With still three months to go before the start of the Theatre Royal Haymarket Company’s inaugural season (See Today’s Other News), the roll call of actors lined up to take part already reads like a who’s who of leading British stage talent.

As part of the new venture, the Haymarket, under the artistic direction of former Almeida chief Jonathan Kent working with chairman Arnold M Crook, the theatre will present revivals of Edward Bond’s The Sea and William Wycherley’s Restoration comedy The Country Wife, as well as the world premiere of a new musical, Marguerite. The 11-month season – with three-month stints for the plays and five months for the musical - runs from 25 September 2007 to 1 November 2008.

Stars Toby Stephens, Patricia Hodge, David Haig, Ruthie Henshall, Marcia Warren, Fiona Glascott and Liz Crowther were all on hand at today’s launch event at the Haymarket, where they were joined by two of Marguerite’s co-creators Alain Boublil and lyricist Herbert Kretzmer. Speaking to Whatsonstage.com, Stephens, Haig and Henshall were full of praise for the bold new initiative being undertaken by the Grade I-listed building, traditionally a commercial receiving house.

Toby Stephens, who plays incurable seducer Horner in The Country Wife, added: “I think it’s a great idea to do this. In the West End, there’s been a dearth of serious drama, and I think that it’s a great idea to get Jonathan to do it. I’ve worked with him before (on the Almeida’s 1998 West End productions of Phedre and Britannicus). He’s a director who is enormously talented, and I think he’ll bring an edge to a West End production, which otherwise it wouldn’t have. The combination is great.”

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David Haig, who will appear in both of the season’s two plays, said: “I’m excited that the fact that a commercial theatre, which has to make money to survive, is being so ambitious and innovative … You can sense the enthusiasm here, that you’ve got a commercial theatre here with this age and history setting up an ambitious project like this.”

And Ruthie Henshall, who takes the title role in next year’s Marguerite, hoped that “when you have a finite season, it might encourage more new things. Fingers crossed…” As for her part in the new Boublil and Schonberg musical based on Alexandre Dumas’ 1848 novel La Dame aux Camellias, she said it was a role she simply couldn’t resist. “I did say recently that the next thing I did would have to be something new, because I wanted to create a role, and I would have to want to bite its hand off, because I haven’t had that in a while … Sometimes jobs are like ‘Okay, I’ve got to make a living’ … And sometimes, once in a while, something like this comes along, and you think ‘I’m getting paid to do this?!’ and you can’t believe your luck.”

- by Terri Paddock & Stuart Denison