Amongst the major openings in London this week are:

OPENING TONIGHT< Monday 18 June 2007 (previews from 14 June), the Royal Opera House crosses over into mainstream musical theatre with its revival of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s 1989 alternative fairy tale Into the Woods (See News, 15 Mar 2007). The production runs for 18 performances only in the ROH’s 400-seat Linbury Studio Theatre before visiting The Lowry in Manchester from 4 to 7 July. The cast includes Clive Rowe, Anna Francolini, Beverley Klein and Anne Reid

OPENING TUESDAY, 19 June 2007 (previews from 9 May), West End meets Middle Earth in the stage adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s trilogy The Lord of the Rings, which receives its European premiere – following try-outs last spring in Toronto - at the West End’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane (See News, 15 Jan 2007). At an estimated cost of £12.5 million, the musical spectacle, described as “Shakespeare meets Cirque du Soleil”, is the most expensive production in West End history.

The Lord of the Rings has a book and lyrics by Shaun McKenna and Matthew Warchus, and music by Bombay Dreams’ AR Rahman and Finnish folk group Värttinä with Christopher Nightingale (See News, 21 Oct 2003). The 50-strong company features James Loye (as Hobbit her Frodo), Peter Howe (Sam), Malcolm Storry (Gandalf) and Laura Michelle Kelly (Galadriel). The creative team – led by director Matthew Warchus, designer Rob Howell and choreographer Peter Darling – have modified elements of the high-tech production following an accident last month in which an actor was injured and three previews cancelled (See News, 31 May 2007).

ALSO ON TUESDAY, actor-turned-playwright Neil D’Souza’s debut play Small Miracle transfers to north London’s Tricycle Theatre for a run to 7 July 2007, following its world premiere last month at Colchester’s Mercury Theatre. On this inter-generational road trip, Sadie, her mother, Hindu step-father and grandmother arrive at the caravan park of a religious shrine in rural Ireland. The cast includes Kulvinder Ghir and Ella Vale.

OPENING WEDNESDAY, 20 June 2007 (previews from 13 June), at the National Theatre Matt Charman’s new play taking a provocative look at married life and its alternatives, The Five Wives of Maurice Pinder, receives its world premiere in the NT Cottesloe. Sarah Frankcom directs a cast including Sorcha Cusack, Clare Holman, Larry Lamb and Steve John Shepherd.

OPENING THURSDAY, 21 June 2007 (previews from 14 June), American Bruce Norris’ The Pain and the Itch gets its UK premiere at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Downstairs, where it runs until 21 July 2007. Billed as “a withering look at phoney liberal values”, the satirical comedy opens with a cosy family Thanksgiving dinner for six. Someone - or something - is leaving bite marks in the avocados. Clay and Kelly's daughter Kayla has an itch and Carol can't remember who played Gandhi.

The cast includes Spooks star Matthew Macfadyen, Ian Charleson Award winner Andrea Riseborough and Sara Stewart. The production is directed by Dominic Cooke in his first production since taking over as artistic director of the Royal Court earlier this year and since winning this year’s Best Director Olivier for his RSC revival of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible (See News, 6 Feb 2007).

** Our Outing to THE PAIN & THE ITCH - including a FREE drink & access to our EXCLUSIVE post-show Q&A with the director & cast – is now SOLD OUT! - click here to join the waiting list! **

ALSO ON THURSDAY, four of the world’s leading contemporary circus companies feature in Circus Front, a season of events running at north London’s Roundhouse until 5 August 2007.

ALSO ON THURSDAY, the Greenwich + Docklands International Festival opens, bringing four days of street theatre to spaces in the East End.

ALSO ON THURSDAY (previews from 12 June), The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) returns to the West End for a limited season until 23 September at the Arts Theatre (See News, 20 Apr 2007). The Reduced Shakespeare Company hit ran for nearly a decade from March 1996 at Piccadilly Circus’ Criterion Theatre. This is a new staging of the same show in which a trio of comic actors race irreverently through all of the Bard's 37 plays in just 97 minutes.

ALSO ON THURSDAY (previews from 18 June), Guy Retallack directs Future Me, a new play about paedophilia by Filter Theatre’s Stephen Brown (Faster), which has a limited run at Battersea’s Theatre until 7 July. An “epic story of ordinary monsters”, the play centres on Peter, a promising young barrister, whose life is ruined when his PC sends out a compromising email. The cast includes David Sturzaker (Journey’s End).

ON SATURDAY & SUNDAY, West End Live, London’s biggest free theatre festival, takes over Leicester Square, featuring free open-air performances from cast of some of the West End’s biggest shows.

- by Terri Paddock