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Chichester to world preem ‘Barnum’ redo

Tuner revised by Cameron Mackintosh, Mark Bramble

The world preem of a new version of the Cy Coleman tuner “Barnum” revised by Cameron Mackintosh and Mark Bramble, headlines the 2013 Chichester Festival Theater slate that also includes a new production of “The Pajama Game,” and a world preem of a drama by David Edgar (“Nicholas Nickleby.”)

Barnum,” a co-production between CFT and Mackintosh, will be helmed by Tim Sheader and co-directed/choreographed by Liam Steel (“Into The Woods”) with sets by Scott Pask (“The Book of Mormon,”) costumes by Paul Wills (“Finding Neverland”) and lighting by Paule Constable (“War Horse.”)

Based on the life of the legendary showman Phineas T. Barnum, the show stars Christopher Fitzgerald (“Young Frankenstein.”) Running July 15-Aug. 31, the production opens July 24 in Theater in the Park, Chichester’s temporary, 1,400-seat tented venue, which replaces the main house that is in the midst of a £22 million ($34 million) rebuild. Mackintosh’s involvement in re-tooling a large-scale tuner that has not played Gotham since the original run ended in 1982 raises speculation that the show may be eyeing future Broadway life.

The season opens with a new production of the tuner “The Pajama Game” helmed, choreographed and lit by the “Mary Poppins” team of Richard Eyre, Stephen Mear and Howard Harrison, with designs by Tim Hatley (“Spamalot”). Starring Joanna Riding as Babe opposite Hadley Fraser (“The Pirate Queen”) as Sid, the production runs April 22-June 8 at the venue’s 280-seat Minerva theater.

That will be followed by the world preem of David Edgar’s “If Only,” a drama about politicians scheming to form the present U.K. coalition government, which then jump-cuts to 2014 with an imagined plot about the forthcoming 2015 general election. Helmed by Angus Jackson, it plays the Minerva June 14-July 27.

Jackson will also helm a revival of “Neville’s Island,” (Sept. 11-28), Tim Firth’s 1992 comedy about hapless businessmen on a nightmare team-building exercise. Firth’s credits include the screenplay for “Kinky Boots,” which, in its tuner incarnation, begins previews on Broadway on March 3.

Jeremy Herrin will helm a revival of “Another Country” (Sept. 18-Oct. 19) in a co-production with Theater Royal Bath Productions in association with Fiery Angel. Julian Mitchell’s celebrated drama about spies, sexuality and the British establishment was first seen in 1981, and launched the careers of the then unknown Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Daniel Day-Lewis and Kenneth Branagh.

CFT a.d. Jonathan Church also announced the return of his own production of Brecht’s “The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui,” which preemed in the 2012 season. Henry Goodman reprises his perf in the title role and the production will then immediately transfer to the West End’s Duchess Theater.

The latter will be the latest in a slew of home-grown productions at the regional producing powerhouse that, in tandem with a variety of commercial producing managements, have received West End transfers over the last 18 months. Those include “Sweeney Todd,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Yes, Minister,” “Goodnight Mr. Tom,” “Kiss Me Kate,” “South Downs/The Browning Version” and the forthcoming “Private Lives,” starring Anna Chancellor and Toby Stephens.

Announcing the season, Church and exec director pointed to a 100% rise in audience attendance since their 2006 arrival with last year’s seven-month season hitting a record total of 220,000. Beyond its regional home, over two million people have attended CFT productions over the last three years.

Looking further ahead, Church announced plans for a future co-production with Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theater and L.A.’s Ahmanson theater of “The Last Confession,” Roger Crane’s conspiracy thriller about the 1975 election and death of Pope John Paul I, starring David Suchet (“Poirot.”)

He also confirmed much-rumored plans to stage Jonathan Kent’s new production of “Gypsy,” starring Imelda Staunton. Kent will also helm a triumvirate of early Chekhov productions with a single ensemble playing “Platonov,” “Ivanov” and “The Seagull,” all in new translations by David Hare.

Further future productions will include a new “Guys and Dolls,” with an unnamed U.S. director attached, and the world preem of “A Damsel in Distress,” the 1937 Fred Astaire/Gershwins screen tuner adapted by Jeremy Sams and helmed/choreographed by Rob Ashford. Dates and casting for these have yet to be fixed.

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