Neil Simon's seminal comedy, The Odd Couple, returns to the West End tonight - with a twist. In this recast version, Oscar and Felix, roles made famous by Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon in the 1968 film version, become Olive and Florence, played by Jenny Seagrove and Paula Wilcox. The female version of The Odd Couple begins previews tonight, 17 April 2001, at the Apollo Theatre before opening next Monday, 23 April.

Simon had one of his early Broadway hits with The Odd Couple in 1965. After the success of the film, The Odd Couple also became a long-running 1970s television series, starring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. In the 1980s, Simon rewrote the comedy himself for a fresh Broadway outing, this time with two female leads.

Instead of men playing poker, the revised version features women playing Trivial Pursuit. Fearing that Florence (Wilcox) may be suicidal after her recent break-up with her husband, the girls interrupt their game to make Olive's apartment safe for her. As the chronically untidy Olive (Seagrove) and the pathologically neat Florence decide to share living quarters and look for romance, the patterns of their disastrous marriages re-appear. Throw in the young Spanish studs from upstairs and life gets very interesting for the two mismatched flatmates.

Seagrove’s previous stage credits include Noel Coward's Present Laughter with Tom Conti, and, most recently, Brief Encounter at the Lyric Theatre. Her extensive film and TV credits include A Woman of Substance, Don't Go Breaking My Heart and Local Hero. Wilcox is well-known for television roles in The Lovers and Man about the House, while on stage, she has appeared in Shirley Valentine and Same Time Another Year.

The Odd Couple is directed by Elijah Moshinsky, whose West End hits include Cyrano de Bergerac with Robert Lindsay and Shadowlands with Nigel Hawthorne (also on Broadway). The cast for The Odd Couple also includes Tracey Childs, Hilary Crane, Sue Holderness and Lavinia Bertram.

Neil Simon’s numerous stage and film comedies include Barefoot in the Park, The Prisoner of Second Avenue, The Sunshine Boys, Chapter Two, Brighton Beach Memoirs and Biloxi Blues. He is currently enjoying yet more success on Broadway with his new play, The Dinner Party with John Ritter, star of the American television series Three's Company, coincidentally the US version of the British serial, Man About The House.

- by Terri Paddock