There will be a George Stiles and Anthony Drewe double bill as part of Jonathan Church and Alan Finch’s Chichester Festival Theatre 2016 season – the last under their leadership as artistic director and executive director.
The two British musicals will see Rachel Kavanaugh direct a new stage version of Half a Sixpence with book by Julian Fellowes and new music and lyrics by Stiles and Drewe (alongside original songs by David Heneker), while Patricia Hodge and Steven Pacey will lead the cast in the world premiere of Travels With My Aunt, based on Graham Greene’s novel, again with a score by Stiles and Drewe alongside a book by Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman, directed by Christopher Luscombe.
In Travels With My Aunt (18 April – 4 June in the Minerva Theatre) retired bank manager Henry Pulling is happy alone with his dahlias until he meets his decidedly bohemian Aunt Augusta who, having rattled the family skeletons, persuades the reluctant Henry to flee to Europe. He finds himself in a luxurious whirl through Paris and Istanbul and on to South America; but alongside the romance and first-class thrills, there’s a lot Henry doesn’t know about his aunt – particularly why she has so many grateful men dotted around the globe.
Emmy Award-winning writers Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman and the Olivier Award-winning team of George Stiles and Anthony Drewe (Mary Poppins, Honk!) all previously collaborated on the musical Betty Blue Eyes.
Patricia Hodge plays Aunt Augusta. Her long association with Chichester encompasses The Mitford Girls, As You Like It and Calendar Girls; her recent television credits include several series of Miranda.
Steven Pacey plays Henry; his previous Chichester appearances include Kent in King Lear; and in the West End, By Jeeves, The Admirable Crichton and The Phantom of the Opera.
The cast also includes Stephanie Bron, Jack Chissick, Michael Duke, Nicholas Duncan, Sarah Earnshaw, Rachel Grundy, Hugh Maynard, Abiola Ogunbiyi, Jonathan Dryden Taylor, Sebastien Torkia and Jack Wilcox.
Director Christopher Luscombe’s RSC productions of Love’s Labour’s Lost and Much Ado About Nothing will be seen later in Festival 2016. His many credits include Dandy Dick with Patricia Hodge, Spamalot and The Rocky Horror Show; his production of Nell Gwynn for Shakespeare’s Globe has just transferred to the West End.
Travels With My Aunt is designed by Colin Falconer with choreography by Ewan Jones, orchestrations by Nicholas Skilbeck, musical direction by Mark Aspinall, lighting by Tim Mitchell and sound by Paul Groothuis.
Half a Sixpence is based on the H.G.Wells novel Kipps: The Story of a Simple Soul and the original musical by Beverley Cross and David Heneker, will run at the Festival Theatre from 14 July to 3 September,
The completely fresh adaptation reunites book-writer Julian Fellowes (Oscar-winning screenwriter and creator of Downton Abbey) with George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, the musical team that co-creator Cameron Mackintosh first put together to create the hit stage adaptation of Mary Poppins with Disney. The score is inspired by and features several of composer Heneker’s songs from the original production, including ‘Flash Bang Wallop’, ‘Money to Burn’ and ‘Half a Sixpence’.
Arthur Kipps, an orphan and over-worked draper’s assistant at the turn of the last century, unexpectedly inherits a fortune that propels him into high society. His childhood companion, Ann Pornick, watches with dismay as Arthur is made over in a new image by the beautiful and classy Helen Walsingham. Both young women undoubtedly love Arthur – but which of them should he listen to? With the help of his friends, Arthur learns that if you want to have the chance of living the right life, you need to make the right choices.
Bryan Dick plays Arthur Kipps; his many television appearances include Ernie Wise in the widely praised TV drama Eric and Ernie, Wolf Hall and Capital; his stage credits include Mozart in Amadeus at Sheffield Theatres and The Alchemist at the National Theatre.
This is director Rachel Kavanaugh’s sixth Chichester Festival production; her previous work at the venue includes Love Story and The Music Man, while for Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre she has directed Seven Brides For Seven Brothers and The Sound of Music.
Half a Sixpence will be designed by Paul Brown, with choreography by Andrew Wright and orchestrations by William David Brohn. The musical supervisor will be Stephen Brooker, the co-musical supervisor and musical director will be Graham Hurman; with lighting by Paule Constable and sound by Mick Potter.
Andrew Wright’s award-winning choreography includes Guys and Dolls, Singin’ in the Rain and Barnum for Chichester, and Mrs Henderson Presents in the West End.
Since assuming leadership in 2005 Jonathan Church and Alan Finch have produced more than 100 productions including 24 new plays, winning over 40 awards and more than doubling audience numbers.
Two highlights of Festival 2015 will be seen in London this year: Jonathan Kent’s staging of Young Chekhov transfers to the National Theatre from July, and Michael Morpurgo’s Running Wild receives its London premiere at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre in May. Guys and Dolls, originally produced in Festival 2014, will extend its West End life by transferring from the Savoy to the Phoenix Theatre in March and will simultaneously tour the UK. Jonathan Church’s hit 2011 production of Singin’ in the Rain tours South Africa and Australia. The Olivier Award-winning Goodnight Mister Tom completes another London season this week and tours the UK again until May 2016 with the Children’s Touring Partnership. David Hare’s The Judas Kiss, with Rupert Everett as Oscar Wilde, is co-presented by CFT in Toronto and New York.
Artistic director Jonathan Church said: ‘‘Over the past ten years we have welcomed directors and actors of the finest calibre, many making their Chichester debuts, and this season is no exception. It’s fitting to end the year once again with a new production from our brilliant Youth Theatre and the promise of a future generation.”
Executive director Alan Finch added: “Festival 2015 saw us break new records with over £6 million in box office sales. Our commitment to developing new audiences continues with Festival 2016. Once again, over 10,000 tickets will be available at £10 in the Festival Theatre and our £8.50 ticket scheme for 16 to 25 year olds is re-launched with a new name, Prologue.”
Daniel Evans will step down from his role at Sheffield Theatres in June 2016 to take over as artistic director of Chichester Festival Theatre, succeeding Jonathan Church.