The Noël Coward centenary continues apace with two major regional productions opening this month and three more Coward transfers expected in the West End in the autumn, bringing the total there to a whopping five this year. The West End's Theatre Royal Drury Lane will also be the setting in October for a star-studded gala in honour of the playwright.

Nude with Violin, Coward's 1954 exposé of the modern art world, opens this week at Manchester's Royal Exchange. Set in the chic world of 1950s Paris, the action centres on the eccentric family and friends of famous painter Paul Sorodin who, in the wake of his death, gather in his Paris studio to divide up the estate. Starring comedy actor Derek Griffiths and Marcia Warren and directed by Marianne Elliott, Nude with Violin continues until 7 August 1999.

Later this month, Coward's 1925 comedy Easy Virtue opens at the Chichester Festival. Film star Greta Scacchi plays the divorcee with a past who marries the only son of a highly conservative upper middle-class family. Easy Virtue opens at the Chichester Festival Theatre on 27 July (previews from 23 July) and continues until 2 October. After its Chichester run, it is expected to transfer to the West End.

Also due soon in the West End are the 1925 Song at Twilight, starring brother and sister Vanessa and Corin Redgrave, in a production by Bill Kenwright, and Masterpieces, a new Coward revue devised by Christopher Luscombe and Malcolm McKee and presented by Duncan C Weldon. They join revivals of the 1929 Private Lives, starring Juliet Stevenson and Anton Lesser at the National's Lyttelton Theatre, and the 1924 Hay Fever, starring Geraldine McEwan at the Savoy Theatre, which opened in May and June, respectively.

The Noël Coward Gala will top the year-long festivities. Held 24 October 1999 at the Drury Lane, the event will include star appearances from Richard Attenborough and Hugh Grant amongst others. It will be directed by Gillian Lynne with musical direction by Michael Reed and produced by Duncan C Weldon. All proceeds will be donated to the Noël Coward Scholarship Fund, a new charity set up for students applying to drama schools.

Born in 1899, Noël Coward was one of the most successful British playwrights of all time, writing more than 60 plays during his prolific career. His other comedy classics include Relative Values, Blithe Spirit and Present Laughter. He was knighted in 1970 and died in 1973. The Noël Coward Centenary also comprises a variety of films, books, concerts, seminars, amateur productions and other events.

For further information, visit the Centenary web site.