Amongst the major shows opening in London this week are:

OPENING TONIGHT, Monday 16 May 2005 (previews from 10 May), the Tony Award-winning Broadway 1999 production of Death of a Salesman is recreated at the West End’s Lyric Theatre (See News, 24 Jan 2005). The 1949 play by Arthur Miller, who passed away in February at the age of 89 (See News, 11 Feb 2005), is now considered a seminal work of American theatre.

It tells the story of Willy Loman, the small-time travelling salesman of the title who harbours a blind belief in the American Dream and tries to graft his failed ambitions and values onto his unwilling sons. Brian Dennehy reprises his role as Willy in Robert Falls’ production, which was originally expected in the West End five years ago (See News, 7 Sep 1999). In the Anglo-American cast, Dennehy is joined by Olivier Award winner Clare Higgins, Douglas Henshall and Mark Bazeley, playing his wife and sons, with Howard Witt reprising his Broadway role as Charley. The production is currently booking until 6 August 2005.

OPENING TUESDAY, 17 May 2005 (previews from 12 May), Roland Schimmelpfennig’s The Woman Before receives its UK premiere at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs (See News, 23 Mar 2005). The play revolves around Frank, who doesn’t recognise the woman at the door, though she tells his wife they’re lovers. She’s come to remind him of a promise made 20 years before. The cast features stars Helen Baxendale (After Miss Julie, TV’s Friends, Cold Feet), Nigel Lindsay (The Pillowman at NT) and Saskia Reeves (TV’s Island at War, Waking the Dead). The play, translated by David Tushingham and directed by Richard Wilson, continues until 18 June 2005.

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OPENING WEDNESDAY, 18 May 2005 (previews from 13 May), at east London’s Hackney Empire is Patti Boulaye's Sun Dance (See News, 26 Jan 2005). Boulaye’s new musical creation charts a journey deep into the spirit of African women and culture, through music, song and dance. Directed by Dougie Squires and featuring 36 dancers, singers and musicians, it runs for six weeks until 25 June 2005.

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ALSO ON WEDNESDAY (previews from 7 May), The Tempest launches this summer’s “Season of the World and Underworld” at Shakespeare’s Globe. Mark Rylance stars as Prospero in what will be his tenth and final season as artistic director of the theatre (See News, 10 Nov 2004). In this new production, all the characters will be played by just three actors - Edward Hogg and Alex Hassall in addition to Rylance. They’ll be supported by three dancers and six musicians. The Tempest is directed by Tim Carroll and continues in repertory at the open air venue until 2 October 2005.

OPENING THURSDAY, 19 May 2005 (previews from 9 May), Improbable Theatre team up with the National to premiere the stage adaptation of the 1973 cult horror film Theatre of Blood in the NT Lyttelton (See News, 10 Jan 2005). Jim Broadbent stars as Edward Lionheart, a disgruntled Shakespearean thesp who returns from the grave to take murderously poetic revenge on the sniping drama critics he believes robbed him of his rightful acting prize. The cast also features Rachael Stirling (in the part played by her mother Diana Rigg on screen) and Bette Bourne. The piece is adapted and directed by Improbable’s Lee Simpson and Phelim McDermott (two-thirds of the team behind Shockheaded Peter). It continues in rep and is booking until 27 August 2005.

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OPENING FRIDAY, 20 May 2005 (previews from 18 May), Lin Coghlan’s Kingfisher Blue receives its world premiere at west London’s Bush Theatre (See News, 3 Mar 2005). Ally and Elvis are cleaning out a dead man’s flat, Cooper has plans for a karaoke bar and Denny is up to his neck in toilets. As they try to eke out a living, all four men are drawn into a downward spiral – and then something huge happens. Kingfisher Blue, directed by Paul Miller (Sing Yer Heart Out for the Lads), has a limited season to 18 June 2005.

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OPENING SUNDAY, 22 May 2005, as part of director Ian Marshall Fisher’s Lost Musicals season of semi-staged productions of rarely performed work, Cole Porter’s Silk Stockings will be produced for the first time ever in England (See News, 17 Feb 2005). Porter’s last show, based on the film Ninotchka, has a book by George S Kaufman, Leueen MacGrath and Abe Burrows. Although the satire on Hollywood and Communism was a hit on Broadway in 1957 and later became a dance musical and film, it never made it to this country. Musical numbers include “All of You”, “Paris Loves Lovers” and “Silk and Satin”. It plays for three more Sundays, 29 May, 5 and 12 June 2005.

- by Hannah Kennedy