The national search for members of the public to star in the upcoming West End musical 125th Street launches on Monday, 20 May 2002, in Glasgow. Open auditions will also be held in Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Cardiff, followed by finals in London on 17 and 18 June in advance of the show's opening at the Shaftesbury Theatre on 17 September (previews from 30 August).

The brainchild of Buddy creators Rob Bettinson and Alan Janes, 125th Street - billed as a "tale of on and off-stage double dealing, green room lust, rising stars, collapsing egos and changing times" - is set on a hot summer's night in 1969 at the Apollo Theatre on 125th Street in Harlem, New York City. In the 1950s and 60s, the Apollo was a magnet for some of the biggest names in music as well as scores of eager young hopefuls.

At the Apollo's weekly amateur nights, anyone with the nerve and verve to stand up and sing got their three minutes in the spotlight. If they survived and impressed the audience, they'd go forward to the Saturday night show where they'd perform alongside the professionals. Amongst those who launched their careers in this way were James Brown, Wilson Pickett and Gladys Knight.

That Harlem tradition is now being recreated in 125th Street. Every week a different member of the public will be featured in the West End production as an Apollo amateur act trying their luck in "America's search for a star". Auditions are open to anyone over 16 years of age. Performers must prepare their favourite 1960s song and bring backing track or accompanying sheet music.

Producers are emphatic that, aside from sharing a search for talent, the West End musical is very different from TV's Pop Idol. "Looks, height, weight, race and sex are totally irrelevant," the show's promotional material assures. "125th Street is about raw, hot, dynamic, energetic talent - young, old, who cares - so long as entrants can sing 60s and perform to the hilt, the chance is there."

For information on how to audition, call the show hotline on 0906 3660 499.

- by Terri Paddock