Talbot Finale Lady Be Good Marks Open Air's 75thDate: 15 January 2007
The Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park will celebrate its 75th anniversary this summer with a new production of the Gershwins’ 1924 Broadway musical Lady Be Good!, directed by Ian Talbot in his 20th – and final – season as artistic director (See News, 26 Jul 2006). The 2007 repertory season, running from 28 May to 16 September, will also see the return of last summer’s hit musical, Sandy Wilson’s The Boy Friend, and, as usual, two Shakespeare productions - this year, Macbeth and perennial Park favourite A Midsummer Night’s Dream - and a play for children.
In Lady Be Good!, which has a book by Guy Bolton and Fred Thompson, Dick and Susie Trevor are penniless siblings evicted from their Rhode Island mansion. Dick is determined to marry a wealthy heiress in order to return to solvency, but Susie is equally determined to save him from a loveless marriage by posing as a Spanish widow in order to claim a substantial inheritance.
When the Gershwin musical premiered on Broadway in 1924, it starred real-life brother and sister stars Fred and Adele Astaire and ran for 330 performances. Its score includes “Fascinating Rhythm” and the title number. The Open Air revival runs in rep at the Open Air from 17 July to 25 August 2007.
Another 1920s-set musical, Wilson’s 1954 nostalgic pastiche The Boy Friend returns to the Open Air from 28 August to 16 September 2007 ahead of a planned regional tour. Talbot’s production - which has been nominated for two prizes, including Best Musical Revival, in this year’s Whatsonstage.com’s Theatregoers’ Choice Awards (click here to vote now!) - was a sell-out hit last summer, when Rachel Jerram, Whatsonstage.com nominee Summer Strallen and Talbot himself featured in the cast.
At Mme Dubonnet's fashionable finishing school on the French Riviera, millionaire's daughter Polly falls in love with Tony, a delivery boy. To hold his interest, Polly pretends to be a working girl, but her efforts are complicated by her boy crazy girlfriends. Wilson's score includes "I Could Be Happy with You", "Won't You Charleston with Me?" and "It's Never Too Late to Fall in Love".
The season opens with Macbeth, which runs from 28 May to 16 August 2007 and is directed by Edward Kemp. The Scottish play is joined in rep, from 30 May, by Christopher Luscombe’s new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The comedy of warring fairies and mismatched lovers set in an enchanted forest has become synonymous with the Open Air Theatre, which runs a production of the classic tale almost every year.
This year’s Open Air children’s show, David Wood’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox, in which the wily Mr Fox outwits the farmers intent on ridding their farm of him by any means possible, runs from 28 August to 15 September 2007. As well as these productions, there will be one-off comedy events at the Open Air Theatre on Sundays during the season, including performances from Daniel Kitson, Ed Byrne Jimmy Carr and the Comedy Store Players.
Although trained as a drama teacher, Ian Talbot launched his career as an actor, with one of his earliest professional jobs being at the Open Air Theatre, where he joined the cast of A Midsummer Night's Dream to play Bottom, a part he's now played nine times in total. Since that first production, in 1971, Talbot has been an Open Air regular. His many other parts there have included Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night, Fluellen in Henry V, Grumio in The Taming of the Shrew, Dromio in The Comedy of Errors, Trinculo in The Tempest, Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing and Napoleon in Shaw's Man of Density.
In 1987, Talbot was appointed artistic director of the Open Air Theatre and its resident New Shakespeare Company, which each year mounts its much-loved summer season come rain or shine. Since his appointment, Talbot has produced over 75 shows at the park and directed Olivier-nominated musicals such as Oh What a Lovely War, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, The Pirates of Penzance, Babes in Arms, The Fantasticks, Lady Be Good and Kiss Me Kate, as well as various Shakespeare and other productions. Many of his Open Air productions have transferred or toured over the years, most recently his revival of Cole Porter’s High Society, which had a run at the West End’s Shaftesbury Theatre last year following two regional tours.
- by Terri Paddock