B'way tuners dancing to England's Sheffield

LONDON — Revivals of the Broadway musicals “Promises, Promises” and “Assassins” are among the shows on tap for actor-director Samuel West’s first season as artistic director of Sheffield Theaters. So is a rare revival of Englishman Howard Brenton’s famously controversial epic “The Romans in Britain.”

Lineup has attracted particular attention as the debut season of an unusually intriguing a.d. in West, the Oxford-educated actor son of thesps Prunella Scales and Timothy West who in recent years has turned to directing. (Film credits include “Iris,” “Howards End” and “Persuasion.”)

West follows Michael Grandage, who put the Yorkshire-based venue on the national and international map with productions including the Derek Jacobi project “Don Carlos,” which has been mentioned for Broadway.

Sheffield season starts Sept. 21 with West playing Benedick in helmer Josie Rourke’s production of “Much Ado About Nothing.”

Next at the Crucible, the only thrust stage in the Sheffield Theaters complex, is director Angus Jackson’s staging of the 1968 Burt Bacharach-Hal David tuner “Promises, Promises.” That runs over Christmas, with Nikolai Foster’s production of the Stephen Sondheim-John Weidman musical “Assassins” to follow at Easter.

In between will be a rare staging by West of “The Romans in Britain,” Brenton’s violent and sexually explicit historical play whose 1980 National Theater debut sparked legal action as well as a lengthy debate about theatrical censorship. This is its first professional U.K. production since then.

Sheffield’s Studio Theater has two potentially exciting spring preems. The first, directed by West, is the European debut of American writer Sarah Ruhl’s “The Clean House,” winner of the 2004 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for English-language play written by a woman. (West was on the judging panel that year.)

The second is “Meat Piece” by Mark Ravenhill, whose London hits include “Shopping and Fucking” and “Mother Clap’s Molly House”; Dominic Leclerc directs.

West’s season is already winning applause from London critics, with the Guardian’s Michael Billington praising the “missionary fervor” of West and his team.

Grandage was Sheffield a.d. from 1999-2004. The hope is that West will stay for a similar five-year term.

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