Joe McGann (pictured) will replace Stars in Their EyesMatthew Kelly playing gentle giant Lennie in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. The Birmingham Rep production, previously seen on tour and at the West End’s Savoy Theatre, transfers next month to the Old Vic, where it reopens on 3 February 2004, booking to 3 April (See News, 5 Jan 2003).

Joe McGann - one of the clan of acting brothers that also includes Paul, Mark and Stephen – is best known for his screen roles in the likes of The Upper Hand and Night and Day. McGann has previously played Lennie in Of Mice and Men at Nottingham Playhouse. His other stage credits include Live Bed Show, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Oliver!, Guys and Dolls, Blood Brother, One Fine Day and, most recently in 2003, The Water Babies (Chichester) and Take a Chance on Me (New End).

At the Old Vic, McGann will play opposite Andrew Schofield (Stags and Hens, Sweeney Todd, Blood Brothers), who replaces George Costigan as Lennie’s savvier sidekick George. Others new to the cast are Stephen Casey (Curley), Sandra Renton (Curley’s wife), Oscar James (Crooks) and Sean Baker (Candy). Julian Protheroe (Slim), Neil Phillips, Tom Silburn, Andy Chaplin, Andrew Earl and Jane Robinson remain from the original company.

Written in 1937, Steinbeck's classic novel, which he later adapted for the stage, is set in California during the Great Depression. It follows the displaced friends, Lennie and George, as they seek the ever-elusive American Dream.

Following its run at the Savoy, Of Mice and Men was nominated for two Theatregoers’ Choice Awards – Best Actor for Kelly and London Newcomer of the Year for Joanne Moseley. (Click here to vote!)

The production is directed by Birmingham artistic director Jonathan Church and designed by Simon Higlett, with lighting by Tim Mitchell and music by John Tams. It originally played to sell-out audiences at Birmingham in November 2001. The new production is produced by Jenny King and Matthew Gale in association with Bill Kenwright.

In other casting news, full details have been confirmed for the West End premiere of The Dice House, Paul Lucas’ black comedy inspired by Luke Rhinehart’s cult 1970s novel The Dice Man (See News, 23 Dec 2003). Neil Boorman, Jeremy Crutchley, Neal Foster, Jim Low, Benedict Martin, Matthew Noble and Lucy Scott will feature when the Birmingham Stage production, directed by Graeme Messer, opens at the Arts Theatre on 10 February (previews from 4 February).

- by Terri Paddock