The Cardiff International Festival of Musical Theatre - which was founded in 2002 in the Welsh capital to celebrate “the world’s most popular live art form” and last took place in April 2005 (See News, 29 Sep 2004) - will return from 15 October to 5 November 2006, with the theme of centenaries and forgotten gems.

Jule Styne, whose musicals include Gypsy, Funny Girl and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, will be honoured during the Festival to mark the centenary of his birth. The work of David Heneker, who penned Half a Sixpence and Charlie Girl, will also be featured. Gershwin’s Treasure Girl will receive its UK premiere as part of a new Forgotten Gems series, and more than 300 children will perform in the opening gala, while Wales Theatre Company will perform A Child’s Christmas in Wales, based on the short story by Dylan Thomas and adapted by Michael Bogdanov.

New musicals also feature heavily in the Festival, with the third “Global Search for New Musicals” to discover the best in new musical writing enabling composers, lyricists and librettists to receive an audience for their work. The top six entries will be showcased at Chapter Arts Centre from 3 to 5 November 2006. Other new musical highlights include off-Broadway show I Sing, prior to a planned West End transfer.

In addition, a BBC Wales Community Concert, giving audience members the opportunity to sing along to popular musical classics with West End stars, will take place during this year’s Festival, and the “Radio 2 Voice of Musical Theatre” competition will be held at the New Theatre from 15 to 21 October 2006. Previous winners include Laura Michelle Kelly, who went on to win an Olivier Award last year for her starring role in Mary Poppins.

Chief executive of the Cardiff International Festival of Musical Theatre, Joanne Benjamin, is also working with producers to bring the Olivier Award-winning West End production of Guys and Dolls to the Wales Millennium Centre.

Benjamin said: “The Festival has now firmly taken root in Cardiff, with more people taking part than ever before. Our next Festival promises to be a cavalcade of the best musical theatre from around the world, attracting the foremost practitioners, performers and commentators of this much loved genre.”

- by Caroline Ansdell