Madonna to headline West End play

Material Girl to debut in May previews

LONDON — Like a virgin, indeed.

Madonna is the latest thespian newcomer to the West End, where she will open May 23 in an Australian comedy called “Up For Grabs,” previewing from May 9.

The David Williamson play — preemed last February in Sydney in the playwright’s native Australia — has been described as a satire on the art market, which makes it appropriate that it will be playing Wyndham’s Theater, home for more than five years to the London smash, “Art.” (That play has since transferred to the Whitehall.)

Madonna heads a cast of seven in the play, to be directed by Laurence Boswell (“Popcorn,” “A Day In the Death of Joe Egg”). Boswell is currently staging the London preem, opening at the Garrick March 15, of Kenneth Lonergan’s “This Is Our Youth,” which itself boasts the not unstarry cast of Jake Gyllenhaal, Hayden Christensen, and Anna Paquin.

Jeremy Herbert will design. The producers are Sonia Friedman and Theater Royal Bath Productions, who have set a L37.50 ($53) top.

Madonna, 43, last acted on stage on Broadway in 1988 in David Mamet’s “Speed-the-Plow,” for which co-star Ron Silver won a Tony. Since then, she has been talked up over time for productions at the Royal Court, on Broadway (as a replacement star in “Closer”), and on Shaftesbury Ave. (in Douglas Carter Beane’s “As Bees In Honey Drown”), all to no actual avail. On another occasion, she seemed set to star in “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” for Peter Hall on the West End but that never happened.

But since she now lives in London with her husband, film director Guy Ritchie, and two children, a sustained West End run makes particular sense.

Starspotters should have a field day as regards London legit in May. Opening eight days before Madonna is another glamorous name, Gwyneth Paltrow, who leads the London preem — bowing May 15 at the Donmar Warehouse — of David Auburn’s Tony-winning “Proof.”

Let’s hope Williamson, the 60-year-old author of such film scripts as “Gallipoli” and “The Year of Living Dangerously,” fares better than a younger Ozzie scribe now being showcased on the West End: Hannie Rayson is proving a short-lived writing presence in London, where her play “Life After George” will close March 16 at the Duchess after a five-week run.

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