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Monday, 6 November, 2000, 16:59 GMT
Hollywood lends West End its stars
Jessica Lange
Jessica Lange follows a long line of Hollywood counterparts
Actress Jessica Lange has become the latest Hollywood star for whom treading the boards of London's West End stage has proved an irresistible lure.

Lange begins preview performances this week at the Lyric Theatre in an adaptation of Eugene O'Neill's Long Days Journey into Night, before properly opening on 21 November.

But despite the appeal of seeing the Oscar-winning Lange "in the flesh", the novelty of someone of her fame working in the capital has begun to wear off.

Macaulay Culkin
Macaulay Culkin chose London for his comeback

Over the last few years, London theatregoers have been treated to a constant stream of big stars happy to desert their luxurious trailers for poky dressing rooms.

Next on the Hollywood A-list to venture into London's West End is Ally McBeal star Calista Flockhart.

Flockhart will make her West End debut at the Savoy Theatre next summer.

Exact details are being kept under wraps but producer Duncan Weldon has described the play as a "major American classic".

Lange's most immediate predecessor under the West End spotlight is Home Alone star Macaulay Culkin, currently appearing at the Vaudeville Theatre.

The former child star came back from six years of self-imposed exile on 20 October to play a teenager being seduced by his French teacher in Madame Melville.

The producer of Madame Melville is US theatre veteran Gregory Mosher.

His admiration for the London theatre is boundless. He says he can see why it is such a magnet for American film stars.

"Theatre is part of people's lives in London. It is a warm bath that you live in and you take it for granted. It is nice to stick your toe in here," he says.

Kathleen Turner
Kathleen Turner enflamed interest when she first derobed as Mrs Robinson

The new play by Richard Nelson bears more than a passing similarity to another West End show The Graduate, installed at the Gielgud Theatre since April.

Both are set in the 1960s, both tell the story of a young man seduced by an older woman - and both are star vehicles.

The big US name currently attracting attention as the play's middle-aged temptress Mrs Robinson is model-turned-actress Jerry Hall.

She took over from screen siren Kathleen Turner, who caused a flurry of media attention when the play opened because the part requires the actress to strip.

Causing almost as much interest around the corner at the Queen's Theatre - but keeping her clothes on - is willowy Splash star Daryl Hannah in The Seven Year Itch.

Hannah officially took on the stage version of the part made famous on screen by Marilyn Monroe on 9 October, after a week of previews.

The role marks a considerable leap of courage for the actress.

Daryl Hannah
Daryl Hannah overcame stagefright to come to the West End
She has had to overcome the knowledge that - to the public - her film career has waned of late.

On top of that, she suffers from extreme stage-fright and has had to enlist the help of hypnotist Paul McKenna to conquer her fears.

Singing and dancing his way through the musical The King and I at the Palladium since April is Jason Scott Lee.

Lee, who is better known for his films Map of the Human Heart and The Bruce Lee Story, made his West End debut to play the King of Siam - made most famous by Yul Brynner.

All of these shows are taking bookings into the New Year.

Not so fortunate was a recent adaptation of the 1911 French farce The Guardsman, starring Greta Scacchi.

Scacchi - the star of White Mischief - made her West End comeback in the play at the Albery Theatre on 4 October after 12 years away.

But the show closed on 28 October after poor reviews, failing to win adequate financial backing.

Nicole Kidman
Nicole Kidman was a big hit in The Blue Room

A number of other Hollywood stars have also been and gone - albeit with more glory.

Former Dallas star Patrick Duffy made a brief appearance in the long-running play Art.

Nicole Kidman received rave reviews in 1998 for her role in The Blue Room, under the award-winning direction of American Beauty's Sam Mendes.

Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey, also of American Beauty fame, won applause the same year in The Iceman Cometh.

Spacey - a long-time supporter of the London stage - walked away with the title of best actor awarded by the London Theatre Critics' Circle.

Kevin Spacey
Kevin Spacey was a triumph in The Iceman Cometh

The appeal of London's West End stage remains elusive since the stars are certainly not crossing the Atlantic for money or glamour.

But one American actor, who loved the British theatre so much he stayed, is Rolf Saxon, who has lived in London for 20 years.

Saxon - who has appeared in Mission Impossible and Saving Private Ryan - is starring opposite Daryl Hannah in The Seven Year Itch.

"London is the seat of the English speaking theatre so to come here is quite a thrill," he explains.

"To mount a show on Broadway costs millions and if it is not a huge hit it is a failure. In London you can get away with more and it can still be a success."

See also:

28 Sep 98 | UK
Kidman triumphs
18 Oct 00 | Entertainment
Scacchi's West End return pulled
10 Oct 00 | Entertainment
Daryl overcomes stage fright
27 Jul 00 | Entertainment
Spacey backs British theatre
03 Feb 99 | Entertainment
Spacey scoops stage prize
19 Oct 00 | Entertainment
Curtain calls for Culkin
04 Nov 00 | Entertainment
West End star found dead
06 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Lange returns to West End
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