Incoming artistic director Daniel Evans and executive director Rachel Tackley have announced their first season at the helm of the powerhouse Chichester Festival Theatre, which under the previous regime was responsible for such West End transfers as Sweeney Todd, Gypsy, and Singin' in the Rain.
Actors set to appear will include the U.K. stage debut of Tony- and Oscar-winning Marcia Gay Harden in a new production of Sweet Bird of Youth; Ian McKellen returning to the role of King Lear that he has previously played for the RSC in a new production; popular U.K. comedy star Omid Djali in Fiddler on the Roof; and Olivier Award winner Sharon D. Clarke in the first U.K.-originated production of Jeanine Tesori and Tony Kushner's Caroline, or Change. The season will also include new plays by James Graham, Edna O'Brien, and Deborah Bruce.
Announcing the first season, which will run from April to November in the Chichester Festival Theatre and Minerva Theatre, Evans and Tackley commented, "We are thrilled to introduce our first season at the helm of Chichester Festival Theatre. It’s been a joy to put together a variety of work created by some of the most exciting artists in the country."
Evans is himself set to direct three shows, two of them in the main house Festival Theatre and a third in the Minerva. In the Festival Theatre, he will direct the opening production of Alan Bennett's 1968 comedy Forty Years On, beginning performances April 21 prior to an official opening April 26 for a run through May 20, and a new production of the 1964 Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof, beginning performances July 10 prior to an official opening July 18, for a run through August 26. In the Minerva, he will direct the premiere of James Graham's Quiz.
Forty Years On, which revolves around a headmaster who is retiring from a private school and about to appear in the school play, will be led by Richard Wilson, the TV and stage star best known for One Foot in the Grave. The production will be designed by Lez Brotherston, with musical direction and arrangements by Tom Brady, lighting by Mark Henderson, sound by Emma Laxton, video by Nina Dunn, and movement by Naomi Said.
Fiddler on the Roof will star Omid Djali as Tevye and Tracy-Ann Oberman (about to appear in the West End in Stepping Out) as Tevye's wife Golde. The production will be designed by Lez Brotherston, with choreography by Alistair David, musical supervision and orchestrations by David White with Andy Massey as co-orchestrator and Tom Brady as musical director, lighting by David Hersey and sound by Carolyn Downing.
Tennessee Williams's Sweet Bird of Youth will be directed by Jonathan Kent, beginning performances June 2 prior to an official opening June 9, for a run through June 24 in the Festival Theatre. It will star Harden (God of Carnage) in her U.K theatre debut as Alexandra del Lago, a fading Hollywood legend seeking refuge in a small town. She is joined by Brian J. Smith as Chance, who is currently reprising his Tony-nominated Broadway role as the Gentleman Caller in Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie in the West End. The production will be designed by Anthony Ward, with lighting by Mark Henderson, music by Debbie Wiseman, sound by Paul Groothuis and video by Andrzej Goulding.
Also in the Festival Theatre, Blanche McIntyre'e will direct a revival of Alan Ayckbourn's trilogy of interconnecting plays The Norman Conquests, beginning performances September 18 prior to an official opening October 3, for a run through October 28. The plays, set over a summer weekend at an English country house, shows family life from hilariously differing perspectives, performed by one ensemble of actors. Each play can be enjoyed as a single performance or seen as one event in any sequence, either over different days or on trilogy days. It will be designed by Simon Higlett with lighting by Johanna Town, music by Olly Fox and sound by George Dennis.
Caroline, or Change will launch the season in the Minerva Theatre, beginning performances May 6 prior to an official opening May 11, for a run through June 3. George C. Wolfe's original New York production, which transferred from the Public Theatre to Broadway in 2004, was subsequently re-staged at London's National Theatre in 2006, when it won the Olivier Award for Best Musical. This new production is being directed by Michael Longhurst. It will star Sharon D. Clarke, an Olivier winner for the National's The Amen Corner who also appeared there last year in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. The production will be designed by Fly Davis, with choreography by Ann Yee, musical direction by Nigel Lilley, lighting by Jack Knowles and sound by Paul Arditti.
The season in the Minerva will continue with Lisa Blair directing a new stage version of Edna O'Brien's 1960 novel The Country Girls, beginning performances June 9 prior to an official opening June 14, for a run through July 8. It will be followed by Jeremy Herrin directing Deborah Bruce's new play The House They Grew Up In, which revolves around a co-dependent brother and sister, and will be co-produced with Headlong, of which Herrin is artistic director. Then Richard Eyre will direct a new production of Githa Sowerby's The Stepmother, a play about manipulation, money, and matrimony, beginning performances August 11 prior to an official opening August 17, for a run through September 9.
Also in the Minerva, McKellen will return to the title role of King Lear that he has previously played for the RSC, in a new ensemble production to be directed by Jonathan Munby, beginning performances September 22 prior ton an official opening September 29, for a run through October 28.
Finally in the Minerva, will begin performances November 3 prior to an official opening November 10, for a run through December 2. Directed by Daniel Evans, the play revolves around the story of Charles Ingram, ‘the coughing Major’, who was accused of cheating following his appearance on TV's Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
Public booking for the season opens online March 4 on cft.org.uk, with phone and personal bookings from March 7, via the box office on 01243 781312