Barnum and The Pajama Game Will Be Part of Summer Season at Chichester; Christopher Fitzgerald, Hadley Fraser to Star

News   Barnum and The Pajama Game Will Be Part of Summer Season at Chichester; Christopher Fitzgerald, Hadley Fraser to Star
The annual summer season at the U.K.'s Chichester Festival Theatre and Minerva studio, which has yielded such West End transfers as Macbeth and Enron (also both going on to Broadway); Yes Prime Minister; Calendar Girls; Sweeney Todd; Kiss Me, Kate; Goodnight Mr. Tom; and the double bill of The Browning Version and South Downs in recent years, will this year include new productions of the Broadway musicals Barnum and The Pajama Game.

This year, however, with the main auditorium undergoing a £22 million redevelopment, a temporary, purpose-built, state-of-the-art auditorium called Theatre in the Park will be erected to stage two of the productions; the auditorium will mirror the existing house with 1,400 seats and a thrust stage. It will be just a few minutes’ stroll across Oaklands Park from the Festival Theatre site.

It will be launched with a new production of Cy Coleman, Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble's 1980 Broadway musical Barnum, presented by Chichester Festival Theatre in association with Cameron Mackintosh and presented in a revised version by Mackintosh and Bramble. It will begin performances July 15 prior to an official opening July 24, for a run through Aug. 31.

It will be directed by Timothy Sheader, artistic director of the Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park, and co-directed and choreographed by Liam Steel, who previously did Into the Woods at Regent's Park and subsequently at New York's Delacorte together. It will be co-choreographed by Andrew Wright (currently represented in the West End by his choreography of Singin' in the Rain, which also originated at Chichester), with sets by Scott Pask, costumes by Paul Wills, orchestrations by William David Brohn, musical supervision by Stephen Brooker, lighting by Paule Constable and sound by Mick Potter. Vicki Amedume is circus consultant.

The title role of Phineas T. Barnum, "America's Greatest Showman" who teamed up with JA Bailey to create Barnum and Bailey's circus, will be played by Broadway's Christopher Fitzgerald, whose roles include originating Boq in Wicked and Igor inYoung Frankenstein and has also played Launcelot Gobbo opposite Al Pacino in The Merchant of Venice and Og in the last revival of Finian's Rainbow.

It will be followed at the Theatre in the Park by a new production of Tim Firth's 1992 play Neville's Island, beginning performances Sept. 11 prior to an official opening Sept. 20, for a run through Sept. 28. The play premiered at Scarborough's Stephen Joseph Theatre, before transferring to the West End's Apollo Theatre. In the play four out-of-condition, middle-aged businessmen, sent off on a team-building exercise, succeed in becoming the first people ever to get shipwrecked on an island in the Lake District. What should have been a bonding process turns into a muddy, bloody fight for survival amidst a carnival of recrimination, French cricket and sausages. This new production is directed by Angus Jackson, with designs by Robert Innes Hopkins, lighting by Howard Harrison and sound by Paul Grothuis.

In the Minerva, the season will comprise a new production of the 1954 Broadway musical The Pajama Game, the world premiere of David Edgar's If Only, the return of last year's production of Brecht's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui ahead of a planned transfer to the West End's Duchess, and a new production of Julian Mitchell's Another Country.

The Pajama Game will begin performances April 22, prior to an official opening April 29, for a run through June 8. Richard Eyre and Stephen Mear, who previously collaborated in the West End and on Broadway on Mary Poppins and on Betty Blue Eyes in the West End, will reunite as director and choreographer, respectively. Designs are by Tim Hatley, with dance arrangements, musical supervision and direction by Gareth Valentine, lighting by Howard Harrison and sound by Paul Groothuis.

Hadley Fraser, most recently seen in the West End as Javert in Les Miserables and seen on Broadway in The Pirate Queen will play Sid, with Joanna Riding (an Olivier winner for Carousel at the National and in the West End, where her credits also include The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Billy Elliot and The Witches of Eastwick) as Babe.

The world premiere of David Edgar's If Only will begin performances June 14, prior to an official opening June 20, for a run through July 27. Angus Jackson will direct. In the play, it is April 2010, the day after the first prime ministerial debate. Stranded in Malaga Airport by the Icelandic ash-cloud, a Labour special advisor, a Lib Dem staffer and a Tory candidate consider their options. Can their parties survive without them? How will they get home? And who’ll end up in government? Fast forward to August 2014. As the nation settles down to commemorate the outbreak of the First World War, the three politicians meet again. One of them knows something that could change the outcome of the 2015 election. Should they reveal it? And at what cost?

Jonathan Church's production of Brecht's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, first seen at Chichester last year, will return, beginning performances Aug. 15 for a run through Sept. 14, ahead of a West End transfer to the Duchess. Presented in a translation by George Tabori that has been revised by Alistair Beaton, it is designed by Simon Higlett, with lighting by Tim Mitchell, music by Matthew Scott and sound by Mike Walker. The play is set in Chicago in the 1930s, where the Great Depression is the perfect time for Arturo Ui and his mob of gangsters to run protection rackets for both workers and businesses. Soon Ui's menacing shadow looms large across the entire city as he strives to seize absolute power. Henry Goodman returns to reprise his performance in the title role, for which he won the Theatre Award UK Award.

Finally, Julian Mitchell's 1981 play Another Country will be revived in a new production directed by Jeremy Herrin. It will begin performances Sept. 18 prior to an official opening Sept. 24, for a run through Oct. 19. A fictionalized account of the youth of such people as the spy Guy Burgess and the Communist John Cornford, who died in the Spanish Civil War, it is set in an English public school in the 1930s, and revolves around two students called Bennett and Judd who are are both outsiders, one coming to terms with his homosexuality, the other already a committed Marxist. But the Establishment has traditional ways of dealing with rebels and when a scandal rocks the school, the young men must confront their beliefs and make choices which will have a momentous impact on their lives. The original 1981 production launched the careers of Rupert Everett and Kenneth Branagh (who respectively played Bennett and Judd), with subsequent West End casts also featuring Daniel Day-Lewis and Colin Firth. The 1984 film version starred Everett and Firth. This production is co-produced with Theatre Royal Bath Productions in association with Fiery Angel. Priority booking for Friends of Chichester Theatre opens Feb. 26, with general booking from March 7. To book tickets, contact the box office on 01243 781312, or visit for more details.

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