Pop star Will Young (pictured) will make his professional stage acting debut in the new year in a revival of Noel Coward’s 1924 play The Vortex. The new production runs from 17 January to 10 March 2007 at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre as part of the theatre’s 30th anniversary season.

In Coward’s savage portrayal of 1920s cocktail society, Young will play musician Nicky Lancaster, who loses his new girlfriend to his sophisticated mother Florence’s toyboy lover. The Vortex (the title refers to the "youth vortex of beastliness") launched the then 25-year-old Coward’s career as a playwright and leading man.

In Michael Grandage’s acclaimed colour-blind production at London’s Donmar Warehouse in 2002, Chiwetel Ejiofor played Nicky to Francesca Annis’ Florence. No further casting has yet been announced for the new staging, which will be directed by Royal Exchange associated director Jo Combes and designed by Lez Brotherston with sound by Gerry Marsden.

Since winning the first series of ITV’s reality television competition Pop Idol, the 27-year-old Young has received two Brit Awards and released three albums. His chart-topping singles include “Leave Right Now”, “Friday’s Child”, “Light My Fire” and “Evergreen”. He made his professional acting debut on screen - alongside Dame Judi Dench, Bob Hoskins and Kelly Reilly - in Stephen Frears’ 2005 film Mrs Henderson Presents. Though he’s never appeared on stage before, Young attended a postgraduate course at Arts Educational, which he left early to pursue his singing career. Ahead of his Royal Exchange dates, Young will appear on the concert circuit with his “Keep on Live” tour, which kicks off in Cardiff on 12 September 2006.

Commenting on his casting in The Vortex, Young said: 'I'm really excited to be involved in this project. I'm sure it will be a fairly daunting experience initially, but I want to be able to grow and learn more in this field so I'll continue to enjoy what I do and also offer something new to my fans.'

Director Jo Combes added: "Will did a stunning audition, and I am really excited about what he will bring to the character and the production. We are delighted that he has chosen to make his stage debut in the Royal Exchange's 30th anniversary season."

Ahead of Will Young, this summer’s star turn at the Royal Exchange is Stars in Their Eyes presenter turned Olivier Award winner Matthew Kelly, who ends this year’s season in Ranjit Bolt’s new translation of Carlo Goldoni’s 18th-century Italian comedy Mirandolina, directed by Jonathan Munby and running from 5 July to 5 August 2006.

Beautiful and feisty Mirandolina inherits her father’s inn and is immediately surrounding by adoring men. Bored with the attention, she decides to show them who’s boss by convincing self-confessed misogynist Ripafratta to fall in love with her, using all the considerable skills at her disposal.

Kelly, who plays Ripafratta, won the 2004 Best Actor Olivier for his performance as gentle giant Lennie in the Birmingham Rep production of Jonathan Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men which transferred to the West End. His other stage credits include Twelfth Night, Season’s Greetings, The Taming of the Shrew, Kafka’s Dick, Blue Remembered Hills and Peter Pan.

In Mirandolina, Kelly is joined by Raquel Cassidy (Teachers, Festival on screen) in the title role as well as Gwendoline Christie, Nia Gwynne, Ian Bartholomew, Nicholas Boulton, Alan McMahon and Michael Condron. Set in 1920s Italy, the production is designed by Mike Britton, with lighting by Oliver Fenwick, sound by Steve Brown and music by Dominic Haslam.

- by Terri Paddock