Alex Jennings, fresh from winning the Evening Standard Drama Award for Best Actor in 2001 - for his work at the National Theatre - is to take over from Jonathan Pryce in My Fair Lady in April 2002.
Jennings is well-known in the profession as a superb actor who has consistently shone in productions at the National Theatre for over ten years: his SS officer in Ghetto was every bit as terrifying, and well acted, as Ralph Fiennes's higher-profile role as a concentration camp commander in the Spielberg movie Schindler's List.
However, even his greatest admirers would not claim that he is a star. Hopefully this will change with his arrival at Drury Lane, playing Henry Higgins, from April 22, 2002.
His appointment is an interesting straw in the wind that despite - or perhaps because of - the publicity over Martine McCutcheon and her problems in the role, My Fair Lady will in future sell through the show itself rather than the star names appearing in it.
This is a strategy that worked very well with Les Misérables from the start, and has worked, post-Michael Crawford, with The Phantom of the Opera as well. Miss Saigon broke the first My Fair Lady's record at Drury Lane: with actors of the quality of Alex Jennings lining up to appear in it, it looks as if My Fair Lady might well reclaim her crown.
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane box office: 0870 890 1109.
—by Paul Webb Theatrenow