The Open Air Theatre annual summer season, the first under new artistic director Timothy Sheader (See News, 11 Jan 2008), officially launched last week with the openings of its first two productions, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (opened last Monday, 9 June, previews from 2 June) and Twelfth Night (opened Friday 13 June, previews from 4 June).

The latter reunites Laurence Olivier Award winners Janie Dee and Clive Rowe - both were nominated for Best Supporting Performance in a Musical at the 1993 Oliviers for the same production, Carousel at the National (Dee won – though Rowe later won the same prize for the NT’s Guys and Dolls) – who play Olivia and fool Feste in Edward Dick’s new Open Air production of Twelfth Night (See News, 7 May 2008).

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Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet run in rep – until 30 July and 2 August respectively – along with Dominic Leclerc’s 75-minute, child-friendly reworking of A Midsummer Night's Dream from 12 July to 2 August 2008 (previews from 8 July). All three Shakespeares are performed in rep by a cross-cast company on a shared set designed by Robert Innes Hopkins.

In addition to Dee and Rowe – who appear in Twelfth Night only - the Park’s 2008 Shakespeare ensemble includes: Laura Donnelly (Juliet, Hermia in Dream), Nicholas Shaw (Romeo, Lysander in Twelfth Night), Annette McLaughlin (Lady Capulet in Romeo and Juliet, Helena/Titania in Dream) and Ben Joiner (Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet, Oberon in Dream) as well as Claire Benedict, Jennifer Bryden, Richard Cotton, Andy Cryer, Natalie Dew, Matthew Hart, Clive Hayward, Ben Ingles, Neet Mohan, Harry Myers, Richard O’Callaghan, Oscar Pearce, Annalisa Rossi, Dale Superville, Marcello Walton, David Whitworth, Leon Williams and Tim Woodward.

For 1st Night Photos, our Whatsonstage.com photographer Dan Wooller was on hand at the Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park for the curtain call and post-show party along with the company, director Edward Dick, artistic director Timothy Sheader and other first night guests including Nicholas Shaw, Laura Donnelly, Annette McLaughlin (Lady Capulet in Romeo and Juliet and Regent’s Park alumnus Desmond Barrit.

Later in the summer, the Open Air season culminates, from 6 August to 13 September, with Timothy Sheader’s revival of Lerner and Loewe musical Gigi (See News, 15 Apr 2008), which stars Lisa O'Hare (as Gigi), Topol (Honore), Millicent Martin (Mamita) and Linda Thorson (Aunt Alicia).

-by Terri Paddock