Festival to host biggest lineup ever

EDINBURGH — Participants from 47 countries, from Australia to Zimbabwe, are set to make the 2012 Edinburgh Festival Fringe the largest it’s ever been, with the August event skedding 2,695 shows for a total of 42,096 perfs.

This year’s edition of the largest arts fest in the world is expected to generate £142 million ($220 million) for the Edinburgh and Scottish economy, according to the fest’s organizers.

Among the high-profile additions to the slate is “Cheers” actor George Wendt, starring in “Re-Animator The Musical,” based on the H.P. Lovcraft-inspired 1985 pic and helmed onstage by the film’s director, Stuart Gordon. The production is currently in the midst of a return engagement in L.A. and will pay a stint at the New York Musical Theater Festival prior to its Edinburgh gig.

Other U.S. performers in the Fringe include Peter Michael Marino, whose “Desperately Seeking the Exit” chronicles his experience as the writer of the £4 million ($6 million) “Desperately Seeking Susan” tuner that opened in London’s West End and closed within a month. Helmed by John Clancy, the show is now playing in Gotham and will hit L.A. later in June.

Shows based on topical themes include “NOLA,” by British company Look Left Look Right, on the subject of the Deepwater Horizon explosion off the Louisiana coast; “Presidential Suite: a Modern Fairy Tale,” by Gotham’s B&G Prods., inspired by the case of French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn; and “Rock,” by French company Atelier du Plateau, about the punk scene in 1970s Gotham, featuring figures such as Jim Morrison, Patti Smith, Allen Ginsberg and Iggy Pop.

Other U.S. companies and performers include Nine Sided Box, Brain Melt Consortium, Denise Laughlin Stewart, Aizzah Fatima, WTE Theater, Lost Angeles Ensemble, Mike McShane, Pulse Ensemble Theatre, Synthia L. Hardy, Collision Prods. and David Calvitto. There’s also a stage version of “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.”

At the Traverse Theater, famed for its focus on new plays, there are storytelling pieces by Mark Thomas and Off Broadway fave Daniel Kitson, plus preems of “Morning” by Simon Stephens (produced by London’s Lyric Hammersmith) and “And No More Shall We Part” by Tom Holloway (produced by London’s Hampstead Theater).

There are also revivals of short plays by David Harrower and David Greig, plus a series of early-morning rehearsed readings of “Dream Plays,” for which a dozen playwrights have been challenged to submit seemingly unstageable ideas.

The festival’s Summerhall venue, a former veterinary school, will present more experimental fare, including work from a number of Polish theater companies (such as Wroclaw’s Song of the Goat) alongside outings by cutting-edge Brit artists. Elsewhere there is a strong presence from South Africa, with visits from the Market Theater, Baxter Theater Center and the Fugard Theater.

Among the children’s shows is a run of “Sesame Street Live: Elmo Makes Music.”

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe runs Aug. 3-27.

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