Multi award-winning stage actor Alex Jennings (pictured) will make his musical theatre debut next year when he joins the West End cast of My Fair Lady. From Monday 22 April 2002, Jennings will take over from Jonathan Pryce as Professor Henry Higgins in the National Theatre revival of Lerner and Loewe's classic musical, now playing at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

Jennings has most recently been seen at the National in the Restoration comedy The Relapse and Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, for which he collectively won this year's Evening Standard Award for Best Actor. He has regularly played the lead in NT and RSC productions such as Albert Speer, Hamlet, Richard II and Peer Gynt, for which he won a Best Actor Olivier. His other theatre credits include The Importance of Being Earnest, The Liar and Too Clever By Half, for which he won a second Olivier and a Critics Circle Award for Best Actor. My Fair Lady will mark Jennings first foray into musicals.

The acclaimed production, presented in the West End by Cameron Mackintosh, has recently extended its booking period - by five months, up to 31 August 2002 - after introducing new leading lady Joanna Riding, who replaced the frequently unwell Martine McCutcheon as Eliza Doolittle.

Following its original three-month, sell-out run at the NT Lyttelton, the musical transferred to the West End theatre in July 2001. On transferring, the production broke box office records at the Drury Lane, with initial advance booking of more than £10 million.

In addition to Riding and Pryce, My Fair Lady currently stars Dennis Waterman (Alfred Doolittle), Nicholas Le Provost (Colonel Pickering) and Mark Umbers (Freddy Eynsford-Hill). It is choreographed by Matthew Bourne, with design by Anthony Ward with lighting by David Hersey and sound by Paul Groothuis. The musical supervisor is David White, musical director Nick Davies and orchestrator William D Brohn, with original orchestrations by Robert Russell Bennett.

The 1956 musical, with book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe, is adapted from George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion. An opinionated linguistics professor, Henry Higgins, sets out to prove that he can turn anyone into a lady. He chooses as his specimen one cockney flower girl, Eliza, and introduces her to high society. The famous score includes "I Could Have Danced All Night", "Wouldn't It Be Loverly", "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face", "Why Can't the English" and "The Rain in Spain."

My Fair Lady has been nominated for four 2001 the Whatsonstage.com Awards - Best Actor in a Musical (for Pryce), Best Supporting Performance (Le Prevost), Best Choreographer (Bourne) and Best Musical Revival. (Click here to vote.)

- by Terri Paddock