'Lord of the Rings' star Ian McKellen is to play Widow Twanky in a reworking of 'Aladdin' later this year at London's Old Vic theatre.

The announcement was made yesterday by actor Kevin Spacey as he revealed his plans for his first season as Artistic Director at the Old Vic.

Speaking about McKellen's new role, Spacey said: "He has always wanted to play a Dame in pantomime. We chose 'Aladdin' because it is the one Ian wanted to do."

Spacey's first season plans also include staging 'The Philadelphia Story' and starring in a production of the Dennis McIntyre play 'National Anthems', which has never been performed in Europe.

In future seasons he intends to stage and star in Shakespeare plays and said that while he would not be giving up his film career, his commitment to the Old Vic was not in doubt.

Spacey declined to comment on speculation that he was trying to persuade Gwyneth Paltrow and Cameron Diaz to star in Old Vic productions.