Amongst the major shows opening in London this week are:

OPENING TONIGHT, Monday 2 May 2005, Anthony Andrews takes over as Count Fosco in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Woman in White at the West End’s Palace Theatre (See News, 11 Apr 2005). Michael Ball, who was previously in the role, finished at the end of his contract on 30 April 2005 (See News, 1 Mar 2005). Role creator Michael Crawford, who had been off with a long-term illness, will not return to the role (See The Goss, 20 Apr 2005). Meanwhile, leading lady Friedman has extended her run until 9 July 2005, with Ruthie Henshall due to begin on 11 July.

Andrews achieved international fame for his award-winning performance as Sebastian Flyte in the 1981 television adaptation of Brideshead Revisited. His other screen credits include Under the Volcano, Love in a Cold Climate, The Duchess of Duke Street and Upstairs, Downstairs, while his stage credits include Forty Years On, Ghosts, Vertigo and One of Us. He was recently seen in the West End as Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady.

OPENING TUESDAY, 3 May 2005 (previews from 20 April), Immodesty Blaize and Walter's Burlesque! storms into the West End’s Arts Theatre (See News, 23 Feb 2005). Promising to “rip up the Rule Book” in a “quest for domination and gratification at its raunchiest best” and deliver “the high-octane thrill of great, sexy, satirical, oh-so-Cabaret, full-on burlesque”, the show stars self-styled Immodesty Blaize with co-star Walter, a male star in what’s traditionally a female world. Previously staged at Wilton’s Music Hall, it also features five showgirls, pianist Rod Melvin, clown Mr Spike Loons and a giant rocking horse. Its limited 12-week season continues until 16 July 2005.

OPENING WEDNESDAY, 4 May 2005 (previews from 16 April), National Theatre artistic director Nicholas Hytner’s staging of Shakespeare’s Henry IV Parts I and II launches this year’s Travelex £10 Season. In a casting coup, Hytner has persuaded Michael Gambon to play Falstaff (a task Richard Eyre tried and failed to do during his time as artistic director at the NT). Gambon will be joined by David Bradley, David Harewood, Matthew Macfadyen and John Wood (See News, 17 Aug 2004). The two plays continue in rep in the NT Olivier until the 31 August, with the new booking period for later dates opening on 11 May (See News, 20 Apr 2005).

OPENING THURSDAY, 5 May 2005 (preview 4 May), National Alien Office receives its British premiere at west London’s Riverside Studios. The play by Belgium Stanislas Cotton is set in an immigration office and details the life of an officer up to the present shocking moment. It continues until 22 May 2005.

OPENING FRIDAY, 6 May 2005 (preview 5 May), Alan Ayckbourn’s 67th play Private Fears in Public Places receives its London premiere at Richmond’s Orange Tree Theatre. Directed by Ayckbourn, this “tale of the misheard, the unspoken and the sadly misunderstood” transfers from Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre where it was first presented in 2004. It continues until 4 June 2005.

ALSO ON FRIDAY, 6 May 2005 (previews from 3 May), Marilyn: Case #81128 opens at the Jermyn Street Theatre. Written by actor-turned-playwright Brian Stewart (best known under his acting name, Ben Bradshaw, from TV’s The Office), the play examines the strange events surrounding the untimely death of one of the greatest-ever screen icons. Its limited season continues until 28 May 2005.

** DON’T MISS the chance to catch Marilyn: Case #81128 & get half-price tickets for as little as £8.00! – offer ends 10 May 2005 - click here for details! **

- by Hannah Kennedy