Amongst the major shows opening in London this week are:

OPENING TONIGHT, Monday 5 December 2005 (previews from 23 November), after making his West End debut three years ago in the new play On an Average Day, Hollywood actor Woody Harrelson returns to to appear in Tennessee Williams’ 1961 classic The Night of the Iguana at the Lyric Theatre alongside triple Olivier Award winner and Award nominee (for the Lyric’s last resident, Death of a Salesman) Clare Higgins and Jenny Seagrove (See News, 13 Oct 2005).

Set in Mexico in 1940, the drama revolves around a defrocked clergyman-turned-tour guide who's influenced by a trio of women: his rundown hotel owner friend, a prim spinster in charge of her elderly poet grandfather and a nymphomaniac teen. In 1964, Richard Burton, Ava Gardner and Deborah Kerr starred in John Huston’s film version. Anthony Page directs.

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ALSO TONIGHT, Nigel Harman takes over from Ewan McGregor as Sky Masterson in the Michael Grandage’s revival of Frank Loesser’s Broadway classic Guys and Dolls at the West End’s Piccadilly Theatre, with Sarah Lancashire replacing Jane Krakowski as Miss Adelaide (See News, 15 Sep 2005).

ALSO TONIGHT (previews from 30 November), Southwark Playhouse presents The Canterville Ghost, with words and music by John Kane based on Oscar Wilde’s story. The show has a limited season until 23 December 2005.

ALSO TONIGHT (previews from 29 November), Wilton’s Music Hall offers a seasonal antidote in The Super Naughty Xxxmas Story (See News, 15 Nov 2005). The show stars Operatunity’s reality TV winner Denise Leigh and runs until 31 December 2005.

** DON’T MISS two-for-one tickets to The Super/Naughty Xxxmas Story – offer ends 12 December 2005 - click here for more details! **

OPENING TUESDAY, 6 December 2005 (previews from 24 November), former Steps pop diva Faye Tozer stars in a new production of the cult sci-fi musical Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens, at The Venue, Leicester Square (See News, 4 Nov 2005). Set in a seedy bar on the planet Frottage III, a debauched space age haven for gender outlaws and plastic worshippers, the show follows a cosmic investigation into the mysterious murders of a number of talented but obscure cabaret artistes. It’s up to the Space Vixens - crime-fighting, Glitter-Boot-wearing, federal agents from a 'groovier' galaxy - to find out the true identity of the killer. TV’s Strictly Come Dancing panellist Bruno Tonioli choreographs the new production, which is directed by Michael Fidler.

OPENING WEDNESDAY, 7 December 2005 (preview 6 December), Patrick Stewart plays more than 40 characters in his own one-man version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which will run for 23 performances only, until 31 December, at the West End’s Albery Theatre (See News, 23 Nov 2005). When Stewart presented the piece at the West End’s Old Vic over the 1993/4 festive season, it won a Laurence Olivier Award for Best Entertainment. He has also performed it extensively in the US, including multiple runs on Broadway. In 1999, he played Scrooge in a fully-cast US television adaptation of the Christmas classic.

ALSO ON WEDNESDAY (previews from 2 December), Hackney Empire’s opens its annual pantomime, which this year is Jack and the Beanstalk with Susie McKenna directing a cast that includes Clive Rowe, Award nominee (for The Big Life) Tameka Empson and Matt Dempsey.

ALSO ON WEDNESDAY Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown is in concert at Charing Cross’ New Players’ Theatre along with his band, the Caucasian Rhythm Kings, until 11 December 2005 (See News, 6 Oct 2005). He’s joined by fellow Tony Award winner Frances Ruffelle and double Olivier Award winner Joanna Riding.

OPENING THURSDAY, 8 December 2005 (previews from 2 December), Lyric Hammersmith presents its Christmas show, The Magic Carpet, adapted by Ben Hopkins and artistic director David Farr, for a limited season until 14 January 2006.

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ALSO ON THURSDAY (previews from 6 December), Sue Kelvin stars in the world premiere of Sophie Tucker’s One Night Stand, a biographical show about the original Red Hot Mama, at north London’s New End Theatre for a run to 14 January 2006.

ALSO ON THURSDAY (previews from 26 November), east London’s Theatre Royal Stratford East presents its Christmas show, Pinocchio about the wooden boy who becomes human, until 21 January 2006.

ALSO ON THURSDAY (previews from 6 December), south London’s Blue Elephant Theatre presents Half Life, the UK premiere of the final play in the venue’s Balkan season. The production’s limited season runs to 23 December 2005.

OPENING FRIDAY, 9 December 2005 (previews from 7 December), the Royal Court’s Jerwood Theatre Upstairs presents Linda Brogan’s What's in the Cat, about an emotionally-charged Christmas dinner in 1970s Manchester (See News, 1 Aug 2005). Brogan won the Alfred Fagon Award in 2001, an accolade that recognises writers of Caribbean descent. Her new play is directed by Paulette Randall, former artistic director of Talawa Theatre company, and comes to the Royal Court after initial dates at Manchester’s Contact Theatre.

ALSO ON FRIDAY (preview 8 December), Soho Theatre presents The Snow Dragon, written and directed by Toby Mitchell and produced by Tall Stories, for a Christmas season until 8 January 2006.

- by Caroline Ansdell