and Matt Damon
are all making their London stage debuts. "Every time I do a play," Paltrow—who is earning a few hundred dollars a week instead of her usual movie millions—told Britain's Daily Telegraph
, "I remember why I wanted this job in the first place."
Matt DamonThis Is Our Youth
, May 7-29, June 14-15
What: In Kenneth Lonergan's drama, Damon—who hasn't acted onstage since college—stars as Dennis Ziegler, a teenage drug dealer in New York City in the early '80s.
Why: Pal Casey Affleck checked out the original London cast of Hayden Christensen, Jake Gyllenhaal
and Anna Paquin—and convinced Damon to sign up. "I just couldn't say no," Damon told Newsday
. "It's so exciting to build a performance...and feel the audience's attention and if you're gaining it or losing it and then how to get it back."
What the critics say: Britain's Guardian
called the clean-cut Damon "horribly authentic as the cocky Dennis," but the Daily Mail
declared him "10 years too old" for the part.
, May 15-June 15
What: The Oscar winner plays Catherine, the 25-year-old daughter of a gifted mathematician, who's wrestling with her dad's—and possibly her own—genius and insanity.
Why: "Just for the thrill of it," says Paltrow. (It certainly wasn't the reported $510 a week paycheck.)
Celeb Support: Dad Bruce and mom Blythe Danner—with Emma
costar Greta Scacchi and pal Stella McCartney—upped the star quotient on opening night.
What the critics say: Calling her performance "almost flawless," one review noted that Paltrow uses her toes "to express annoyance, frustration, unhappiness and a whole range of emotions that some actresses cannot manage with their faces, let alone their feet."
MadonnaUp for Grabs
, May 23-July 13
What: Playing a Manhattan art dealer, she wields her womanly wiles on clients of any gender.
Big scene: A lesbian kiss with castmate Megan Dodds.
Backstage buzz: A rep denies reports that Madonna
demanded no eye contact from underlings. She did demand tighter security, though, especially after an ice-cream seller at the theater was discovered to be an obsessed fan with a shrine to the pop icon in his home.
What the critics say: Officially, Grabs
won't be reviewed until May 24. Said a journalist who caught a preview: "The lady is not a stage natural...[but] I ended up loving the dame." Echoed fan Malva Green, 41: "She was nervous to start with but got a lot better."
Want to see American movie stars—and one pop icon—live onstage? Go east, young fan, to London's West End theaters, where suddenly Yanks are thicker than Ozzie Osbourne's accent.