By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated March 01, 2002 01:00 PM

With PEOPLE reporting in its new issue that Madonna is set to make her London stage debut, playing an ambitious art dealer in the comedy “Up for Grabs” — rehearsals are set to begin in April –word about the show is spreading fast. Reuters reports that the stage satire will debut at London’s Wyndham’s Theater on May 23, with previews set to begin on May 9. “Madonna’s really looking forward to appearing in the West End,” a spokeswoman for the star, 43, told the news service. “She read the script and just loved the play.” Madonna’s rep, Liz Rosenberg, told PEOPLE that the star decided to do the play, written by leading Australian playwright David Williamson and a proven hit that played Down Under a year ago, because it’s a different challenge from touring in concert or making movies. It also gives the working mom the opportunity to be around the house for a bit. Madonna lives in the British capital with her two children, Rocco and Lourdes, and husband Guy Ritchie. “Up for Grabs” will be directed by Laurence Boswell, whose recent productions of “A Day in the Death of Joe Egg” and Ben Elton’s “Popcorn” were well received critically. Madonna has received mixed notices for her previous stage work. She last appeared on the boards in 1988 when she played a secretary in American playwright David Mamet’s satire on Hollywood, “Speed the Plow.” Most reviewers panned her work, though the most influential critic at the time, Frank Rich of The New York Times, highly praised her. Earlier, in 1986, she also starred off-Broadway in a fringe production of David Rabe’s “Goose and Tom Tom” with then-husband Sean Penn.