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Monday, 13 December, 1999, 17:19 GMT
Casper's stage debut

Casper The Musical will run for a limited period in London's West End

A stage musical based on the hit children's cartoon character Casper: The Friendly Ghost opens in London's West End this week.

Already the subject of a popular animated TV series, comic books and a several films, the story of the friendly ghost and his uncles - Stinkie, Stretch and Fatso - has reached the theatre via an unlikely route.

Earlier this year Casper: The Musical was touring three of Butlins' biggest holiday resorts at Minehead, Bognor Regis and Skegness.

The musical was specially written for Butlins, while the majority of the cast are former Redcoats - graduates of Butlins' new "showbiz universities".

The young Christina Ricci featured in the big screen version of Casper
Casper is the brainchild of Patrick Nally, who joined forces with Butlins to develop the show.

Olivier-nominated American David H Bell directed the muscial and the show-stopping songs are co-written by Ivor Novello award-winning Karma Chameleon composer Phil Pickett and Henry Marsh - co-founder of the 1970s pop group Sailor.

Billed as a "hi-tech, fast-moving, funny, family musical' the story is set in a haunted Fifth Avenue mansion, occupied by Casper and his three not-so-friendly uncles.

The owner calls the "Spookinators" when he experiences various equipment breakdowns during attempts to refurbish the house.

Stinkie, Stretch and Fatso let out the "undead" from the basement and it's then a race against time to save the mansion, themselves and the world.

Children's favourite

Casper was originally dreamed up in the 1940s by American Joseph Oriolo, who also produced many of the Felix the Cat cartoons.

Oriolo co-wrote a childen's book with Sy Reit about the friendly ghost and in 1945 Paramount released the first Casper cartoon, The Friendly Ghost.

More movie shorts and comic books followed, but Casper became a superstar in 1985 when Steven Spielberg executive produced a big budget version of Casper starring Bill Pullman, former Monty Python performer Eric Idle and the young Christina Ricci.

A video sequel, Casper: A Spirited Beginning followed two years later and a third film was announced in 1998.

The limited West End run of Casper: The Musical is being staged at the Shaftesbury Theatre.
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13 Dec 99 |  Entertainment
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19 May 99 |  UK
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