Former reality TV star Darius Danesh (pictured) will play Rhett Butler, the role immortalised on screen by Clark Gable, in Trevor Nunn’s musical adaptation of Gone with the Wind. He will star opposite, as previously reported (See News, 21 Dec 2007), Jill Paice as Scarlett O’Hara in the musical, which receives its world premiere on 22 April 2008 (previews from 5 April) at the West End’s New London theatre, where it’s initially booking through to 27 September 2008.

After coming to public attention as a contestant on reality TV shows Pop Stars and Pop Idol, Glasgow-born Danesh made his West End debut in 2005 playing Billy Blynn in Chicago (See News, 19 Oct 2005). He went on to play Sky Masterson in Michael Grandage’s revival of Guys and Dolls on tour. His other stage credits include, as a child, The Trojans and Carmen. In the pop sphere, Danesh has had five UK top ten singles, including his self-penned “Colourblind”.

Set in Georgia in the 1860s, Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1936 novel follows Scarlett’s journey from a life of luxury on her father’s plantation through the Civil War and the hardships it heaps on her and her family to the rocky post-war peace, with her love for Ashley Wilkes and the renegade Rhett Butler adding fuel to the fire.

The cast also features Edward Baker-Duly as Ashley Wilkes and Madeleine Worrall as his wife Melanie (See News, 21 Dec 2007), as well as Broadway’s NaTasha Yvette Williams (Mammy) and Jina Burrows (Prissy). Others in the company include Emily Bryant, Gareth Chart, Laura Checkley, Julian Forsyth, Kirsty Hoiles, Chris Jarman, Tober Reilly, David Roberts, Tom Sellwood, Ray Shell, Savannah Stevenson, Gemma Sutton, Sue Jane Tanner, Susan Tracy and Alan Winner.

In development for more than three years, Gone with the Wind has music and lyrics by Margaret Martin. The premiere production is directed by Nunn and designed by John Napier, who worked with Nunn on blockbuster page-to-stage adaptations of Les Miserables and Cats, the latter finishing its 21-year run at the New London in May 2002. It’s produced by Aldo Scrofani and Colin Ingram.

One of the best-selling novels of the 20th century (the only book that's sold more, apparently is The Bible), Gone with the Wind was in 1939 made into one of Hollywood’s highest-grossing films, a winner of ten Oscars. Directed by Victor Fleming, it starred Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable, whose final line – “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” – has gone down in cinematic history. According to a list recently compiled by the British Film Institute (BFI), the film has been seen by more cinemagoers (35 million) than any other in UK movie history.

- by Terri Paddock