In the main Festival Theatre, Doug Wager's production of Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur's screwball comedy The Front Page launches the season, running from 15 May to 13 July. Set in 1920s Chicago, murder, mayhem and manipulation abound in the newsroom where an editor will stoop to any level to keep his star reporter. Michael Pennington stars as devious boss Walter Burns.
Patricia Routledge, who had to withdraw from the Royal Exchange's production of Time and the Conways last autumn, now returns to the stage in Chichester's second production, Jean Anouilh's Wild Orchids, which joins the repertory from 29 May to 20 July. Translated by Timberlake Wertenbaker and directed by Edward Kemp, this 1930s story tells of a prince's mourning for his beautiful Parisian love, who died tragically after only three blissful days of love.
In the second half of the summer schedule, Lucy Bailey directs this year's musical, the first major revival of Cabaret for a decade. Based on the play by John van Druten and the original stories by Christopher Isherwood, the musical follows the fortunes of American cabaret singer Sally Bowles and her decadent nightlife friends in Berlin in the late 1930s. It runs from 25 July to 5 October. Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, playing from 21 August to 5 October, concludes the main theatre season. Directed by Indhu Rubasingham it features Paul Shelley as well as Una Stubbs as the Nurse.
Meanwhile, in the Minerva studio theatre, actor Samuel West, who's just completed his award-winning Hamlet for the RSC, assumes the director's chair, with a revival of Christopher Fry's comedy The Lady's Not for Burning, which runs from 22 May to 15 June. It's followed from 19 June to 20 July by another comedy, Up on the Roof, in which five student friends live through graduation and reunions against close-harmony renditions of 1970s pop classics. The one-man show about the life of a KGB spy, Blunt Speaking, written and performed by Corin Redgrave and directed by Mark Clements, runs from 23 July to 10 August.
It's followed by the world premiere of Christopher William Hill's Song of the Western Men. Specially commissioned by Chichester Festival Theatre and directed by Andy Brereton, the black comedy is set on the Isles of Scilly in 1939. It plays from 14 August to 7 September. The Minerva season concludes with a revival of Terry Johnson's award-winning Dead Funny, directed by Loveday Ingram, from 11 September to 5 October.
- by Terri Paddock