Sheffield Makes Music with A Chorus Line & PiafDate: 29 May 2003
Two high-profile musical revivals - Broadway classic A Chorus Line and Pam Gems' bio-tribute Piaf - will headline Sheffield's new season, which will also feature revivals by American masters Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller as well as the first stage play by English novelist Lesley Glaister.
The 2003/2004 season - announced by Sheffield associate director Michael Grandage, who is also the artistic director of London's Donmar Warehouse - encompasses in-house programming for all three Sheffield Theatres: the Crucible, the Studio and, in a departure from the norm, the Lyceum, which is ordinarily the preserve of larger-scale visiting productions.
In the Crucible, the schedule launches in the autumn with a new Shakespeare production from the creative team behind last year's acclaimed mounting of The Tempest, which starred Derek Jacobi and transferred to the West End at the start of this year. The bard's comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream will once again be directed by Grandage himself and designed by Christopher Oram, with lighting by Hartley TA Kemp and music by Adam Cork. It will run from 30 September to 1 November (previews from 24 September).
It's followed by a Christmas season of A Chorus Line, which moves into the Crucible from 2 December 2003 to 24 January 2004 (previews from 27 November 2003). The classic - which takes a behind-the-scenes look at 17 hopefuls auditioning for just eight places in a new Broadway musical - ran for 15 years (from 1975 to 1990) on Broadway, where it won nine Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. In 1985, it was made into a Hollywood film directed by Richard Attenborough and starring Michael Douglas as the demanding director putting his dancers - including one ex-lover - through their paces.
A Chorus Line has a book by James Kirkwood and Nicholas Date, with music by Marvin Hamlisch and lyrics by Edward Kleban. Its famous score includes numbers such "I Hope I Get It", "Sing!" and, most memorably, "One (Singular Sensation)". The Crucible production will be directed by Nikolai Foster, choreographed by Karen Bruce and designed by Stephen Brimson-Lewis, with lighting by Tim Mitchell and musical direction by David Shrubsole.
In the new year, the Crucible season continues, fittingly, with a new production of Arthur Miller's 1953 modern classic, The Crucible. Set in 1692 in Massachusetts, the play centres on the reign of terror unleashed during the Salem witchcraft trials, but was in fact a thinly veiled response from Miller to the 20th-century "anti-American" communist witch-hunts of Senator Joseph McCarthy. The Crucible will be directed by Sheffield associate Anna Mackmin and designed by Lez Brotherston, with lighting by Paul Pyant and sound by Paul Arditti. It will run from 10 to 28 February 2004 (previews 4 February).
Winding up the main season in the Crucible - from 16 March to 7 April 2004 (previews 11 March) - will be the second musical, a revival of Pam Gems' account of the life of French actress and chanteuse Edith Piaf (1915-1963), whose best-remembered songs include "La vie en rose" and "Non, je ne regrette rien". Piaf premiered in London in 1980, in a production, starring Jane Lapotaire, which transferred to Broadway. It was revived in the West End with Elaine Paige in 1993. In Sheffield, Anna-Jane Casey (who starred in last year's Sweet Charity) will take the title role, directed by Timothy Sheader and designed by Robert Jones.
Studio & Lyceum Theatres
In the Studio, the season kicks off with the first play by Sheffield's own award-winning novelist Lesley Glaister, whose many recent books include Honour Thy Father, Trick or Treat, Limestone and Clay, Partial Eclipse and The Private Parts of Women. Directed by Jonathan Munby and designed by Mike Britton, Bird Calls was a Sheffield commission that, like Glaister's novels, explores the nature of family secrets. It runs from 21 October to 8 November 2003 (previews 21 October).
It's followed by a festive run - from 16 December 2003 to 10 January 2004 (previews 11 December - of Richard Hurford's Battina and the Moon, a magical fantasy about a girl who wants to be a bat. Directed by Karen Simpson and designed by Paul Wills, it's aimed at children aged three to seven years.
Grandage himself will return to Sheffield in the new year to direct a new production of Tennessee Williams' 1958 drama Suddenly Last Summer, which will play in the proscenium arch Lyceum Theatre from 17 to 28 February 2004 (previews from 12 February). Sebastian died suddenly last summer and his distraught mother wants revenge on the girl she holds responsible. In 1959, Williams' stage play was memorably made into a film starring Katherine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift.
The Sheffield season will conclude in June 2004 with a month-long festival celebrating the work of contemporary British playwright Caryl Churchill, whose most recent award-winning stage play was last year's A Number, which starred Michael Gambon and Daniel Craig at the Royal Court. As part of the Sheffield event, Anna Mackmin will direct a new production of Churchill's Cloud Nine, while Simon Cox will mount a double bill of her Far Away and Fen.
Commenting on the newly announced schedule, Michael Grandage said: "This new season offers ten productions of high quality drama in our most ambitious programme of work to date. For the first time, we will be producing plays in all three of our theatres.... As confidence grows for regional theatre throughout the country, these are particularly exciting times for all of in Sheffield."
- by Terri Paddock