"If Love Were All": Seldom Seen Noël Coward Musical Bitter Sweet Will Star Siân Phillips at Bard

News   "If Love Were All": Seldom Seen Noël Coward Musical Bitter Sweet Will Star Siân Phillips at Bard Tony Award nominee Siân Phillips, the Welsh actress known for playing strong and stylish women of a certain age in Broadway's Marlene and TV's "I, Claudius," will play to her strengths this summer in the Hudson Valley in a rare revival of Noël Coward's 1929 musical Bitter Sweet.

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The operetta-scented show with book, music and lyrics by Coward, will receive what Bard SummerScape producers characterize as its first fully-staged production since its original run in 1929. It'll play the Bard SummerScape festival for nine performances Aug. 4-14 in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY.

This new version of Bitter Sweet was commissioned by Bard SummerScape and is re-imagined by director Michael Gieleta. According to production notes, Gieleta "scales down the original work and focuses on the dramatic texture of the story." The work is and "example of the dramatic range that early music theatre was capable of, and vividly brings to life one of Coward's early masterpieces."

Gieleta said in a statement that Bitter Sweet "has long been underrated, despite featuring some of Coward's best-known songs including 'If Love Were All,' 'I'll See You Again' and 'Zigeuner.' It is also a sterling example of complete authorship in musical theatre history — with Coward being the author of the music, lyrics and the libretto."

The new production "retains the retrospective structure of the play as conceived by Coward, in contrast with the cinematic versions of the piece, which were much loathed by the notoriously outspoken author."

In the musical, drenched in nostalgia, "a high-society doyenne [Lady Shayne, played by Best Actress Tony nominee Phillips], confronted with a niece's indecision at a life-changing love dilemma, recalls her own youthful elopement with a Bohemian musician, and its irrevocable social and personal consequences. Should the call of life be answered, come what may?" The cast featres Marianne Rendon as Dolly; Joel Johnstone as Vincent; Brian Maxsween as Henry; Sarah Miller as Sarah/Sari; William Ferguson as Carl; Ryan Speakman as Lord Shayne; Justin Randolph as Hugh/Tranisch; Joshua Jeremiah as Sir Arthur/Captain Lutte; Claire Simard as Mrs. Millick; Amanda Squitieri as Manon; and David Schnell as Herr Schlick.

The orchestral arrangements for Bard's Bitter Sweet are by Jack Parton, a SummerScape veteran whose past successes include last season's presentation of The Chocolate Soldier. Bitter Sweet will be conducted by Bard Music Festival's director of choruses James Bagwell, who led The Chocolate Soldier.

Director Gieleta's last work to be seen in the U.S. was Peter Nichols' play Lingua Franca, which transferred to New York from London in November 2010 as part of the Brits Off Broadway season at 59E59 Theaters.

Bitter Sweet will play at Bard's Theater Two Aug. 4, 6 & 11 at 8 PM; Aug. 5, 10, 12, 13 & 14 at 3 PM; Aug. 7 at 7 PM. Tickets are $55.

For tickets and further information on all SummerScape events, call the Fisher Center box office at (845) 758-7900 or visit www.fishercenter.bard.edu.

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