The Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, home of the New Shakespeare Company, has announced its 1999 summer repertory season. It will include two Shakespearean comedies (The Merry Wives of Windsor and Twelfth Night), a Broadway musical (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum) and a specially commissioned children's production. The season opens May 24 and runs to Sept. 4.
The season opens with The Merry Wives of Windsor, a play written by Shakespeare following the expressed wish of Queen Elizabeth I to see the comic character, Falstaff, from his Henry IV, "in love." Despite their husbands' suspicions, the Merry Wives prove their virtue and outwit Falstaff in his attempts at cuckoldry. Alan Strachan, who directed last summer's production of Troilus and Cressida, returns to the park to direct The Merry Wives of Windsor, last performed at the Open Air Theatre in 1984. The production, designed by Paul Farnsworth, opens June 1 (previews from May 24).
Rachel Kavanagh returns to the company to direct Twelfth Night, Shakespeare's comedy of mistaken identities and misdirected passions, last performed at the theatre in 1989. Shipwrecked in Illyria, Viola finds herself caught in a bizarre love triangle when she (disguised as a boy) is sent by Duke Orsino to woo the young countess Olivia. While members of Olivia's household are occupied with petty power struggles, the pieces of the romantic conundrum finally fall into place when Viola's twin brother appears. Twelfth Night, designed by David Knapman, opens June 4 (previews from May 26).
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum -- book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart and music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim -- is this year's addition to the company's repertoire of Broadway musicals. The show is set in ancient Rome, where virgins are regarded as objects to be conquered and slaves are de rigueur. Roy Hudd leads the cast as slave Pseudolus with Susie Blake as battle-axe Domina. Ian Talbot, artistic director of the New Shakespeare Company, directs and Paul Farnsworth designs. A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum opens July 23 (previews from July 20).
The 1999 season also includes a children's play for six-year-olds and up, still to be announced, which will run for matinees only during August. The play, produced in conjunction with the London Zoo, will begin at the Open Air Theatre, go "on safari" through the park and conclude at the zoo's amphitheatre. In addition, throughout the summer, there will be a number of Sundays in the Park concerts, including a Tribute to Benny Green on Sunday, Aug. 8, and Late Nights in the Park events as well as the traditional free Midsummer Night Concert. Dates are to be confirmed.
For further information, contact the Open Air Theatre box office on 011-44-171-486-2431.