Casting details have been announced for the musical stage adaptation of Dickens' Hard Times. The musical, by Christopher Tookey and Hugh Thomas, opens at the Haymarket Theatre on 6 June 2000 (previews from 1 June), following a four-week run at Windsor's Theatre.

Hard Times, based on the 1854 novel, tells the story of Mr Sleary's Travelling Circus and its impact on a small industrial town, played against the tyranny of local school owner and MP Thomas Gradgrind who callously uses his own children to secure his social standing.

Actor, writer and mountaineer Brian Blessed stars as Gradgrind with comedian Roy Hudd as Mr Sleary. They're joined by Patsy Rowlands, Susan Jane Tanner, Malcolm Rennie, Matt Rawle, Helen Anker, Alicia Davies and Peter Blake. Blessed's theatre credits include, for the RSC, Hamlet, Henry V and Richard III, and in the West End, Old Deuteronomy in Cats (New London Theatre), Incident at Vichy (Phoenix), The Exorcism (Comedy) and Metropolis (Piccadilly). Hudd, best known for his radio programme 'The News Huddlines', appeared most recently on stage as Pseudolus in last summer's production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Open Air).

Hard Times features original music and lyrics by Christopher Tookey, who also directs. It is co-produced by Tookey and Peter Penny in association with Bill Kenwright. A percentage of the show's gross income will be donated to the NSPCC.

Michael Boyd's production of Strindberg's Miss Julie, starring Christopher Eccleston, is currently playing at the Haymarket and continues until 27 May 2000.