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Wednesday, 1 March, 2000, 17:01 GMT
McShane plays Witches' tune
Witches of Eastwick stars Joanna Riding, Ian McShane, Lucie Arnaz and Maria Friedman
Ian McShane with Joanna Riding, Lucie Arnaz and Maria Friedman
Former Lovejoy star Ian McShane is taking up the violin - so he can play the lead in Sir Cameron Mackintosh's musical version of The Witches Of Eastwick.

The 57-year-old actor beat Hollywood stars Michael Douglas and Alec Baldwin to the part of Darryl Van Horne, made famous by Jack Nicholson in the 1987 film.

Sir Cameron, who is investing $4.5m (2.8m) in the production, based on the film and John Updike's original novel, said: "I'm trying to send him to the Royal College of Music to learn how to play the violin."

Ian McShane in Lovejoy
McShane is best known for playing antiques dealer Lovejoy
McShane's violin debut will come during a seduction scene in which his co-star, Joanna Riding, plays the cello.

"I think it will have to be a crash course," he said.

Sir Cameron, whose other productions include Cats and Les Miserables, is promising lavish special effects to allow the four lead characters - played by McShane, Riding, Lucie Arnaz and Maria Friedman - to fly around the stage.

The most expensive effect will see McShane flying out of the roof of an exploding church.

Sir Cameron said he was confident his star would be perfect for the part, despite his lack of musical experience.

Witches of Eastwick cast
The show is Lucie Arnaz's London stage debut
He added: "He'll have an entirely different kind of sex appeal to Jack Nicholson - Ian's an original."

It will be McShane's first London stage role since he starred with Dame Judi Dench in The Promise in the late 1960s.

He is taking vocal lessons, but said he was confident about coping with the new challenge.

"It's a case of strengthening. I could probably do the whole show, but my voice might give out at the end of the first week."

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