As previously tipped (See The Goss, 9 Oct 2007), Jill Paice (pictured) will star in Trevor Nunn’s musical adaptation of Gone with the Wind, taking on the lead role of the indomitable Scarlett O’Hara, the role immortalised in the 1939 film by Vivien Leigh. The musical receives its world premiere on 22 April 2008 (previews from 5 April) at the West End’s New London theatre, where it’s initially booking through to 27 September 2008.

Set in Georgia in the 1860s, Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1936 novel follows Scarlett’s journey from a life of luxury on her father’s plantation through the Civil War and the hardships it heaps on her and her family to the rocky post-war peace, with her love for Ashley Wilkes and the renegade Rhett Butler adding fuel to the fire.

American Jill Paice made her West End debut in 2005 in Nunn’s world premiere of The Woman in White. She also starred in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical on Broadway, where she’s currently starring in the revival of Kander and Ebb’s Curtains.

The search is still on for the actor who will play Rhett Butler (Clark Gable in the film), although Hugh Jackman’s name has previously been linked to the role. According to the Daily Mail, other principals so far confirmed are Edward Baker-Duly as Ashley Wilkes and Madeleine Worrall as his wife Melanie. Baker-Duly appeared in Nunn’s 2001 National Theatre production of South Pacific. Worrall is currently playing the title role in Cinderella at the Old Vic.

In development for more than three years, Gone with the Wind has music and lyrics by Margaret Martin. The premiere production is directed by Nunn and designed by John Napier, who worked with Nunn on blockbuster page-to-stage adaptations of Les Miserables and Cats, the latter finishing its 21-year run at the New London in May 2002. It’s produced by Aldo Scrofani and Colin Ingram.

One of the best-selling novels of the 20th century (the only book that's sold more, apparently is The Bible), Gone with the Wind was in 1939 made into one of Hollywood’s highest-grossing films, a winner of ten Oscars. Directed by Victor Fleming, it starred Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable, whose final line – “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” – has gone down in cinematic history. According to a list recently compiled by the British Film Institute (BFI), the film has been seen by more cinemagoers (35 million) than any other in UK movie history.

Currently at the New London, Nunn’s RSC productions of King Lear and The Seagull, starring Ian McKellen, finish their limited seasons on 12 January 2008, before the theatre begins its fit-out for Napier’s Gone with the Wind set.

- by Terri Paddock