Amongst the openings in London this week are:

OPENING TONIGHT, Monday 4 December 2006 (previews from 25 November), Irish screen star Cillian Murphy makes his West End debut alongside Hollywood’s Neve Campbell, Michael McKean and Kristen Johnston in the European premiere of romantic comedy Love Song, at the New Ambassadors Theatre (See News, 13 Oct 2006). The latest play by American John Kolvenbach is directed by John Crowley. The story focuses on oddball Beane (Murphy). His well-meaning sister Joan (Johnston) and brother-in-law Harry (McKean) try and make time for him in their busy lives, but no one can get through. After Beane’s apartment is burgled, Joan is baffled to find her brother blissfully happy and tries to unravel the story behind Beane's mysterious new love Molly (Campbell).

ALSO TONIGHT, performers from Wicked, Spamalot, Avenue Q and The Sound of Music take to the stage – and take the night off from their regular performing duties – to appear at the London Coliseum in the presence of their Royal Highnesses, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall for the 78th Royal Variety Performance (See News, 28 Nov 2006). The gala, which will be hosted by Jonathan Ross and broadcast by BBC One later this month, is in aid of the Entertainment Artistes' Benevolent Fund.

ALSO TONIGHT, The Royal Court presents Royal Court on Film, a one day celebration of the theatre’s celluloid history, including a screening of Look Back in Anger.

OPENING TUESDAY, 5 December 2006 (previews from 29 November), The Barbican’s first ever pantomime, Mark Ravenhill’s version of Dick Whittington and His Cat opens for the Christmas season to 20 January 2007 (See News, 9 Dec 2005). Only Fools and HorsesRoger Lloyd Pack also makes his panto debut as Sarah the Cook, in a cast that also includes Sam Kelly as Alderman Fitzwarren. Edward Hall directs the production, which is designed by Michael Howells and has musical direction by Sarah Travis.

ALSO ON TUESDAY, (previews from 1 December), Catch, a collaboration between five Royal Court writers – April de Angelis, Stella Feehily, Tanika Gupta, Chloe Moss and Laura Wade - opens at the venue’s Jerwood Theatre Upstairs for a run to 22 December 2006. The play is an Orwellian exploration of identity and the Big Brother age.

ALSO ON TUESDAY, (previews from 28 November 2006), Mick Gordon and AC Grayling’s play On Religion - the follow-up to On Ego - opens at the Soho Theatre for a run to 6 January 2007 (See News, 9 Nov 2006). The new play explores the themes of religion and how it affects our lives. The story centres on Grace, a militant atheist who clashes with her Christian son. When he is suddenly killed, the conflict between her grief and her principles threatens to rip her family apart. On Religion is directed by Gordon and designed by Naomi Wilkinson.

OPENING WEDNESDAY, 6 December 2006 (previews from 30 November), Don Juan in Soho, Patrick Marber’s 21st-century take on Molière’s 1665 classic, opens at the Donmar Warehouse (See News, 14 Jul 2006). Joining Rhys Ifans, taking the title role, are veteran actor David Ryall, Jessica Brooks, Chris Corrigan, Seroca Davis, Tim Eagle, Richard Flood, Laura Pyper, Abdul Salis and Stephen Wight. Directed by Donmar artistic director Michael Grandage, it runs to 10 February 2007.

ALSO ON WEDNESDAY, (previews from 23 November), The Snowman returns to the Peacock Theatre for the ninth consecutive year, for a run to 7 January 2007.

ALSO ON WEDNESDAY, (previews from 3 December), Soho Theatre’s stage adaptation of Lauren Child’s children’s novel That Pesky Rat opens for a run to 3 January 2007 (See News, 9 Nov 2006). The story is adapted by Jonathan Lloyd, who also directs, and uses puppets to tell the tale of a little rat, alone in his dustbin in Grubby Alley, longing for a loving owner and envying the glamorous lifestyle of his friends Pierre the chinchilla and Nibbles the circus rabbit.

OPENING THURSDAY, 7 December 2006 (previews from 29 November), Melly Still’s sell-out production of Coram Boy, Helen Edmundson’s stage adaptation of Jamila Gavin’s Whitbread Award-winning children’s book, returns to the National's Olivier Theatre for another Christmas run to 20 January 2007 (See News, 15 Feb 2006).

OPENING SATURDAY, 9 December 2006, the BAC celebrates its 25th birthday with Kneehigh Theatre’s production of Rapunzel - the fairy story about the girl with extremely long hair – which runs to 14 January 2007.

OPENING SUNDAY, Jeremy Sams directs Janie Dee and Charles Dance in a one-off rehearsed reading of Shadowlands at the Comedy Theatre, in aid of the Pahar Trust, Nepal (See News, 28 Nov 2006). Winner of the Evening Standard Play of the Year 1990 and nominated for three Olivier Awards for its West End run, BAFTA Award Winner William Nicholson’s Shadowlands is the true love story of Christian author and academic CS Lewis and American divorcee Joy Gresham.

ALSO ON SUNDAY, A gala production of the 1966 Broadway musical Sweet Charity - rehearsed and produced in only 48 hours - will be held at the West End’s Theatre Royal Drury Lane, hosted by Gail Porter and featuring a celebrity front-of-house team including Barbara Windsor, in aid of the British Heart Foundation (See News, 19 Oct 2006). Sweet Charity - which has music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Dorothy Fields and a book by Neil Simon, with original direction and choreography by Bob Fosse - takes a look at the seedy underbelly of 1960s New York. The gullible, enchanting heroine Charity Hope Valentine dances, laughs and cries her way through a series of whirlwind romances to show-stopping numbers including “Rhythm of Life” and “Hey Big Spender.”

- by Caroline Ansdell