Janie Dee and South Pacific's Edward Baker-Duly will head the cast of Stephen Sondheim's cult musical Anyone Can Whistle when it finally receives its London premiere next month, nearly 40 years after it was presented on Broadway. The first fully staged London production of the musical - which will also be the first ever to employ book writer Arthur Laurents recently released new script - runs at the Bridewell Theatre from 8 January to 15 February 2003 (previews from 2 January).

A surrealistic satire about madness and nonconformity, Anyone Can Whistle is set in a small bankrupt town where the Mayoress invents a miracle to kick-start her cash flow. But when a group of mental patients get mixed up with the locals, the scam is jeopardised. As everything is turned upside down, a patient takes over the asylum – and the affections of its head nurse.

Opened on Broadway in April 1964 with a cast that included Angela Lansbury and Lee Remick, Anyone Can Whistle ran for a mere nine performances in a premiere production plagued by fist fights, failing machinery and two fatalities. Despite its initial failure, the musical went on to achieve cult success, with numerous cast and concert recordings of some of Sondheim's most memorable songs, including "There Won't Be Trumpets", "Everybody Says Don't", "There's a Parade in Town" and the title song.

Dee (pictured), who plays Fay Apple, was most recently seen in the West End in Gershwin musical My One and Only and headlining this year's Divas at the Donmar cabaret season. An accomplished all-round stage actress - she won the hat trick of Best Actress awards (Evening Standard, Critics Circle and Laurence Olivier) for her 1999 turn as an android in Alan Ayckbourn's Comic Potential - Dee is perhaps best known for musical theatre.

For one of her earlier roles, in Nicholas Hytner's Carousel at the National, she won her first Olivier, for Best Supporting Performance in a Musical. Her other credits include Paradise Moscow, Enter the Guardsman, Cabaret, Cats, Showboat, Oklahoma!, The Sound of Music, They're Playing Our Song and South Pacific.

Baker-Duly, who plays J Bowden Hapgood, starred earlier this year as Lt Joe Cable in Trevor Nunn's production of South Pacific, which has been nominated for a Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers' Choice Award for Best Musical Revival. His other UK stage credits include The Lady Vanishes, Dick Barton - Special Agent, West Side Story, Salad Days and Return to the Forbidden Planet.

Dee and Baker-Duly are joined in the cast of Anyone Can Whistle by Paula Wilcox (The Odd Couple, The Memory of Water, TV’s Man About the House, Holby City) as Cora along with Mark Heenehan, Aaron Shirley and James Smillie. The production is directed by Michael Gieleta for The Gryphon Ltd at the Bridewell where previous Sondheim productions have included the world premiere of Saturday Night and the recent compilation The Road You Didn't Take.

- by Terri Paddock