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Donmar debuts Spelling Bee in 2011

First Published 3 September 2010, Last Updated 3 September 2010

The Tony Award-winning musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee will receive its UK premiere at the Donmar Warehouse next spring as part of a season that also includes the first major London revival of Harold Pinter’s Moonlight and Schiller’s Luise Miller.

Staged on Broadway in 2005, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a quirky musical comedy following six contestants in a spelling bee – a distinctly American activity in which people compete to crown a champion speller – with a place at the national final at stake.

Directed at the Donmar by Jamie Lloyd, whose production of Passion opens at the same theatre later this month, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee runs from 11 February until 2 April. Casting is yet to be announced.

Pinter’s Moonlight (7 April to 28 May) is a tragic comedy of family dysfunction that follows Andy, who lies dying in his bed. As his wife Bel tries desperately to bring his estranged sons to his side, Andy’s thoughts turn to his youth, loves, lust and fears, whilst the haunting presence of the things they have all lost swirl in the dark lonely spaces of this suburban household.

The play premiered at the Almeida theatre in 1993, when its cast included Ian Holm, Anna Massey, Douglas Hodge, Michael Sheen and Claire Skinner. This new production, for which the cast has not yet been announced, will be directed by National Theatre Associate Director Bijan Sheibani, whose previous credits include Eurydice, The Brothers Size (both Young Vic), Our Class (National Theatre) and Gone Too Far (Royal Court).

The Donmar’s spring/summer 2011 season culminates with Schiller’s Luise Miller (8 June to 30 July), for which Donmar Warehouse Artistic Director Michael Grandage returns to the work of the German dramatist following the success he enjoyed with productions of Don Carlos and Mary Stuart.

Power, politics and love lie at the heart of Schiller’s tale about the son of the most famous statesman in the land and how he was willing to give up everything for Luise, the daughter of a humble musician. But in a world where power is everything, their happiness lies beyond their control.

Felicity Jones, whose film credits include Cemetery Junction and Brideshead Revisited, and who has been seen on television in Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park, returns to the Donmar Warehouse, where she previously starred in the multi-award-winning The Chalk Garden, to play Luise.

Commenting on the season, Grandage said: “With Passion and King Lear still to open, the announcement of this new season demonstrates the Donmar’s wish to present as wide a variety of work as possible in the coming months. We are also producing a showcase for young directors at the Trafalgar Studios as well as touring nationally in 2011. All of these productions will continue to be presented at affordable prices and with a strong education programme. As we face more challenging times ahead, I am keen that the Donmar continues to focus all its energies on producing high-quality work and reaching out to as many people as possible.”

Following the success of 2009’s readings during the Donmar’s TS Eliot Festival, the spring/summer 2011 season will also include a week of poetry readings from Josephine Hart, running from 30 May to 3 June.

Though already planning for 2011, the Donmar Warehouse still has two shows of its 2010 season to open at its Covent Garden venue; Stephen Sondheim’s Passion, with a cast led by Elena Roger, and Shakespeare’s King Lear, featuring Derek Jacobi. The London producing powerhouse is also staging a season of shows at the Trafalgar Studios, highlighting the work of directors that have taken part in its Resident Assistant Directors scheme. Donmar Trafalgar comprises Lower Ninth (30 September to 23 October), Novecento (28 October to 20 November) and Les Parents Terribles (25 November to 18 December).

MA

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