The West End production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's The King and I, currently starring Josie Lawrence and Keo Woolford at the London Palladium, cancelled its performance last night, and both shows today have been cancelled as well. It is hoped that performances will resume tomorrow.

The box office and press agent for the production both confirmed that the cancellation is for technical reasons, but has been informed by sources close to the production that it was owing to the discovery of asbestos in the orchestra pit during a safety check of the building.

A spokesperson for Really Useful Theatres said today: “The London Palladium was closed last night and will be closed again tonight due to remedial work which is being carried out within the building. During a building survey, traces of asbestos, common in buildings of this age, were detected in a non-public area. In the interests of the health and safety of the people who work in the building, immediate precautionary action is being taken. This operation will be completed in a very short space of time. An announcement will be made tomorrow regarding the re-opening of the theatre."

The King and I finishes its run at the Palladium on 5 January 2002, ahead of a planned national tour due to open in Edinburgh in April. It will be followed at the Palladium by the world premiere musical stage adaptation of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which opens on 16 April 2002 (previews from on 19 March). First produced in 1951, The King and I is based on the novel "Anna and the King of Siam" by Margaret Landon and has music by Richard Rodgers and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. This revival of the show originated in Australia in 1991, before opening in 1996 on Broadway, where it had a two-year run. Its many foreign awards include four Tony Awards, four Drama Desk Awards, three Outer Critics Circle Awards and two Theatre World Awards.

The West End production opened to sell-out audiences at the Palladium on 3 May 2000, with West End diva Elaine Paige and Jason Scott Lee playing the leads. It was nominated for four Laurence Olivier awards, including Outstanding Musical Production.

The King and I is directed by Christopher Renshaw, with choreography by Jerome Robbins, musical staging by Lar Lubovitch, scenic design by Brian Thomson, costume design by Roger Kirk and lighting by Nigel Levings. Orchestrations are by Robert Russell Bennett, with additional orchestrations by Bruce Coughlin and musical supervision and direction by John Owen Edwards. The show is produced in the West End by James Erskine, John Frost, and David Ian, in association with the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organisation.

- by Mark Shenton