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AMERICANS ABROAD: With Michael Ball confirmed for the London run of Passion, and a question mark still over the possibility of Patti LuPone--plus the likelihood that Company will transfer from the Donmar Warehouse to a West End home for the spring and that Jeanne Moreau will take on the Zoe Caldwell role in the London Master Class, Broadway is once again well-represented all over town. Paul Keating, who made his stage debut only eight years ago (he's now 19) as Gavroche in Les Misérables, will be the London Tommy, while another local boy, Phillip Schofield (of Joseph. . .), is widely expected to lead the London cast of How To Succeed in Business without Really Trying if Matthew Broderick decides not to cross the Atlantic.

Unusually for this time of year, we also have two major musicals opening in late January: Simon Callow brings the first-ever staging of Les Enfants du Paradis (the Jean-Louis Barrault French movie classic of the mid-1940's) to the Barbican, while to the Aldwych comes Fields of Ambrosia, in which Christine Andreas stars opposite the lyricist Joe Higgins. The score by Martin Silvestri sounds just wonderful on a pre-rehearsal CD, and the plot comes from an old Stacy Keach movie about a Kentucky state executioner falling in love with one of his victims. Musical hits have come from stranger sources than that, though maybe not many.

EURO NATIONAL: Flushed with its success in winning seven of this year's ten Evening Standard Drama Awards (not least for Michael Gambon in Volpone, Geraldine McEwan in Way of the World and new playwright Patrick Marber's Dealer's Choice), the National Theatre now moves into 1996, the last full year of Richard Eyre's management, in a distinctly European mood.

The Olivier in March will be home to the world premiere of Tony Harrison's The Prince's Play, a new version of Victor Hugo's Le Roi S'Amuse, to be directed by Eyre himself. A new version of Schiller's Mary Stuart then turns up in the Lyttelton, followed by Paul Scofield in Ibsen's John Gabriel Borkman.

Meanwhile, the success of A Little Night Music (Judi Dench, Sian Phillips, Patricia Hodge) means that it may well come out of the repertoire system to play an eight-shows-a-week schedule through part of the summer.

PRINCE'S CHOICE: The deaths of Paul Eddington, Gary Bond, Marti Caine, David Healy and Sir Robert Stephens have made this a sad winter around the West End; but both Eddington and Stephens have left us recently-published memoirs of considerable enchantment, and Stephens also left us something else: a CD on which, accompanied by the Prince of Wales who paid his last hospital bills, he reads scenes from Henry IV concerning Falstaff (Stephens was the greatest of his generation, indeed since the war) and the problems of Kingship, about which Charles is himself now something of an expert. Uneasy lies the head which does not as yet wear the crown, merely the weight of Princess Di's marital revelations.

-- By Sheridan Morley

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