This summer at the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park, home of the New Shakespeare Company, artistic director Ian Talbot will take to the stage himself along with the likes of Issy Van Randwyck and former Coronation Street stars Tracie Bennett (pictured) and Brigit Forsyth.

Casting has now been announced for the 2003 summer repertory season, which runs from 2 June to 6 September 2003 and features the first professional London production of Cole Porter's High Society in 15 years, as well as two Shakespeare productions (A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Two Gentlemen of Verona) and the new children's play Granny and the Gorilla (See News, 25 Feb 2003).

The schedule opens on 9 June (following previews from 2 June) with A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Michael Pennington, the leading classical actor and co-founder of the English Shakespeare Company and featuring Issy Van Randwyck, who last appeared at the Open Air in the 1998 Olivier Award-winning production of Kiss Me Kate, as Titania. Formerly a member of Fascinating Aida, Van Randwyck's other recent stage credits include Song of Singapore.

She's joined in the cast of A Midsummer Night's Dream by Open Air regulars John Hodgkinson as Theseus and John Conroy as Quince, Peter Forbes (Mamma Mia!) as Quince, Joseph Alessi (Animal Crackers) as Puck, Nicholas Burns (currently playing Tony Blear in The Madness of George Dubya in the West End) as Demetrius, Dale Rapley as Oberon, Nick Fletcher as Lysander, Claire Redcliffe as Hermia and Victoria Woodward as Helena.

The second Shakespeare production - The Two Gentlemen of Verona, directed by Rachel Kavanaugh - joins the repertory on 13 June (previews from 4 June). Artistic director Ian Talbot, who first appeared at the theatre in 1971 as Bottom, will play the fool Launce alongside Van Randwyck as Silvia, Burns as Valentine, Fletcher as Proteus, Walter van Dyk as the Duke of Milan and Phillipa Peak as Julia.

Tracie Bennett and Brigit Forsyth star in High Society, the annual Open Air musical, opening on 24 July (previews from 22 July). The musical, based on Philip Barry's classic stage play The Philadelphia Story, has music and lyrics by Cole Porter. It's best remembered as the 1956 MGM classic which starred Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. In 1987, former NT artistic director Richard Eyre mounted one of the first major stage versions of the film musical in a production at London's Victoria Palace that starred Natasha Richardson, Stephen Rea and Trevor Eve.

In the Open Air production, Bennett plays Liz with Forsyth as Mother Lord, Annette McLaughlin (Anything Goes) as heiress Tracy, Dale Rapley as Dexter and Hal Fowler as Mike. Ian Talbot directs, with choreography by Gillian Gregory and design by Paul Farnsworth, who also designs the two Shakespeare offerings. Musical direction is care of Catherine Jayes. High Society's score includes tunes such as "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire", "You're Sensational", "True Love" and "Swell Party".

The final production in the summer 2003 schedule will be Stuart Paterson's new children's play Granny and the Gorilla, which is directed by Tony Graham and opens on 30 July. Booking for the season has now opened.

- by Terri Paddock