The fringe Hens and Chickens Theatre in Highbury and Islington, north London, will next month play host to the UK premiere of the musical The Rose and the Ring. Despite the smallness of the venue - just 54 seats - the production has attracted a stellar West End cast heading by Paul Keating and Julie-Alanah Brighten. It will open for a four-week run from 4 December 2001 to 5 January 2002, with a press night on 7 December.

Based on William Makepeace Thackeray's comic novella, The Rose and the Ring tells the story of two mythical kingdoms turned upside down by a magic rose and a magic ring that render anyone who possesses them irresistible to the opposite sex. As these talismans change hands, people fall in and out of love with one another in a series of comic misadventures. All is set right at the end as the hero Prince Giglio discovers the true meaning of love.

Keating, who play Giglio, was most recently seen as Straight Dave in the Jonathan Harvey-Pet Shop Boys musical Closer to Heaven. He received an Olivier Award nomination for Best Actor in a Musical for the 1996 production of Tommy (Shaftesbury Theatre). His other stage credits include Les Miserables, Lost in Yonkers, Boyband, Assassins and La Cava.

The last also starred Brighten, who plays Fairy Blackstick in The Rose and the Ring. Brighten's other West End stage credits include Disney's Beauty and the Beast and Oliver!, while she has also appeared in major tours of Rebecca and Me and My Girl, opposite Gary Wilmot.

Keating and Brighten are joined in the cast of The Rose and the Ring by Joanna Kirkland (Betsinda), Ben Caplan (Prince Bulbo), Louisa McCarthy (Princess Angelica), Sally Bourne (Gruffanuff), James Wren, Oliver Senton, Andrew Prosser, Ben Heathcote. The musical comedy is directed by Lucy Skilbeck and designed by Kevin Freeman with movement by Vicky Coote. It is presented by Brave New World Productions.

The Rose and the Ring has book and lyrics by Peter Morris and music by Michael Jeffrey. Morris co-created and starred in Whoop De-Doo!, for which he won a Drama Desk Award, and has also written Frankly Scarlett and Much Review About Nothing. Jeffrey composed the score for the ITV children's animation series The Fantastic Flying Journey and The Meteoric Rise of Edmund Kean. The two men previously collaborated on the award-winning musical Escape from Pterodactyl Island which was seen in New York and at the Pleasance in London. The Rose and the Ring was seen earlier this year at New York's National Music Theatre Network.

- by Terri Paddock