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Slater preps West End return

Star to follow 'Cuckoo's Nest' with Williams revival

LONDON — Within weeks of closing on the West End in a lucrative stage revival of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” thesp Christian Slater will make his next London stage foray: as Chance Wayne in Tennessee Williams’ “Sweet Bird of Youth,” opposite an American leading lady to be named.

Terry Johnson, the English writer-director who helmed “Cuckoo’s Nest,” will direct the Williams play, which hasn’t been seen in London since Clare Higgins and Rob Knepper headlined a 1994 National Theater revival. Higgins won an Olivier Award for actress in the production, directed by Richard Eyre.

Lead producer Nica Burns told Daily Variety that she’s looking for an American woman this time around.

Rehearsals are expected to start in August for a late-September opening.

Slater’s casting won approval from Tom Erhardt, the agent for the U. of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., which holds the copyright on Williams’ works.

“When you read the play, it’s actually Chance Wayne,” Erhardt told Daily Variety. “It’s his story.”

Slater had a flawless attendance record during “Cuckoo’s Nest’s” 17-week London run, which more than doubly recouped.

The last time “Sweet Bird” was on the commercial West End, as opposed to the state-subsidized National, was in 1985 at the Theater Royal, Haymarket. Lauren Bacall and Michael Beck starred.

Burns, the producer, said “Sweet Bird” will be considerably costlier than “Cuckoo’s Nest” since it has multiple sets (“Nest” had one) and a cast of 20. The Gielgud Theater, where “Nest” closed Jan. 22, is being eyed as a likely venue.

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