The season opens with a revival of the venue's perennial favourite, A Midsummer Night's Dream, on 11 June 2001 (previews from 4 June). The Open Air's idyllic outdoor setting has ensured that the bard's tale of young lovers, fairies and "rude mechanicals" is always a hit. This year, it's directed by Alan Strachan, who has previously directed Troilus and Cressida and The Merry Wives of Windsor at the theatre.
Meanwhile, Rachel Kavanagh, who last year directed A Midsummer Night's Dream, will this year turn her hand to Love's Labour's Lost, the comedy about four well-intentioned but ultimately misguided young men who discover the impossibility of denying true love. It opens on 15 June (previews from 6 June). Both Shakespeare productions are designed by Kit Surrey.
This year's new musical, Where's Charley?, joins the repertoire on 26 July (previews from 24 July). Based on Brandon Thomas' play Charley's Aunt, Where's Charley? presents a Broadway take on a quintessentially English farce of mistaken identities. A rarely performed classic by Frank Loesser (music and lyrics) and George Abbott (book), it hasn't received a professional production in London since Norman Wisdom starred in it in 1958. Musical numbers include "Once in Love with Amy" and "My Darling, My Darling". Where's Charley? is directed by the New Shakespeare Company's artistic director, Ian Talbot.
Last year's hugely successful musical - Joseph Papp's Broadway version of The Pirates of Penzance - returns for a second airing this summer. The show was nominated for three Laurence Olivier awards this year, including Outstanding Musical Production and Best Director for Ian Talbot.
In Gilbert and Sullivan's 1879 comic operetta, Frederic, a slave to duty, thinks he has finally completed his apprenticeship to a band of pirates when he turns 21. However, his attempts to follow a more honourable profession are scuppered when he realises he was born on February 29 of a leap year - and thus his apprenticeship has many, many more years to run. The score includes "Poor Wandering One", "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General", "The Sergeant of Police" and "Policeman's Chorus". The Pirates of Penzance runs at the Open Air for a limited engagement from 27 August to 8 September, before continuing on a national tour.
The Open Air's children's production, Pinocchio in the Park, presented jointly with the Unicorn Theatre, runs from 1 August to 8 September. The play is a new adaptation by Michael Rosen of Carlo Collodi's timeless Italian fairy tale, "Pinocchio". It’s directed by Unicorn associate director Emily Gray and designed by Sophia Lovell Smith.
The summer season is rounded out with a number of the Open Air's regular Sundays in the Park concerts, together with Late Nights in the Park evenings and the traditional free Midsummer Night Concert.
- by Terri Paddock