Following her success in Dorothy Fields Forever last year, Angela Richards (pictured) returns next month to north London's King's Head Theatre to play another stage icon, Broadway's Ethel merman (See News, 28 Jul 2003). The new musical biography Call Me Merman opens on 30 December 2003 (previews from 23 December) and continues to 1 February 2004.

Born in 1909 as Ethel Agnes Zimmerman, Ethel Merman reigned supreme on Broadway, where her many hit shows, between 1930 and 1960, included Girl Crazy, Anything Goes, Red, Hot and Blue, Panama Hattie, Something for the Boys, Annie Get Your Gun, Call Me Madam and Gypsy.

Originating roles for legendary writers such as Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and Stephen Sondheim, Merman's song premieres included "I Got Rhythm", "Anything Goes", "You're the Top", "Blow Gabriel Blow", "I Get A Kick Out of You", "You Can't Get a Man with a Gun", "There's No Business like Show Business" and "Everything's Coming up Roses".

In Call Me Merman, Richards is joined by Susannah Fellows - whose many West End credits Mamma Mia!, Chicago, Peter Pan, Nine, Aspects of Love, City of Angels and Chess - as well as Mark White and Michael Roberts.

The musical is written by John Kane and directed by Dorothy Fields Forever's David Kernan, who also produces with Barbara Ferris. Musical direction is by Fiz Shapur, choreography by Nick Winston, design by Nigel Hook and musical arrangements by Neil McArthur.

Just opened last night (17 November 2003, previews from 11 November) at the King's Head, the British premiere production of Pulitzer Prize-winning American Terrence McNally's opera-inspired 1985 play The Lisbon Traviata continues until 21 December. Directed by Stephen Henry, the cast are David Bamber, Marcus D'Amico, London Burning's Tristan Gemmill and newcomer Matthew Thrift (See News, 2 Oct 2003).

- by Terri Paddock