Stage and screen star Philip Quast (pictured) will head the Royal National Theatre's production of South Pacific. Quast lines up alongside an impressive cast including John Shrapnel, Lauren Kennedy, Edward Baker-Duly and Branwell Donaghey. Trevor Nunn's anticipated show opens at the National Theatre's Olivier on 12 December 2001, following previews from 3 December.

Quast will play the planter Emile de Becque who has arrived in the Pacific from France. Kennedy plays the American nurse from Arkansas who falls for him, with rising star Baker-Duly as Lt Joseph Cable. The show features music by Richard Rodgers with book and lyrics from Oscar Hammerstein II. The narrative is adapted from short stories by James Michener, and portrays two different love affairs. One involves Cable and a Polynesian girl, the other centres on the nurse and French planter. The couples are combined when the respective men are sent on a dangerous mission behind Japanese lines.

Quast began his career in South Australia in 1979, but rose to fame from 1987 as Jalvert in the original Australian version of Les Miserables. He played the same role in the West End from 1989 and performed on the international cast recording for the 19th Anniversary Concert. Later, Quast won an Olivier for his performance as George in Sunday In the Park With George (RNT), with other West End shows including The Hunting of the Snark and St Joan. He has also appeared with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and won a second Olivier for The Fix (Donmar Warehouse).

Lauren Kennedy began her career at the North Carolina Theatre and her NCT credits include leads in Chess, Evita and Gypsy. She made her Broadway debut in Sunset Boulevard and also performed on the cast recording of Good News. John Shrapnel appeared in the hit films Notting Hill and Gladiator, and his numerous stage credits include Twelfth Night (RNT), plus Hamlet for the RSC (with Kenneth Branagh). Branwell Donaghey trained at LAMDA and his credits for the RNT include Remembrance of Things Past and Romeo and Juliet. Film works include New World Disorder, Inferno and Little Brother.

Edward Baker-Duly was born in South Africa and starred as Jets leader Riff in the West End West Side Story (Prince Edward Theatre). His career commenced with the State Theatre of South Africa, and he received the South African Olivier equivalent for Crazy For You. Other London credits include Salad Days (Vaudeville) and he also performed in Snow White at Southampton Nuffield.

Other cast members include Rebecca Vere, Cathy Cogle and Nicola Filshie. Vere made her West End debut in A Slice of Saturday Night, with other musical roles including Hair (Old Vic) and the West End Les Miserables (as Cosette) and Rocky Horror Show. TV appearances include EastEnders and Press Gang. Cogle trained at the Royal Academy of Music and also played Cosette in Les Miserables. Her stage career has embraced Nostalgia Brand Chewing Gum and The Diary of Anne Frank in New York. Filshie has appeared in Maddie (Lyric), Martin Guerre (Prince Edward), Oliver (Palladium) and on several cast recordings.

Nunn's production contains musical staging from Matthew Bourne. One of the co-founders of Adventures In Motion Pictures, Bourne's racy interpretations of established classics such as Carmen (The Car Man) has earned him wide acclaim. Nunn recently directed My Fair Lady for the National, now transferred to the West End, and will step down as the venue's director in 2003 to be replaced by Nicholas Hytner.

The set designer is John Napier, original orchestrations are from Robert Russell Bennett, additional orchestrations by William David Brohn and the costume designers are Elise and John Napier.

- by Gareth Thompson