Michael Ball, Mel Smith, and Leanne Jones in Hairspray
(© Jason Bell)
Michael Ball, Mel Smith, and Leanne Jones in Hairspray
(© Jason Bell)
Yes, another American musical is invading the West End. The blockbuster Broadway hit Hairspray debuts at the Shaftesbury (beginning October 11). Playing the cross-dressing role of lovable Edna Turnblad is Michael Ball, who last put on a fat suit for The Woman in White. The bouncy Ball will play opposite Leanne Jones as dancin'-fool Tracy and Mel Smith as happy hubby Wilbur.

Those desperately seeking more new musicals this month can hotfoot it to Desperately Seeking Susan (Novello, beginning October 12), the stage adaptation of Susan Seidelman's fun-filled movie in which Madonna made one of her many splashes. The show is directed by conceiver-writer Peter Michael Marino, while the score is culled from the Blondie catalogue, including such iconic hits as "Call Me" and "Heart of Glass."

Also on the musical front: 28-year-old Ramin Karimloo takes over the title role in Phantom of the Opera; over at Les Miserables, Drew Sarich, the New York Jean Valjean, comes in for a month-long stint on October 22, and the long-running Stomp is moving from the Vaudeville to Ambassadors (October 27-March 1).

The revival of the month could well be Jonathan Kent's take on William Wycherley's Restoration side-splitter, The Country Wife (through January 10). Harry Horner (the suave Toby Stephens) gets word around that he's a eunuch and therefore safe with wives of the greats. Also in the cast are David Haig, Patricia Hodge, and as the title character, the aptly named Margery Pinchwife, Fiona Glascott.

The Shakespeare revival of the month is likely to be the Macbeth that Patrick Stewart is headlining at the Gielgud (now to January 12). Also to be reckoned with is the replay of Williams Nicholson's bittersweet Shadowlands (Wyndham's, October 3-December 14) in which Charles Dance will star as author C. S. Lewis and the always lively Janie Dee will play his new love, Joy Gresham. The great Jean March is taking on the part of long-suffering housekeeper Bertha in the hilarious Boeing-Boeing at the Comedy. Caryl Churchill's creative Cloud Nine, which takes place in two time periods, is at the Almeida (October 25-December 8), under the direction of the red-hot Thea Sharrock.

For new plays, the always reliable Bush has Ian McHugh's How to Curse (October 10-November 10), while at the Tricycle, Ron Hutchinson's Moonlight and Magnolias (October 27-November 3) is being imported from America. It's a farrago about the writing of Gone With the Wind. Closer to the West End is Giannina Carbunariu's Kebab at the Royal Court (October 19-November 3). Another freshly-minted entry is War Horse at the National's Olivier (in repertory October 8-January 12). The Great War drama is Nick Stafford's adaptation of the Michael Morpurgo novel and features many actors working with large-scale puppets. Or why not try Roy Wlliams' Joe Guy at the Soho (October 23-November 24), which concerns a Ghanaian footballer.