The Menier Chocolate Factory has announced an ambitious new season that will see Trevor Nunn returning to the venue to direct Aspects Of Love, Broadway directors Hal Prince and Susan Stroman presenting new musical Paradise Found and a season dedicated to the work of playwright Willy Russell.
The stellar spring-summer season features the acting talents of Larry Lamb, Mandy Patinkin, Meera Syal and Shuler Hensley.
The Menier’s grand plans kick off with revivals of two of Russell’s greatest plays, Educating Rita and Shirley Valentine, which play in repertoire from 26 March to 8 May (press day 8 April). Lamb and Laura Dos Santos will play teacher and pupil in Educating Rita, Russell’s tale of a young hairdresser who discovers a passion for English literature, while Syal takes on the role of Shirley Valentine, a bored housewife who discovers life and lust whilst on holiday in Greece.
The plays, whose premiere productions each won Best Comedy at Laurence Olivier Awards during the 1980s, are also well known for their successful screen versions, which employed the talents of Michael Caine, Julie Walters and Pauline Collins. Among Russell’s other work is the musical Blood Brothers, which is still running in the West End after 21 years.
Lamb is currently best known for playing Archie in EastEnders and Mick in Gavin And Stacey. Away from television, Lamb’s extensive stage work includes Fool For Love, Art and The Price in the West End, Nine at the Donmar Warehouse and work for the National Theatre, Royal Court and Royal Shakespeare Company. Dos Santos, who starred in a Radio 4 production of Educating Rita, has stage credits includes Russell’s Stags And Hens at the Royal Court.
Syal comes to the Menier after making her name in television comedies Goodness Gracious Me and The Kumars At Number 42. In addition to her television work, Syal has appeared on stage in Rafta Rafta at the National Theatre, which won the 2008 Best New Comedy Laurence Olivier Award.
The season at the Chocolate Factory continues with The Phantom Of The Opera director Prince and choreographer Stroman teaming up to direct an all-American production of new musical Paradise Found, which plays from 19 May to 26 June (press night 26 May).
Based on Austrian author Joseph Roth’s novel The Tale Of The 1002nd Night and set to the music of Johann Stauss II, Paradise Found centres on the adventures in love of the Shah of Persia, an Empress and a eunuch.
Tony-winning Broadway actor Patinkin, seen in concert in the West End last year, plays the eunuch, leading a cast that also includes Hensley – who won a Laurence Olivier Award in 1999 for his performance in Oklahoma!, which was choreographed by Stroman – along with John Cullum, Judy Kaye and Kate Baldwin.
After Paradise Found, multi-award-winning British director Nunn returns to the Menier following the success of last year’s production of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music to direct a new “intimate” production of Andrew Lloyd Webber, Don Black and Charles’s Hart’s Aspects Of Love, which he first directed on its premiere in 1989.
Playing from 3 July to 11 September (press night 15 July), Aspects Of Love, based on David Garnett’s novel, is set in 1940s France and Italy and tells the story of a young student who falls in love with an alluring actress. As the pair embark on a passionate affair, the unexpected arrival of Alex’s uncle changes their lives forever.
Nunn, the former Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre, has a weighty and varied cannon of work that encompasses musicals, new plays and classics by everyone from Shakespeare to Tom Stoppard and Lloyd Webber, not forgetting the West End’s longest-running musical, Les Misérables. In addition to Aspects Of Love, Nunn has directed the premiere productions of Lloyd Webber’s Cats, Starlight Express, Sunset Boulevard and The Woman In White.
Casting for Aspects Of Love has not yet been confirmed.
The season confirms the Menier Chocolate Factory’s status as one of London’s premiere off-West End producing houses. In its six year history the theatre has presented hit productions of La Cage Aux Folles, A Little Night Music, Sunday In The Park With George and Little Shop Of Horrors, all of which have transferred to the West End. Currently playing there is Sweet Charity, starring Tamzin Outhwaite, which ends it run on 7 March.