Open Air Shifts from Shakespeare to Wilde in 2009Date: 9 January 2009
The Open Air Theatre, home of the New Shakespeare Company, will break from history for this year’s summer season – by not concentrating on Shakespeare. While the season will open with Much Ado About Nothing and will also include a new children’s adaptation of The Tempest, it’s other play for adults will, instead of the usual Shakespeare tragedy, be a revival of Oscar Wilde’s 1895 comedy The Importance of Being Earnest. The season is completed by a new production of the Tony Award-winning 1964 Broadway musical Hello, Dolly.
The season is the second under the artistic direction of Timothy Sheader, who took over in October 2007 from Ian Talbot (See News, 6 Mar 2007). Talbot helmed the famous Regent’s Park venue for 20 years and stepped down after overseeing its 75th anniversary two seasons ago.
A spokesperson told Whatsonstage.com that, despite this year’s programming change, there’s no danger that there’s no danger of the Open Air making a total break from Shakespeare in future as it “sells extremely well”. However, he said, Sheader is continuing to “experiment” with what works best at the venue.
The 2009 season, which runs from May to September, opens with Sheader’s own production of Shakespeare’s comedy Much Ado About Nothing, featuring reluctant lover Beatrice and Benedick. It runs from 25 May to 27 June. Alongside it, from 5 to 28 June, will be a new adaptation of The Tempest, re-imagined for children from six years up. The interactive kids’ Shakespeare follows the success of last year’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s directed by DV8 choreographer Liam Steel.
Irina Brown will direct The Importance Of Being Earnest, running from 3 to 25 July 2009. Prim-and-proper Jack Worthington is in love with the equally prim-and-proper Gwendolen Fairfax. His friend Algernon Moncrieff is in love with Cecily Cardew. But both Gwendolen and Cecily are in love with a man called Ernest. Meanwhile, the imposing Lady Bracknell is dubious about a story involving a handbag … Oscar Wilde’s comedy was seen last year at the West End’s Vaudeville, where Penelope Keith starred as Lady Bracknell.
Jerry Herman’s ten-time Tony Award-winning musical Hello, Dolly! is the season’s final production, running from 30 July to 12 September 2009. The “lavish” revival will be directed by Sheader and choreographed by Stephen Mear, who collaborated on last year’s musical Whatsonstage.com Award-nominated revival of Gigi.
Hello, Dolly! was famously made into a 1969 film starring Barbra Streisand in the title role. Widowed matchmaker Dolly Levi takes a trip to Yonkers, New York to see prominent, wealthy bachelor Horace Vandergelder. While there, she persuades him, his two stock clerks, his niece, and her beau to go to New York City, where Dolly tries to arrange a match between the two clerks and the woman Vandergelder had been courting and her shop assistant over a hectic dinner.
Public booking for the 2009 Open Air season opens on Monday 9 February.
- by Terri Paddock