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Chichester fest plans to ‘Succeed’

Production to kick off season on April 29

LONDON — A rare British production of the Frank Loesser musical “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” kicks off the 2005 Chichester Festival season April 29. It’s the first in a seven-show season mixing new works, musicals and classics; an eighth production, an adaptation of “Arabian Night” performed promenade-style, will do nine perfs in August.

“How to Succeed” will be directed by Martin Duncan and choreographed by Stephen Mear. The same duo collaborated last year on the Festival’s hit revival of Cole Porter’s “Out of This World”; since then, Mear has won acclaim as Matthew Bourne’s co-choreographer on the West End “Mary Poppins.”

No casting has yet been announced for the tuner, which won Tony Awards for Robert Morse and Matthew Broderick in the 1962 Broadway debut and 1995 Broadway revival, respectively. Production opens May 5 and runs in repertory through Sept. 10 on the mainstage.

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David Warner, long acclaimed as one of Britain’s finest Hamlets (and its youngest) in the 1965 RSC production, will open the season in the smaller Minerva Theater in the title role of “King Lear.” It’s helmed by Steven Pimlott, who is in his third season as one of Chichester’s artistic directors alongside Ruth Mackenzie and fellow helmer Duncan.

Other Minerva productions include “Lee Miller,” a new musical about the Conde Nast discovery of the same name, who was a friend of Picasso and a lover of Man Ray; and the U.K. preem of writer-director Phyllis Nagy’s adaptation of “The Scarlet Letter.”

After “How to Succeed,” the mainstage lineup continues with Romanian director Silviu Purcarete’s production of Moliere’s “Scapino, or the Trickster,” a play that amplifies the theme of so-called “con art” that runs through this season. That thread is reinforced by yet another offering, Gogol’s “The Government Inspector,” in a new adaptation by satirist Alistair Beaton; impressionist Alistair McGowan stars.

Pimlott will stage the closing entry on the mainstage: the world preem of Edward Kemp’s “5/11,” an epic play whose title suggests comparisons between recent events and the notorious Gunpowder Plot in Britain in 1605, when the country was embarked on an equally significant war on terrorism.

Located in Sussex several hours south of London, the Chichester Festival remains one of the major theaters outside the capital. For a long time, the festival was merely a tryout venue for the West End, but in recent years it has worked on solidifying its own regional importance, regardless of whether its shows move on to London.