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Kelly's WYP Finale Features Oz, Bennett & Blonde

By • West End
Jude Kelly's farewell season at Leeds' West Yorkshire Playhouse will include the much-anticipated musical revival of The Wizard of Oz, the European premiere of the Mae West-inspired Broadway hit comedy Dirty Blonde, a new production of Alan Bennett's The Lady in the Van, an interactive investigative drama titled And All the Children Cried and revivals of Ragamuffin and Carnival Messiah. Kelly will leave at the end of the spring/summer season, after 12 years at the WYP helm.

The Wizard of Oz, directed by Kelly herself, has been two years in the planning. Patrick Stewart, seen last year in the WYP's JB Priestley season, has pre-recorded his role as the virtual wizard in the familiar tale about young Dorothy and her dog Toto who are swept away by a hurricane to a magical Oz. Based on the 1939 MGM motion picture, this RSC version of the musical is adapted by John Kane and runs from 5 March to 13 April 2002.

It's followed by And All the Children Cried, the first play by Judith Jones and Beatrix Campbell, a social worker and a journalist, who bring together 25 years of research on the victims and perpetrators of sexual violence. Two women convicted of killing children are awaiting a meeting of the parole board. The drama features an open discussion with members of the creative team and guest speakers at the interval of each performance. And All the Children Cried, directed by Annie Castledine, runs from 19 April to 11 May 2002.

The Lady in the Van continues the season from 11 May to 15 June. Bennett's stage play brings to life his earlier book about the real-life character Miss Shepherd, a lady tramp who parked her camper van in the front garden of the author's home and stayed for 15 years. The play premiered in the West End in 1999 in a production that starred Maggie Smith and was directed by NT artistic director-designate Nicholas Hytner. The new Leeds production is directed by Ian Brown.

The spring/summer season winds down with remountings of two Caribbean-flavoured productions - the 1990s Haitian gangland hit Ragamuffin and the multicultural musical Carnival Messiah. The former, written and directed by Amani Naphtali, plays from 6 to 22 June 2002. The latter, first seen at WYP in a 1999 sell-out production, has book, music and lyrics by Geraldine Connor, who also directs. It returns from 22 June to 27 July 2002.

The WYP schedule also includes limited engagements for visiting productions including Caryl Churchill's Top Girls, Northern Broadsides' Macbeth, Pete Postlethwaite in Scaramouche Jones, Pandora's Box based on Wedekind's Lulu Plays, Tara Arts' trilogy Journey to the West and Missing Reel featuring The Play What I Wrote Olivier award winner Toby Jones.

Jude Kelly announced in December 2001 that she would leave WYP. Her resignation followed a dramatic upheaval in the leaderships of London's main producing theatres - the Hampstead, Donmar Warehouse and Almeida Theatres and the National Theatre, a post for which Kelly had been in the running but which eventually went to Hytner, who takes over at the South Bank complex in April 2003. Kelly became artistic director of the WYP in 1988, prior to the building opening in 1990. Under her leadership, the theatre has established a reputation as one of the country's most innovative and powerful regional producing companies.

Kelly's successor has not yet been appointed, although the vacancy has been advertised. The deadline for applications is 18 March, with interviews taking place in April and an announcement expected by June. Despite her resignation, Kelly has expressed her intention to maintain an "ongoing relationship" with WYP.

- by Terri Paddock


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