Kingston’s Rose theatre is to collaborate with Broadway producer Bud Martin to bring a new tuneful adaptation of swashbuckling tale The Three Musketeers to the stage this Christmas.
Featuring music by George Stiles and lyrics by Paul Leigh, the classic tale of royal intrigue, a nefarious cardinal and sensational swordplay, which will be the first musical staged by the theatre, is to run from 27 November to 2 January.
The show is preceded in the theatre’s autumn schedule by Noël Coward’s classic comedy Hay Fever, which will star Laurence Olivier Award-winning actress Celia Imrie and Alexandra Gilbreath, who was nominated for an Olivier Award for her performance in Twelfth Night earlier this year.
Coward’s comedy of manners, which is to be directed by the Rose’s Artistic Director Stephen Unwin, tells the story of the Bliss family – actress Judith, novelist David and their children Sorel and Simon – who welcome four guests into their home for a weekend. As time passes and misunderstandings mount, the guests become desperate to escape.
“I’m thrilled to be directing Noël Coward’s great comedy of bad manners, which seems to me one of the most perfectly achieved 20th century English plays. With this production, I want to lay bare the brilliant assault on suburban values that lies at the heart of the play,” commented Unwin.
Hay Fever, which runs from 23 September to 23 October, and The Three Musketeers are the venue’s ninth and tenth home-grown productions since the theatre opened in January 2008. They follow successful shows including Bedroom Farce, which transferred to the West End, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which starred Judi Dench, and, most recently, the revival of Joe Penhall’s Dumb Show.
While Unwin made it clear at a press launch yesterday that he would like to produce more shows at the Rose theatre, ideally running productions in repertoire as was achieved with Miss Julie and Bedroom Farce last autumn, the economic reality of the situation looms heavily.
Since opening two and a half years ago, the theatre has received minimal funding from the Arts Council, relying instead on money from the local authority, Kingston University, supporters and, predominantly, box office sales to fund its self-produced shows.
“The Rose opened with a big dream but perhaps not enough funding support built in,” Unwin admitted, “but with a feeling from the community that they wanted to have a theatre.”
His passion and commitment for making the venue successful is clear, as is his love of the theatre’s unique “lozenge” stage, which creates, he says, “a most amazingly free relationship with the audience”.
The aim of Arts Council funding is an ongoing project for Unwin, though the future, he thinks, may lie in more partnerships like the upcoming co-production with Martin. For now the theatre will continue to blend its own productions with a broad range of visiting shows – from a Korean version of Romeo And Juliet to The Pirates Of Penzance – offering its audiences the widest variety of choice.
In spring 2011, those visiting shows will be complemented by the return of the Rose theatre’s Director Emeritus, former Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre Artistic Director Peter Hall, following his productions of The Rivals for Theatre Royal Bath and Twelfth Night for the National Theatre. While nothing has been confirmed, Unwin describes the shows being considered for Hall’s return as a “couple of very exciting, big projects”.
Until then Unwin will continue striving to build on the Rose theatre’s growing reputation in the face of economic adversity, happy that, two and a half years since opening, “We’re still here and we’re still going.”