After preview problems and a hostile critical reception, troubles seem to be continuing for Gone With the Wind this week. Leading lady Jill Paice (pictured) has been off since Tuesday’s star-studded premiere (See 1st Night Photos, 23 Apr 2008).

Yesterday, Paice missed both the matinee and evening performances at the West End’s New London theatre and she’ll be off again tonight (24 April). According to a statement from the box office, the actress has been “diagnosed with a severe throat infection and has been advised by her doctor to rest”.

A spokesperson told Whatsonstage.com: “We hope Jill will be well by tomorrow but can’t say for certain she’ll be back by the weekend.” In the meantime, the role of Scarlett O’Hara will continue to be played by Paice’s understudy Savannah Stevenson, who has apparently risen to the challenge. At last night’s performance, theatregoers were informed of the change and that, ahead of the opening, there had been little time for understudy rehearsal. Nevertheless, Stevenson performed off-book – though with limited costume changes - and received an enthusiastic ovation at the end.

The Trevor Nunn-directed production received a distinctly frosty reception from overnight critics yesterday (See Review Round-up, 23 Apr 2008), although both Paice (whose previous credits include The Woman in White in the West End and Curtains on Broadway) and former Pop Idol Darius Danesh, who co-stars as Rhett Butler, were largely praised for their performances.

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 1939 Oscar-winning film of the story starred Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable.

In development for more than three years, this new stage version of 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.

- by Theo Bosanquet & Terri Paddock