Chichester Festival Theatre celebrated its 50th anniversary year in 2012 – and is now looking forward to the future with the £22 million redevelopment of the Grade II-listed building.

With the main theatre closed, this June Chichester will be putting up a temporary 1,400-seater temporary theatre for the 2013 season.

The Theatre In The Park, in neighbouring Oaklands Park, will retain the signature thrust stage, bringing the action into the audience, and will host two large-scale productions to complement the programme at the Minerva.

Last year saw record audiences of almost 220,000 people coming to the two Chichester venues.

Not only that but 2011 productions Bingo, Sweeney Todd and the double bill of South Downs and The Browning Version all transferred to the West End, while 2010 summer musical Singin’ In The Rain continued at the Palace Theatre.

Shows from 2012 which have continued to have wider success include Trevor Nunn’s version of Kiss Me, Kate – the first musical at The Old Vic for more than a decade. And Private Lives and the multi-award-winning The Resistible Rise Of Arturo Ui are preparing to move to the West End later this year.

Chichester’s artistic directors Jonathan Church and Alan Finch, who have been at the theatres since 2006, are currently looking at ways of attracting younger audiences.

Following the success of their temporary space Theatre On The Fly last year, they have launched a new scheme for 18 to 25 year-olds, offering limited £8.50 tickets for all performances in both theatres one month before each production opens.

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The Pajama Game

Minerva Theatre, Monday, April 22, to Saturday, June 8

Former artistic director of the National Theatre, Richard Eyre, returns to Chichester fresh from working with Rowan Atkinson on Quartermaine’s Terms for this musical look at industrial relations.

Richard Adler and Jerry Ross’s musical, which was inspired by co-writer Richard Bissell’s novel Seven And A Half Cents, sees a love affair develop between handsome new pajama factory superintendent Sid Sorokin and union firebrand Babe Williams.

When the workers are refused a seven-and-a-half cent pay-rise the pair find themselves on opposite sides of the ensuing conflict.

Taking the lead roles across the factory floor are West End star Hadley Fraser and Olivier Award-winning Joanna Riding.

If Only

Minerva Theatre, Friday, June 14, to Saturday, July 27

The Conservative/ Liberal Democrat Coalition government is at the heart of this world premiere by playwright David Edgar.

Opening the day after the first prime ministerial debate in 2010, it picks up on a Labour special advisor, Liberal Democrat staffer and Tory candidate all stranded at Malaga airport by the Icelandic dustcloud.

Fast-forwarding four years later, the trio meet again and discover one of them knows something which could change the outcome of the following year’s election.

At the helm of this new play is associate director Angus Jackson, fresh from taking Chichester’s Goodnight Mister Tom, Bingo and The Browning Version to the West End.


Theatre In The Park, Monday, July 15, to Saturday, August 31

The summer musical is always the centrepiece of Chichester’s festival season – and it would be hard to think of a more appropriate production to launch the new temporary space.

Barnum celebrates the finest showman of all time, telling the story of the creation of Barnum And Bailey’s Circus – The Greatest Show On Earth as well as Phineas T’s marriage to his sweetheart Chairy.

The score by Cy Coleman and lyricist Michael Stewart contains classics such as Come Follow The Band, The Colours Of My Life and There’s A Sucker Born Ev’ry Minute.

This revised version is by original writer Mark Bramble and Cameron Mackintosh.

Taking the lead role is Broadway rising star Christopher Fitzgerald, who featured in the original cast of Wicked, played Igor in Young Frankenstein and was directed by Al Pacino in The Merchant Of Venice.

In charge behind the scenes is Olivier Award-winning director Timothy Sheader, the artistic director for Open Air Theatre Regent’s Park.

The Resistible Rise Of Arturo Ui

Minerva Theatre, Thursday, August 15, to Saturday, September 14

Anyone who missed this hit last season gets another chance as it prepares for a transfer to London’s Duchess Theatre.

Back in the lead role is Henry Goodman, who earned a TMA Award for best performance in a play for his portrayal of the Chicago gangster determined to take over the city’s vegetable business in Bertolt Brecht’s parable.

The play mirrors the rise of Hitler in Weimar Germany, as the initially laughable fool slowly gains influence over the city’s leaders and gangland.

This production, revised from George Tabori’s original translation by Alistair Beaton, is directed by Chichester’s co- artistic director Jonathan Church.

Neville's Island

Theatre In The Park, Wednesday, September 11, to Saturday, September 28

Tim Firth’s Calendar Girls focused on a group of middle-aged Yorkshire women willing to strip off their inhibitions for a good cause.

Penned more than 15 years before, Neville’s Island is about four out-of- condition middle-aged men who get shipwrecked on an island in the Lake District during a team-building exercise and embark on a bloody fight for survival.

Associate director Angus Jackson helms his second show of the season in the temporary space.

Another Country

Minerva Theatre, Wednesday, September 18, to Saturday, October 19

Set in a 1930s English public school, Julian Mitchell’s play focuses on two outsiders, Bennett and Judd, as they try to battle the establishment.

Taking inspiration from the real-life stories of Cambridge spy Guy Burgess and Spanish Civil War casualty John Cornford, it follows the young men as they come to terms with their homosexuality and Marxist political views.

Having opened the 2012 festival with Uncle Vanya, associate director of the Royal Court Theatre Jeremy Herrin returns to close the 2013 season.

The Witches

Minerva Theatre, Saturday, December 7, to Saturday, January 4

Also announced alongside the summer programme is this year’s Chichester Youth Theatre Production, which will be bringing magic and mice to the Minerva over Christmas.

Adapted for the stage by David Wood, Roald Dahl’s children’s classic The Witches was the book that revealed evil bewigged and clawed sorcerors live among us, whose aim is to rid the world of its rugrats.

When one young witch-hunter happens upon the Grand High Witch staying at a seaside hotel, he uncovers a terrible plot which might actually make that happen.

Youth Festival Theatre director Dale Rooks is following up her promenade performance of the Biblical epic Noah, with music from Oli Jackson and puppetry from Toby Olie.

  • Tickets for all shows from £10 to £40.
  • Friends booking starts online on Tuesday, February 26, and in person or on the phone on 01243 781312 from Tuesday, March 5.
  • Public booking online opens on Thursday, March 7, and by phone or in person on Monday, March 11.