Amongst the major shows opening in London this week are:

OPENING TONIGHT, Monday 6 December 2004 (previews from 2 December), The Playboy of the West Indies is revived at north London’s Tricycle Theatre, featuring Danny John-Jules, Joy Richardson and Tracey Saunders. J M Synge's seminal Irish play, The Playboy of the Western World, is relocated to Trinidad in Mustapha Matura's adaptation.

Nottingham Playhouse co-produces with the Tricycle, where the play premiered 20 years ago. This new production, once again directed by Tricycle artistic director Nicolas Kent, runs in London until 22 January 2005, before transferring to Nottingham Playhouse from 28 January to 12 February 2005.

OPENING TUESDAY, 7 December 2004 (previews from 3 December), seasonal pantomime, in the form of Aladdin, resumes at east London’s Hackney Empire, which reopened earlier this year after extensive refurbishment. Written and directed by Susie McKenna, 2005 Whatsonstage.com Award nominee Clive Rowe stars as Widow Twankey with support from fellow nominee Tameka Empson as well as Kat B, Omar F Okai, Tony Timberlake and Sharon D Clarke. It continues until 8 January 2005.

ALSO ON TUESDAY (previews from 30 November), Matthew Bourne's celebrated all-male Swan Lake returns to Sadler's Wells for a limited eight-week season. Not seen in London for four years, it continues in London until 16 January 2005 as part of a tenth anniversary tour.

ALSO ON TUESDAY, Jason Donovan and Stephen Gateley face the critics anew in the long-running West End musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the London Palladium. Although both actors have been performing in the show since 7 September, this will be the first time the press have been invited to assess their performances.

OPENING WEDNESDAY, 8 December 2004 (previews from 20 November), the National Theatre revives its hugely popular adaptation of Philip Pullman’s trilogy, His Dark Materials, at the NT Olivier. Adapted by Nicholas Wright and directed by NT artistic director Nicholas Hytner, the two-part stage version of Will and Lyra’s magical fantasy adventure continues until 2 April 2005. The re-cast production features Michael Legge and Elaine Symons as Will and Lyra, with Lesley Manville as Mrs Coulter and David Harewood as Lord Asriel.

OPENING THURSDAY, 9 December 2004 (previews from 7 December), The Five Lizas premieres at the off-West End’s Shaw Theatre in Euston. Through 22 classic songs, the new musical follows the lives of five people, all linked by the name Liza. The limited season runs until 31 December 2004.

ALSO ON THURSDAY (previews from 8 December), the fringe Union Theatre in Southwark revives Stephen Schwartz’s 1972 Broadway musical Pippin, in a new production directed by Sasha Regan and Ben De Wynter. It runs until 8 January 2005.

OPENING SATURDAY, 11 December 2004 (previews from 8 December), at the West End’s Peacock Theatre is Raymond Briggs’ children’s classic The Snowman. It’s the seventh consecutive London Christmas season for the Birmingham Rep production, which will transfer back to Birmingham in the new year, once it finishes its London dates on 9 January. Bill Alexander directs the story of a young boy's adventures when his snowman miraculously comes to life on Christmas Eve.

- by Hannah Kennedy