Tony Award Winner Bedford Will Direct U.S. Bow of Christie Mystery, Chimneys

News   Tony Award Winner Bedford Will Direct U.S. Bow of Christie Mystery, Chimneys Internationally-known director and actor Brian Bedford will stage the U.S. premiere of Agatha Christie's "lost" play, Chimneys, for the International Mystery Writers' Festival in Owensboro, KY, June 12-22.

As previously reported, after being lost for more than 70 years, the play was found and produced in Canada, and the U.S. premiere rights were awarded to the International Mystery Writers' Festival.

Tony nominee Bedford is known for his classical and modern roles on Broadway and at his longtime artistic home at the Stratford Festival in Ontario. He has directed in Canadian and American theatres.

"Brian was the very top of a very short list of ideal directors for this '30s-style thriller by Dame Agatha," stated festival president Zev Buffman. "We lucked out because this was one of those rare years when Brian took a sabbatical from Stratford."

Casting begins in Chicago March 10, and rehearsals begin May 4 toward the June 12 launch of the full production at the RiverPark Center in Owensboro.

Bedford studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where his classmates included Peter O'Toole, Albert Finney and Alan Bates. His first Broadway role was in Peter Shaffer's Five Finger Exercise. He has appeared in 17 Broadway productions, and won the 1971 Best Actor Tony Award for Molière's The School for Wives. Chimneys is based on Christie's novel, "The Secret of Chimneys." The Equity staging at The RiverPark Center is expected to have a marquee-name actor attached — "a top Broadway or Hollywood swashbuckling star playing the lead role of Anthony Cade, a young adventuring Englishman who runs into blackmail, conspiracy, romance and murder over missing diamonds and political intrigue in a country in the Balkans," according to an earlier festival announcement.

British-born Christie (1890-1976) is the popular international mystery novelist who created such characters as detectives Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. Her often-produced plays include The Mousetrap, Witness for the Prosecution and Ten Little Indians. Her work has also transferred popularly to the movies — "Murder on the Orient Express" and "Death on the Nile" among them.

According to the festival organizers, Chimneys was to debut in London in 1931, but the only manuscript — in Christie's own handwriting — disappeared during her trip to North America and remained lost for more than 70 years.

The play was discovered in Calgary, Alberta by the artistic director of the Vertigo Mystery Theatre, where Chimneys had its world premiere in October 2003, attended by Agatha Christie's grandson Mathew Prichard.

The Pitlochry Festival Theatre in Scotland subsequently staged the European premiere in 2006.

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Also snagged to direct mystery festival productions this year are Mark Bellamy, artistic director for the Vertigo Mystery Theatre, Calgary, Canada — the troupe that found the shelved Christie work; and Sean Daniels, associate artistic director, Actors Theatre of Louisville.

Bellamy will stage the new Sherlock Holmes piece The Final Toast by Edgar Award-winner Stuart Kaminsky.

Daniels will be directing the two new works being presented in the Jody Berry Cabaret Theatre during the Festival: The Last Appointment by Donald C. Drake and Fleming, An American Thriller by Sam Bobrick.

Festival president and co-chair Buffman, himself a Broadway vet, is president and CEO of RiverPark. For more information about the Festival or to reserve tickets, visit www.newmysteries.org.