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British stage director Pimlott dies

Helmer of 'Dreamcoat' revival was 53

Steven Pimlott, one of the U.K.’s most eclectic and versatile stage directors, died Feb. 14 in Colchester, Essex, of lung cancer. He was 53.

Whether directing at leading international opera houses or helming the successful 1991 revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” on stage and on film, Pimlott’s passion for music and drama refused to recognize cultural barriers.

A highly skilled oboist, he attended Cambridge U. and then became a staff producer at English National Opera in 1976.

Pimlott subsequently directed operas in Leeds, Amsterdam, New York, Tokyo, Sydney, Bregenz, Dortmund, Zurich, Munich, Berlin and beyond. Notable among his successes were his 1989 “Carmen” in the stadium-sized Earl’s Court, one of the U.K’s first epic arena opera stagings, and his 1993 “La Boheme” for ENO, which remains in the company’s repertoire.

His 1990 European premiere of “Sunday in the Park With George” at the National Theater won the Olivier for best musical.

As associate director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Pimlott’s work ranged from T.S. Eliot’s “Murder in the Cathedral” to Tennessee Williams’ “Camino Real.” His small-scale, deftly politicized “Richard II” with Samuel West was chief among his highly regarded Shakespeare productions.

Pimlott also had bold taste in new writing. He premiered the Lloyd Webber-produced Bollywood musical “Bombay Dreams” in London and on Broadway and championed U.S. dramatist Phyllis Nagy, directing three premiere productions of her work at the Almeida and the Royal Court. He also commissioned her to write a new translation of “The Seagull” which he directed at Chichester Festival Theater where he was joint artistic director from 2003-05.

Recently, Pimlott’s enthusiasm for performance drew him on stage. Between directing engagements he fulfilled a life-long ambition to perform Gilbert and Sullivan, playing Sir Joseph Porter in “HMS Pinafore” with the D’Oyly Carte company, at London’s Savoy Theater. He also took up the oboe again, playing solos in Bach’s “St. Mathew Passion” under conductor Colin Davis.

Diagnosed with cancer in July 2006, he was forced to withdraw from directing the West End premiere of “On The Third Day,” the winning play in the Channel Four TV series “The Play’s The Thing.” He rejoined the National Theater in February to commence rehearsals for Williams’ “The Rose Tattoo” but was overtaken by the sudden return of the disease. That production now will be helmed by National a.d. Nicholas Hytner.

He is survived by his wife, operatic soprano Daniela Bechly, two sons and a daughter.

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