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Games od Chance and Games of the Mind in Cambridge This Spring

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Over the past couple of years the Arts Theatre in Cambridge has mounted an annual musical production of its own – that's quite apart from the pantomime, of course. Both Anything Goes and My Fair Lady used professional performers for the main roles, experienced amateurs for the chorus and subsidiary parts and also a professional production team – director, designer and musical director.

The climax of the spring 2010 season is to be a fully professional production of Frank Loesser’s Guys and Dolls. This will run from 29 April until 9 May and aims to beat the box-office success of its predecessors. But it’s far from being the only treat in store for theatre patrons. No sooner has Dick Whittington triumphed as Lord Mayor of London than Patrick Barlow’s version of The 39 Steps with its four-strong cast taking on 139 different roles in 100 minutes whirls forward. 25 to 30 January are the dates for this.

Ian Fricker is a producer who seems to be quietly working his way through the Coward canon. This year’s offering is Present Laughter with Robert Bathurst, Belinda Lang and Serena Evans. Bathurst plays Garry Essendine and Lang directs; the run is from 8 to 13 February. A co-production from the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough and the Yvonne Arnaud in Guildford, Alan Ayckbourn’s My Wonderful Day is fresh from New York in the author’s own production; it sees the adult world through the eyes of a schoolgirl writing an essay. You can see it between 22 and 27 February.

The Woman in Black stalks the boards from 1 to 6 March preceding the Bath Theatre Royal and West Yorkshire Playhouse new touring production of Alan Bennett’s The History Boys. It has an extended run between 8 and 20 March. As with The Woman in Black, The History Boys is visiting other theatres in the region over the next few months. Tom Conti scored a great success last year in Romantic Comedy. This spring he returns to the Arts with a new comedy by Eric Chappell called Wife After Death.  Conti plays a television comedian whose death causes chaos among his closest companions – that would appear to set up an interesting scenario. Find out how it happened from 22 to 27 March.

Hull Truck brings a new John Godber play to the theatre between 30 March and 3 April. This is Men of the World, and it’s the story of three coach-drivers as they wend their way down the Rhine valley with yet another load of awkward passengers. The current craze for re-creating the work of radio and television personalities of the recent past continues when Clive Mantle dons the red fez of Tommy Cooper for two performances of Jus' Like That! on 5 and 6 April. The Kenneth Williams extravaganza Stop Messing About is on during the following month (17 to 22 May).

Before that (and before Guys and Dolls) come the Salisbury Playhouse and Shared Experience production of Tennessee WilliamsThe Glass Menagerie. Imogen  Stubbs stars from 13 to 17 April and it’s followed by another Fricker production, this time of The Secret of Sherlock Holmes with Peter Egan as Homes and Philip Franks as Watson. Jeremy Paul’s play explores the relationship between Holmes and Professor Moriarty, in so many ways his mirror image, as well as with Watson. 19 to 24 April are the dates to note if you want to find out more.

May into June sees the Bill Kenwright production in arrangement with the Agatha Christie Theatre Company of Witness for the Prosecution. That runs from 31 May until 5 June. The spring season at the Arts Theatre ends with English Touring Theatre’s co-production with the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse and the Hampstead Theatre of Canary. This is a new play by Jonathan Harvey directed by  Hettie Macdonald. It’s set in 1960s Liverpool and 1980s London and concerns four young men whose sexuality shimmies in and out of the closet as attitudes change on the surface but not, perhaps, below it. 15 to 19 June are the dates.

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