Amongst the major openings in London this week are:

OPENING MONDAY, 16 October 2006 (previews from 30 September), triple Tony Award-winning Monty Python musical Spamalot faces the critics ahead of Tuesday night’s star-studded premiere at the West End’s Palace Theatre (See News, 20 Jan 2006). “Lovingly ripped off” from the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Spamalot tells the tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table in their quest to find the religious relic – and features a chorus line of dancing divas (with serfs), flatulent Frenchmen, killer rabbits and a legless knight.

Returning to the London stage for the first time in over 20 years, Tim Curry, reprises his Broadway role as King Arthur (until January 2007, when Simon Russell Beale, also reprising his Broadway role, takes over from Curry a second time) in a cast that also features Hannah Waddingham, David Birrell, Tim Goodman-Hill, Robert Hands and American Christopher Sieber.

Spamalot has a book and lyrics by original Python Eric Idle, who has also co-written the music with John Du Prez. The London production reunites the Broadway creative team including set and costume designer Tim Hatley, lighting designer Hugh Vanstone, choreographer Casey Nicholaw and director Mike Nichols. Spamalot opened in March 2005 at Broadway’s Shubert Theater, where it’s still running.

OPENING TUESDAY, 17 October 2006 (previews from 12 October), Sex and the City’s Kim Cattrall stars in Josie Rourke’s new production of David Mamet’s elliptical 1995 three-hander about the end of childhood The Cryptogram, in a limited season to 25 November 2006 at the Donmar Warehouse (See News, 14 Jul 2006). Cattrall, best known for her role as sex-hungry Samantha Jones in US TV series Sex and the City, made her West End debut last year in Peter Hall’s revival of Whose Life Is It Anyway?. She’s joined in the Mamet play by Douglas Henshall.

OPENING WEDNESDAY, 18 October 2006 (previews from 11 October), ex-Bond girl and Hitchcock Blonde Rosamund Pike returns to the West End in Tennessee Williams’ rarely performed 1947 play Summer and Smoke (See News, 15 Aug 2006). Following initial dates in Nottingham, Adrian Noble’s new production plays for 16 weeks at the Apollo Theatre. Pike is minister’s daughter Alma Winemiller, who finds her youthful passions rekindled with the return of the neighbour’s hard-living prodigal son John Buchanan, played by American Chris Carmack, best known from TV’s The OC.

ALSO ON WEDNESDAY, Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter takes to the stage at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs in a fundraising gala performance of Krapp's Last Tape. As part of the theatre’s year-long 50th anniversary season, Pinter is performing the short season - which started on 14 October and continues to 24 October, with no performances on 19 or 22 October – directed by the Court’s outgoing artistic director Ian Rickson. In Samuel Beckett’s 1958 study of mortality, creativity and memory, a 69-year-old man is alone on his last birthday, listening to the past. Tickets for the limited performances in the Court’s 100-seat studio space sold out within half-an-hour (See The Goss, 4 Sep 2006).

ALSO ON WEDNESDAY (previews from 17 October), Township Stories, a crime thriller revolving around South African life, arrives at the Theatre Royal Stratford East in a co-production with the South African State Theatre. A hit at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, it continues at the east London theatre until 11 November, concluding a UK-wide tour.

ALSO ON WEDNESDAY (preview 17 October), another South Africa-set play, Bones opens at west London’s Bush Theatre, following its initial dates at co-producing house Leicester Haymarket. Written and directed by Kay Adshead, it’s billed as “a ruthless excavation of South Africa, and an anthem for hope”. A young black boy is ‘questioned’ by a white South African policeman. A terrible incident and the truth are buried – until 36 years later. It’s at the Bush until 4 November.

OPENING THURSDAY, 19 October 2006 (previews from 10 October), Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s 2004 Broadway musical Caroline, or Change receives its UK premiere at the National’s Lyttelton Theatre (See News, 25 Aug 2006). In Louisiana in 1963 in the immediate aftermath of the Kennedy assassination, Caroline Thibodeaux, a black maid to a southern Jewish family, is struggling to keep afloat both emotionally and economically, while the young son of her employer tries to make sense of the world following the death of his mother.

American Tonya Pinkins recreates her acclaimed title performance, once again directed by George C Wolfe. The British cast also features Clive Rowe, Anna Francolini, Valda Aviks and Hilton McRae.

** DON’T MISS our Outing to CAROLINE, OR CHANGE on Thursday 16 November 2006 – top-price ticket & FREE drink at our post-show cast reception, all for £24.50! - click here for more details! **

- by Terri Paddock