Chichester marks its first full season following its major redevelopment with two major musicals in the Festival Theatre, the previously announced Michael Ball in Mack and Mabel, directed by Jonathan Church with choreography by Stephen Mear, and a new stage version of A Damsel in Distress, directed and choreographed by Rob Ashford.
A Damsel in Distress (30 May–27 June) has music and lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin and a book by Jeremy Sams and Robert Hudson (based on the novel by P.G.Wodehouse and the play by P.G.Wodehouse and Ian Hay).
Bring together a world-weary American composer, a beautiful and irrepressible English socialite, a fierce aunt, and lots of other delightfully eccentric characters and the stage is set for this new stage musical. Director/choreographer Rob Ashford’s credits include Shrek the Musical, Cat On a Hot Tin Roof with Scarlett Johansson, and Macbeth with Kenneth Branagh and Alex Kingston.
Mack and Mabel (13 July–5 September) has music and lyrics by Jerry Herman and a book by Michael Stewart (revised by Francine Pascal). This musical comedy is a poignant love story and a tribute to the silent movie era, based on the true romance between Hollywood legends Mack Sennett and Mabel Normand. It received eight Tony Award nominations when it opened on Broadway in 1974.
Michael Ball plays Mack Sennett. His other recent credits include his Olivier Award-winning performance in Chichester’s production of Sweeney Todd (also West End), the BBC drama That Day We Sang and the West End production of Hairspray.
Director Jonathan Church’s most recent musical hit is the award-winning Singin’ in the Rain, which continues its international tour in 2015. His other credits include Festival 2014’s Taken At Midnight (currently running in the West End) and Amadeus, as well as The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. Choreography is by Stephen Mear, whose credits include Festival 2014’s Amadeus and Gypsy.
As Chichester unveils its new season, the theatre continues to consolidate its reputation nationally and internationally with Festival 2014 productions of Taken At Midnight, Stevie and Gypsy in London during 2015, while a UK tour of Barnum continues and Singin’ in the Rain is staged in New Zealand and South Africa.
Artistic director Jonathan Church said: “It is wonderful to present our first full season since the reopening of the Festival Theatre last year, and the tenth since Alan and I began work at Chichester. It has been gratifying to receive such a positive response to the refurbished building, and the work staged there and in the Minerva Theatre during 2014. We are looking forward to consolidating last year’s achievements with this year’s season. It features a particularly impressive calibre of directors, and embraces both the old and the new, ranging from the early work of one of the world’s most acclaimed and enduring playwrights, to an exciting world premiere by our Youth Theatre.”
Executive director Alan Finch added: “Festival 2014 has been our most successful season yet with over £5.5 million in box office sales. We achieved an average of 95% capacity for Festival 2014, attracting over 40% new bookers to the theatre. Having succeeded in reopening the Festival Theatre on time and on target, our aim this year is to make the most of all the opportunities we’ll have to use our renewed building as creatively as possible. We are looking forward to the challenge of staging productions that are bigger and bolder, and that will enhance the audience experience.”
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