West End and television actor Nigel Planer and Emmerdale actress Verity Rushworth are to join the cast of hit musical Hairspray on 2 February, as current stars Michael Ball, Leanne Jones and Ben James-Ellis extend their contracts.
Planer will replace Ian Talbot in the role of Wilbur Turnblad, husband of Michael Ball’s Edna and father of big-haired teenager Tracy. The actor is probably best known for his television work, finding fame as Neil in comedy series The Young Ones in the 1980s. He went on to appear in The Comic Strip Presents…, Shine On, Harvey Moon, The Grimleys, Blackeyes and numerous other television dramas. However, Planer has also carved out a career in musicals, with credits including the original London casts of Chicago and We Will Rock You, The Rocky Horror Show and, most recently, Wicked at the Apollo Victoria.
Rushworth is a long-term member of the cast of ITV’s Emmerdale, joining the rural soap when she was 12 years old to play Donna. She leaves the programme at the end of January to join Hairspray in the role of Penny Pingleton, Tracy’s best friend. She replaces original cast member Elinor Collett, who was Laurence Olivier Award-nominated for her performance in the show.
Hairspray opened at the Shaftesbury theatre in October 2007, receiving both critical and popular acclaim and scooping four Laurence Olivier Awards including Best New Musical and Best Actress and Actor in a Musical for Jones and Ball.
Based on the John Waters film, Hairspray is set in 1960s Baltimore and tells the story of big-haired, dance-crazy teen Tracy, who yearns for a spot on the local television dance show, only to be scorned by the show’s prejudiced station manager and her daughter. Much to their dismay, Tracy’s dance moves make her an overnight sensation and the irrepressible teen sets out to win the annual Miss Hairspray competition and bring integration to Baltimore in the process.
Hairspray is now booking until October 2009, with Ball, Jones and James-Ellis (Link Larkin) confirmed in their roles until 25 July.