Donmar Premieres Bee Musical, Revisits SchillerDate: 3 September 2010
The Tony Award-winning Broadway musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee will receive its UK premiere at the Donmar Warehouse in February. The musical will be the first production in the Donmar’s newly announced season for the first half of 2011, which will also include a revival of Harold Pinter’s 1993 play Moonlight, a poetry week curated by Josephine Hart and, after success on both sides of the Atlantic with Mary Stuart, another 18th-century Schiller play, Luise Miller (also known as Intrigue and Love).
The last will be in a new version by Mike Poulton directed by Donmar artistic director Michael Grandage; the two previously had a hit with the award-winning Sheffield Crucible production of Schiller’s Don Carlos, which starred Derek Jacobi and transferred to the West End in 2005. Felicity Jones, now a screen starlet and last seen on stage in Grandage’s 2008 Donmar revival of The Chalk Garden, will take the title role.
In announcing the new productions - as well as touring the upcoming Jacobi King Lear, presenting a showcase of work by young directors at the West End’s Trafalgar Studios, and staging West End Sondheim at 80 concerts - Grandage said today that the theatre would continue to do all of this at “affordable prices and with a strong education programme”. He committed to this in the face of forthcoming cuts of 25% to 30% which all arts organisations are bracing themselves for. “As we face challenging times ahead,” said Grandage, “I am keen that the Donmar continues to focus all its energies on producing high-quality work and reaching out to as many people as possible.”
Covent Garden programme
Following King Lear, which runs from 7 December 2010 to 5 February 2011 (previews from 3 December) before a regional tour, the first new production at the Donmar in the new year will be The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, running from 21 February to 2 April 2010 (previews from 11 February). The UK premiere is directed by Donmar associate director Jamie Lloyd, whose revival of Sondheim’s Passion opens at the Donmar later this month, and designed by Christopher Oram.
The musical comedy - in which tensions and emotions are running high in a contest with a place in the national finals at stake - is conceived by Rebecca Feldmann, has music and lyrics by William Finn and a book by Rachel Sheinkin and additional material by Jay Reiss. After opening Off-Broadway, it transferred in 2005 to Broadway, where it ran for three years and won the Tony for Best Book of a Musical.
Moonlight follows from 12 April to 28 May 2011 (previews from 12 April). In the tragicomedy of family dysfunction, premiered at the Almeida in 1993, Bel attempts to reconcile her dying husband Andy with his estranged sons. The production will mark the Donmar debut for director Bijan Sheibani, the former artistic director of ATC, whose work elsewhere includes Our Class at the National, The Brothers Size at the Young Vic and Gone Too Far at the Royal Court. Design is by Bunny Christie.
“Poetry Week with Josephine Hart” takes place from 30 May to 3 June 2011, each performance devoted to one or two poets, with readings of their poems as well as introductions setting their work within the context of their lives. Hart has been hosting monthly poetry reading hours at the British Library since 2004 and collaborated on events around the Donmar’s TS Eliot Festival last year. A novelist and poet, Hart’s publications include Damage, The Truth About Love, Sin and Words That Burn. She will produce and direct the poetry week.
Luise Miller, the final production in the new schedule, will run from 13 June to 30 July 2011 (previews from 8 June). One of Schiller’s early plays, written in 1784, Kabale und Liebe translates from the German as Intrigue and Love, but the Donmar has opted for a version of the title from Verdi’s 1852 opera based on the play. Ferdinand, a nobleman and powerful statesman, is willing to forsake his fortune for Luise, the daughter of a humble musician. But in a world governed by power and politics, greed and betrayal, their happiness is beyond their control.