An all-new hip-hop version of Rodgers and Hart's 1938 musical comedy The Boys from Syracuse will mark the official end of the UK's year-long Richard Rodgers centenary celebrations next month. Da Boyz - adapted by DJ Excalibah, Dirty Diggers' MC Skolla and Ultz, and featuring numerous British urban music stars - will run from 24 April to 31 May 2003 at London's Theatre Royal Stratford East.

According to show promoters, the production marks the first time in musical theatre history that the rights have been gained to update a musical still held in copyright. The idea for reinventing Da Boyz through urban music follows contemporary musicmakers Jay-Z and Bustah Rhymes sampling songs from Annie and Oliver!, respectively.

In this case, the entire musical The Boys from Syracuse - which is based on Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors about two sets of separated twins and no end of mistaken identities in ancient Greece - has been reworked. Though Rodgers and Hart's classic numbers such as "Sing for Your Supper" and "Falling in Love with Love" will still be recognisable to fans of the original, the music for Da Boyz is placed firmly in east London 2003, through hip-hop, R&B, bashment and garage remixes.

Directed by Ultz and with music mixed on stage by DJ Excalibah, Da Boyz will be performed by a 30-strong cast of up-and-coming rappers and street dancers, many making their theatrical debuts. They'll be assisted by urban music stars like Kyza, Kat and Mystro with others including Rodney P, Ricochet Klashnekoff and Demolition Man due to make special guest appearances.

American composer Richard Rodgers (28 June 1902 - 30 December 1979) had a career that spanned six decades (See News, 17 Jun 2002). He is best remembered for his huge 1940s and 1950s hits with Oscar Hammerstein, not least Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I and The Sound of Music. But many of his earlier collaborations with lyricist Lorenz Hart have also become musical classics. These include A Connecticut Yankee, Babes in Arms, and On Your Toes - which is revived this August at London's Royal Festival Hall, starring former Royal Ballet and AMP dancer Adam Cooper, following its acclaimed run last year at the Leicester Haymarket (See News, 20 Feb 2003) - as well as Da Boyz.

Coincidentally, Da Boyz will not be the only musical version of The Comedy of Errors, nor even the only hip-hop musical one. The off-Broadway hit The Bomb-Itty of Errors is also billed as a hip-hop version of the Shakespeare classic and features an on-stage DJ, though it owes little to Richard Rodgers (See News, 20 Dec 2002). Following its success at last year's Edinburgh Fringe, the New York production transfers to the West End's New Ambassadors Theatre where it also starts performances on 24 April, ahead of a press night on 7 May 2003.

- by Terri Paddock