Theatre to assume the titular role is another superstar: Beautiful People and Bad Education actor Layton Williams, who takes over from 28 January. It’s not Williams’ first time at the heart of an acclaimed show: he was previously a child star of Billy Elliot The Musical, and later enjoyed appearances in the UK tours of Rent and Hairspray. He’s got the charm and style guaranteed to get everybody talking about… well…
Rapping her way through the teacher’s rulebook over the past few months, RuPaul’s Drag Race star Michelle Visage will play her final performance as Miss Hedge on 26 January. But fear not, there’ll be no less glamour on display – EastEnders’ Shane Richie will be picking up his dress and heels to take on the part of Hugo (alias: the mystical Loco Chanelle) from 29 January. We. Can’t. Wait.
The Comedy About A Bank Robbery
There’s a whole new motley crew attempting to crack the Minneapolis City Bank right now. Seeking out a potential fortune in the shape of a priceless gem are Julia Frith and Liam Jeavons, who both stole in from The Comedy About A Bank Robbery‘s UK tour last month. They’re taking on chaotic caper couple Caprice Freeboys and Mitch Ruscitti until 15 January, when Emily Stott and Gareth Tempest take over Caprice and Mitch respectively.
Also new to the crew last month were Jack Whittle (as sidekick Sam Monaghan) and Jean-Luke Worrell (eternal intern Warren Slax). It remains to be seen whether or not they’ll be any more lucky than the last batch of wannabe diamond-hunters but, remembering how the last lot got in The Comedy About A Bank Robbery, our jewellery’s on “not.”
“What’s your name, man?” Jamael Westman, of course. The West End’s original Alexander Hamilton, for whom it was one of his first roles since graduating from drama school, is playing a second year in the part made famous by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
But there were a whole roster of changes to the Hamilton cast for its second chapter at the Victoria Palace Theatre, which began on 3 December 2018. Original cast member Sifiso Mazibuko took up the part of arch nemesis Aaron Burr as Olivier Award-winner Giles Terera departed, while Jon Robyns also took over from the Olivier-winning Michael Jibson role as King George.
The Hamilton company also welcomed in Allyson Ava-Brown as Angelica Schuyler, Dom Hartley-Harris as George Washington, while original cast member Courtney-Mae Briggs switched roles to play Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds.
Suffice to say, this new company are not throwing away their shot.
The Phantom Of The Opera
When we mentioned that plenty of new faces are on display in the West End right now, we probably should’ve clarified that in one particular case, it’s half a face. The Olivier Award winner David Thaxton assumed the role of masked man The Phantom Of The Opera on 10 December 2018 to cover Tim Howar until May.
Thaxton’s no stranger to the West End stage, however, having played parts including Javert and Enjolras in Les Misérables, as well as Pilate in Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre’s Jesus Christ Superstar. A seasoned and celebrated performer, Thaxton’s sure to get us all singing once again with him to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s world-famous musical.
Six The Musical
But they’ll have some new support in the form of Vicki Manser (alternate Anne Boleyn/Anne of Cleves) and Courtney Stapleton (alternate Catherine of Aragon/Catherine Parr) – just in case anybody’s called away on some royal engagement or something.