Michael Ball Will Star in Chichester Mack & Mabel; Rob Ashford, Lenny Henry and Jonathan Kent Also Part of Season | Playbill

News Michael Ball Will Star in Chichester Mack & Mabel; Rob Ashford, Lenny Henry and Jonathan Kent Also Part of Season Chichester Festival Theatre has announced its line-up for the 2015 summer season, which will include a major new production of Mack & Mabel starring Michael Ball, Rob Ashford directing A Damsel in Distress with a score by the Gershwins and a new book, and Lenny Henry in Educating Rita.

The theatre will also offer a major season of Chekhov's early work under the umbrella title Young Chekhov, with Anna Chancellor, James McArdle and Samuel West starring in his first three plays Platonov, Ivanov and The Seagull under the direction of Jonathan Kent.

Michael Ball

In a press statement, Jonathan Church, artistic director for the venue, said, "It is wonderful to present our first full season since the reopening of the Festival Theatre last year, and the tenth since [executive director] Alan [Finch] and I began work at Chichester. It has been gratifying to receive such a positive response to the refurbished building, and the work staged there and in the Minerva Theatre during 2014. We are looking forward to consolidating last year’s achievements with this year’s season. It features a particularly impressive calibre of directors, and embraces both the old and the new, ranging from the early work of one of the world’s most acclaimed and enduring playwrights to an exciting world premiere by our Youth Theatre."

The season will begin the with a new production of Alan Ayckbourn's Way Upstream, beginning performances April 23 prior to an official April 28, for a run through May 16. Nadia Fall, who has directed regularly at the National, will direct a cast that includes Sarah Parish in a play set on a cruising boat on a river.

It will be followed by A Damsel in Distress, beginning performances May 30 prior to an official opening June 10, for a run through June 27. Based on the novel by PG Wodehouse and the play by Wodehouse and Ian Hay, the new book is by Jeremy Sams and Robert Hudson. The show features songs by George and Ira Gershwin. It will be directed and choreographed by Broadway's Rob Ashford, who has previously originated new productions in the U.K. at the Donmar Warehouse (Parade, Anna Christie, A Streetcar Named Desire) and for the Manchester International Festival (Macbeth, subsequently at New York's Armory).

Jerry Herman's 1974 Broadway musical Mack & Mabel will be revived in a new production, beginning performances July 13 prior to an official opening July 21 in the Festival Theatre, for a run through Sept. 5. Michael Ball returns to Chichester, where he originated his Olivier-winning performance in the title role of Sweeney Todd, to star as Mack Sennett in Johathan Church's production that will be choreographed by Stephen Mear. The Young Chekhov season will begin performances Sept. 28 prior to an official opening for all three plays in a trilogy day Oct. 17 for a run through Nov. 14. In a press statement, David Hare – who has adapted the plays – commented, "Chekhov essentially created contemporary theatre, and in these three plays you see the arrival of his genius. Platonov, Ivanov and The Seagull are all the work of a young man – full of a vigour, a wildness and a romanticism which you rarely find in his later work. For me, working on these early plays has been a mission. They uncover a passionate side of Chekhov which so few audiences know, and which he later hid behind craftier strategies of disguise."

Jonathan Kent directs a cast that includes Anna Chancellor, last at Chichester in Private Lives and South Downs/The Browning Version (also West End), as Arkadina in The Seagull; James McArdle, whose credits include The James Plays at the Edinburgh Festival and National Theatre, playing the title role in Platonov and Lvov in Ivanov; and Samuel West, last seen at Chichester in Enron and Doctor Faustus, playing the title role in Ivanov and Trigorin in The Seagull.

Productions in the Minerva begin with Anouilh's The Rehearsal (beginning performances May 8 prior to an official opening May 14 for a run through June 6), directed by Jeremy Sams.

It is followed by Willy Russell's Educating Rita (beginning performances June 18, prior to an official opening June 23, for a run through July 25), with Michael Buffong directing Lenny Henry and Lashana Lynch. In a press statement, Henry commented, "When I began studying for an Open University degree, it was a pivotal period that opened my mind to the delights of Shakespeare and so much more. I’d already become established as a successful comedian, but education held the key to a world that led to a new chapter in my career. It means a great deal to me personally and professionally to be in Willy Russell’s classic play about the ways in which education can change your life. I hope that it’ll inspire audiences to think about the pathways and obstacles to success that education offers the young - and not so young! – today."

W. Somerset Maugham's For Services Rendered begins performances July 31 prior to an official opening Aug. 6 for a run through Sept. 5, and will be directed by Howard Davies. Frank McGuinnessSomeone Who'll Watch Over Me, beginning performances Sept. 10 prior to an official opening Sept. 16 for a run through Oct 10, will be directed by Michael Attenborough.

Chichester Festival Youth Theatre will also stage the world premiere of Samuel Adamson's adaptation of Michael Morpugo's Running Wild, beginning performances Aug. 2 prior to an official opening Aug. 6, for a run through Aug. 16. Dale Rooks directs a promenade production at the Cass Sculpture Foundation.

Priority booking for Friends of Chichester Festival Theatre opens March 2, with public booking online from March 11 and by phone and in person March 16. To book tickets, contact the box office on 01243 781312 or visit cft.org.uk.

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