Ben Richards, Paul Keating and Cornell John will lead the new all-British cast of The Full Monty, the US musical based on the UK film of the same name. They start performances at the West End's Prince of Wales Theatre on 2 September 2002, taking over from Broadway stars Jarrod Emick, Romain Fruge and Andre De Shields whose contracts finish at the end of August.

Richards (pictured), who plays the lead Jerry Lukowski, previously starred as Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever; his other West End credits include Smokey Joe's Café, Grease and Hot Mikado. John, playing Noah 'Horse' T Simmons, has appeared in the West End in The Lion King and Sweet Charity.

Keating's many musical theatre credits include Les Miserables, Boyband, Assassins, The Rose and the Ring, La Cava and The Who's Tommy, for which he was nominated for an Olivier for Best Actor in a Musical. Keating, who plays Ethan Girard in The Full Monty, was most recently seen in the West End in the Jonathan Harvey-Pet Shop Boys musical, Closer to Heaven, for which he received a Theatregoers' Choice Award nomination.

Other American members of the original West End cast of The Full Monty have been gradually replaced over the summer. The musical about a group of blue-collar men who resort to stripping to pay the rent now also features local talent including Dave Ganley (as Dave Bukatinsky), Sam James (Malcolm MacGregor) and Tony Timberlake (Harold Nichols). Lynda Baron currently appears as Jeannette Burmeister, though Dora Bryan is due to return to the role shortly, following film commitments.

Peter Cattaneo's 1997 film The Full Monty - which starred Robert Carlyle, Tom Wilkinson and Hugo Speer - became one of Britain's biggest ever hits, garnering six Oscar nominations in addition to international acclaim.

The Full Monty musical is the creation of American bookwriter Terrence McNally and first-time theatrical composer David Yazbek. They have made substantial changes in the adaptation to the new medium, including the addition of several characters, new dance numbers, new songs of course and, most controversially (at least for British domestic audiences), the transatlantic move of the locale. While the film original was set in Sheffield, England, the stage action occurs in the American city of Buffalo, New York.

The stage show premiered - to enthusiastic reviews and box office records - in San Diego, California, before opening at Broadway's Eugene O'Neill Theatre in October 2000.

The West End production is staged by the entire Broadway creative team, headed by director Jack O'Brien and choreographer Jerry Mitchell. It is designed by John Arnone, with costumes by Bob Morgan, lighting by Howell Binkley and sound by Mike Walker. Orchestrations are by Harold Wheeler, music dance arrangements by Zane Mark and musical direction by Ted Sperling. The UK musical director is Martin Lowe. The Full Monty is produced in London by Lindsay Law, Thomas Hall and Sacha Brooks. It is now booking up to 8 March 2003.

- by Terri Paddock