Antony Sher (pictured) will return to the West End this autumn to play one of the world's greatest composers and conductors, Gustav Mahler, in a new drama by Ronald Harwood. Mahler's Conversion opens at the Aldwych Theatre on 2 October 2001, following previews from 19 September.

Mahler's Conversion deals with a professional and moral dilemma of anti-semitism. Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) desperately wants to secure the top job in the musical world of Vienna, conductor of the Court Opera. But Mahler is a Jew, and to achieve his ambition, he must convert to Catholicism. He may be willing, but there's a bigger price to pay.

Sher's last appearance on the London stage was in the RSC's 1999/2000 production of The Winter's Tale, for which he was nominated for a Best Actor Olivier. An associate actor with the RSC, Sher is well known for his classical turns. His other stage credits include Cyrano de Bergerac, Richard III and King Lear. Also an artist and novelist, the South African-born Sher, now 50, published his autobiography in May 2001. "Beside Myself" details, amongst other things, his past struggles with his Jewishness, homosexuality and cocaine addiction.

Ronald Harwood's stage plays include The Dresser, J J Farr, Reflected Glory, Taking Sides and Equally Divided. His last play in the West End was Quartet in 1999.

RSC associate director Gregory Doran, who also directed Sher in Macbeth, directs Mahler's Conversion, which is designed by Stephen Brimson-Lewis. The production is presented by David Aukin for ACT Productions. Further cast details have not yet been confirmed.

The last production at the Aldwych, the RSC musical, The Secret Garden, closed prematurely on 2 June. No interim productions have been announced.

- by Terri Paddock