The Bridewell Theatre - London's much-loved "musical laboratory", which is currently facing an uncertain future - is nonetheless forging ahead with a summer schedule that includes two premiere productions of new American musicals, A...My Name Is Alice and The Ballad of Little Jo.

A...My Name Is Alice is a musical revue celebrating all aspects of womanhood. Written by a collective of 24 writers and composers - including David Crane and Marta Kauffman, who went on to create the hit US television comedy Friends, and Michael John LaChiusa, writer of Hello Again - it was an award-winning Off-Broadway hit in 1984.

The show received its UK premiere in a workshop production at the Bridewell in December 2000 and now receives its first full staging in this country with a five-strong cast comprising Tracie Bennett (TV's Coronation Street, stage Honk! and, later this summer, High Society at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre), Golda Rosheuvel (Songs for a New World at the Bridewell, We Will Rock You), Lisa Baird (Ruthless), Nicole Blackman (The Lion King) and Suzie Pattinson (Seven Year Itch).

Directed by Omar F Okai and produced by Simon James Collier, A...My Name Is Alice runs from 22 May to 14 June 2003 (previews 20 May). It's followed in the season by the Bridewell's own production of The Ballad of Little Jo, receiving its UK and European premiere.

Based on the film of the same name, it tells the story of Jo Monaghan, a young woman who lived as a man in the silver mines of Idaho in the 1890s. The new musical had its American premiere at Chicago's renowned Steppenwoolf Theatre was nominated for eight Jefferson awards, including Best New Work and Best Musical Production. Music is by Grammy winner Mike Reid - who's written 21 No. 1 songs, including Bonnie Rait's 'I Can't Make You Love Me' - with lyrics by Sarah Schlesinger.

The new London production will star Anna Francolini (Merrily We Roll Along, Mahler's Conversion, Daisy Pulls It Off) and will be directed by Bridewell artistic director Carol Metcalf with musical direction by Mike England. The Ballad of Little Jo runs from 29 June to 26 July 2003 (previews 26 June).

Founded in 1994 on the premises of a Victorian indoor swimming pool, the Bridewell has established itself as the capital's most important space for the development of new musicals, with a particular emphasis on premiering shows of up-and-coming American writers and composers such as Jason Robert Brown, Adam Guettel and Michael John LaChiusa as well as rediscovering the work of Stephen Sondheim and others (See Features, 23 Jul 2001).

The Bridewell is currently facing a financial shortfall of £100,000 per annum, which could jeopardise its future. Up till now, it has existed rent-free in its space, based in the St Bride Institute off Fleet Street in London. But the institution may soon by losing part of its lease, which would leave the Bridewell responsible for rent bills of more than £70,000 a year, in addition to losing around £40,000 in annual subsidy provided by St Bride's. For further information, contact the Bridewell on 020 7353 0259 or visit the theatre website.

- by Terri Paddock