Hollywood’s Luke Perry (of Beverly Hills 90210 fame) and Alyson Hannigan (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, American Pie) were on hand today to launch the upcoming stage premiere of When Harry Met Sally, in which both will make their West End debuts when it opens at the Theatre Royal Haymarket on 20 February 2004 (previews from 10 February).

At a busy press conference held this morning at the theatre, the two actors, who started rehearsals on Monday, expressed their excitement about the production, based on the 1989 romantic film comedy starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. Perry said When Harry Met Sally was one of his favourite movies. “I love the story … I love the things it says about men and women and about relationships.”

As for that famous scene in a New York deli (“I’ll have what she’s having…”), the recently wed Hannigan, who has not been on stage since high school, said she’d been practicing her fake orgasms “all the time … in delis”. When asked if she had any reservations about following Meg Ryan’s famous rendition, she added: “I haven’t really thought about it. Meg Ryan is a very different person from what I am. I imagine our orgasms would be slightly different.”

Though neither had spoken to Crystal or Ryan about the stage adaptation, they had conferred informally with the film’s director Rob Reiner. Playwright Marcy Kahan has adapted the original Nora Ephron screenplay. The stage production is directed by Loveday Ingram (My One and Only, The Blue Room, Bedroom Farce and designed by Ultz, with music by British jazz musicians Jamie and Ben Cullum. It’s produced by James Tod.

In When Harry Met Sally, the one-time college classmates of the title move to New York and, over many years, hate each other, become friends and, against their own better judgments, eventually fall in love.

- by Terri Paddock