The long-awaited revival of Tennessee Williams' 1955 drama Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, starring Hollywood heartthrob Brendan Fraser (pictured), opens tonight at the West End's Lyric Theatre, where it's been in previews since 5 September. Meanwhile, another Williams play with "roof" in the title - Stairs to the Roof - is readying for its British premiere next month in Chichester.

Considered one of Williams' masterpieces, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is set in a Mississippi plantation house at the time of ailing Big Daddy's birthday party, an event which sets the scene for family recriminations and revelations. His son Brick, a former college sports star, is more upset about the death of his friend Skipper than the disintegration of his marriage to a sexually frustrated wife.

Fraser (Brick) - famous for his roles in Hollywood films such as The Mummy Returns, Bedazzled, Blast from the Past, Gods and Monsters and George of the Jungle - is joined in the all-star cast by Frances O'Connor (Maggie) and Ned Beatty (Big Daddy) as well as Gemma Jones, Clive Carter and Abigail McKern. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is directed by Anthony Page and designed by Maria Bjornson with lighting by Howard Harrison. It is produced by Bill Kenwright.

One of Williams' earliest works, Stairs to the Roof is uncharacteristic for the playwright, being part comedy and part science fiction. With the world at war in 1941, it follows the antics of Ben Murphy, a clerk in a dead-end job, who dares to imagine a utopia through a set of romantic adventures with a similarly wage-trapped secretary.

The Chichester revival will be the first professional production of Stairs to the Roof since the play was originally presented in the 1940s. It is directed by Lucy Bailey, who also directed the National's acclaimed 2000 production of Williams' Baby Doll (which later transferred to the West End).

Stairs to the Roof stars Aiden McArdle and Catherine Walker. The production is designed by Angela Davies, with lighting by Jon Buswell, sound by Kay Basson and music by Django Bates. It runs at Chichester's Minerva Theatre from 9 to 27 October 2001.

- by Terri Paddock