Marin Kemp leads stars set to appear at Chichester Festival Theatre’s jam-packed winter season

Martin Kemp

Martin Kemp, Belinda Lang and Siân Phillips are among the stars appearing in plays and musicals at Chichester Festival Theatre’s winter season.

The season is crammed full of touring dramas, comedies and family friendly shows from some of the best producers in the country, offering entertainment for all tastes and ages.

Plays and musicals ranging from Million Dollar Quartet to Driving Miss Daisy and the West End hits The Play That Goes Wrong and The Wipers Times that will feature.

Rattigan’s masterpiece The Winslow Boy sits alongside modern classics Duet for One and The Weir. Favourites such as the Christmas Concerts, Moscow City Ballet and BBC Concert Orchestra return, and there’s a wide range of music and performances from a sparkling line-up including Sir Michael Parkinson, Stacey Kent, Omid Djalili and Patricia Routledge.

There’s also plenty of entertainment for families and youngsters from toddlers to teenagers, including Chichester Festival Youth Theatre’s Beauty and the Beast for Christmas; a new musical adaptation of The Jungle Book; and an acclaimed production of The Little Matchgirl.

Drama, musicals and family shows

Martin Kemp in MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET Festival Theatre, 7 – 11 November

A sell-out success in the West End and on Broadway, this worldwide smash hit musical is inspired by the famous recording session that brought together rock ‘n’ roll icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins for the first and only time.

On December 4, 1956, these four star musicians gathered at Sun Records in Memphis for what would be one of the greatest jam sessions ever. MILLION DOLLAR QUARTET brings that legendary night to life, featuring a score of rock hits including Blue Suede Shoes, Fever, That’s All Right, Great Balls of Fire, Walk the Line and Hound Dog.

Martin Kemp, of Spandau Ballet fame, leads the cast in the role of record producer Sam Phillips – the man who brought the four stars together to create musical history.

Belinda Lang & Oliver Cotton in DUET FOR ONE
Festival Theatre, 13 – 18 November

In Tom Kempinski’s multi award-winning play, a brilliant concert violinist, who seemingly has it all, is forced to re-evaluate her life when struck down by an unforeseen tragedy. She consults a psychiatrist and, through a series of highly charged encounters, is led to examine her deepest emotions and finally to consider a future without music.

Based on the life of the world renowned cellist Jacqueline du Pré, DUET FOR ONE has enjoyed huge success in the West End and on Broadway since its premiere in 1980. Belinda Lang (2 Point 4 Children, Inspector Alleyn Mysteries, Single Spies) and Oliver Cotton (The Borgias, many plays for the National Theatre & RSC) star in this new production, directed by Robin Lefevre with designs by Chichester’s Design Associate, Lez Brotherston.

THE WIPERS TIMES Festival Theatre, 21 – 25 November

Coming to Chichester direct from the West End, Ian Hislop and Nick Newman’s play THE WIPERS TIMES tells the true and extraordinary story of the satirical newspaper created in the mud and mayhem of the Somme.

During the First World War in the Belgian town of Ypres (mis-pronounced Wipers by British soldiers), two officers discover a printing press and create a resolutely cheerful, subversive and very funny newspaper designed to lift the spirits of the troops on the front line.

Defying enemy bombardment, gas attacks and the disapproval of the Top Brass, The Wipers Times rolled off the press for two years and was an extraordinary tribute to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming adversity.

Siân Phillips & Derek Griffiths in DRIVING MISS DAISY
Festival Theatre, 28 November – 2 December

When elderly widow Daisy Werthan crashes her car one day in 1948, her son hires African-American Hoke Colburn as her chauffeur. Daisy and Hoke’s relationship gets off to a rocky start, but across a 25 year backdrop of prejudice, inequality and civil unrest, a profound and life-altering friendship blossoms.

This acclaimed comedy drama by Alfred Uhry premiered off-Broadway in 1987 and became an Oscar-winning film. Siân Phillips’ dazzling career spans more than seven decades. Her multi award-winning performances range from I, Claudius to Dune, and Marlene on Broadway to Cabaret in the West End. RSC actor Derek Griffiths’ numerous West End credits include Beauty and the Beast and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

CHRISTMAS CONCERTS Festival Theatre, 5 – 9 December

The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Portsmouth and Chichester Cathedral Choir lead a celebration of the festive season with traditional carols, seasonal sing-alongs and the inevitable Christmas cracker jokes. From Jingle Bells to Silent Night, and the extraordinary Corps of Drums, this is a stocking full of Chrismas spirit. Once again there’s a chance to vote for your favourite Christmas song, with the audience favourite performed en masse.

Chichester Festival Youth Theatre presents
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST Festival Theatre, 16 – 31 December
For ages 7+ Relaxed performance: 31 December at 11am

A cursed prince sits alone in an enchanted castle, destined to remain in monstrous form until he can learn to love and be loved in return. But who could ever love a Beast?

Offered a gift by her father, a kind and beautiful young girl asks only for a rose while her brothers and sisters demand jewels and fashionable clothes. But the fulfilment of Beauty’s simple wish puts her in the Beast’s power. He offers her luxury and riches in return for her hand; but can she bring herself to accept his proposals of marriage?

Prejudice, jealousy, compassion and love are woven through this magical story, studded with enchanting and deliciously scary characters.

The award-winning Chichester Festival Youth Theatre present a brand new adaptation by Anna Ledwich from the original fairy tale, with music and lyrics by Richard Taylor, suitable for ages 7+.

Dale Rooks, whose work with CFYT includes Grimm Tales, Running Wild and Peter Pan, directs a visually spectacular show featuring newly composed songs, with set design by Simon Higlett and wonderfully inventive costumes by Ryan Dawson Laight.

Festival Theatre, 3 – 7 January

Moscow City Ballet provides an unmissable climax to the festive season with two stunning productions, each presented in classic Russian style with full orchestra.

Swan Lake, set to Tchaikovsky’s haunting score, is the world’s most romantic ballet: the heart-breaking tale of Siegfried and his love for Odette, the Queen of the Swans.

The Sleeping Beauty inspired some of Tchaikovsky’s most glorious music. Princess Aurora, her gallant prince, wicked Carabosse, the Lilac Fairy and a host of fairy-tale characters adorn a truly magical production.

THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG Festival Theatre, 10 – 14 January
For ages 8+

Fawlty Towers meets Noises Off in this multi award-winning comedy, now playing on Broadway and enjoying its fourth sell-out year in the West End where it won the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy.

The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society are putting on a 1920s murder mystery, but as the title suggests, everything that can go wrong… does! As the accident prone thesps battle on against all the odds to reach their final curtain call, hilarious results ensue.

THE JUNGLE BOOK Festival Theatre, 25 January – 3 February For ages 6+

An exciting new adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s family classic, this colourful, wild and fun show is packed with memorable characters, new songs and brilliant storytelling.

Mowgli the man cub battles for survival in this coming-of-age story about a boy raised by wolves in the jungle. With the help of his animal friends, including Bagheera the panther, Baloo the bear and Kaa the python, Mowgli outwits the cruel and powerful tiger Shere Khan, and learns the law of the jungle.

This unforgettable adventure is adapted by the Olivier Award-winning Jessica Swale (Nell Gwynn), directed by Max Webster (The Lorax) with music by Joe Stilgoe.

THE WEIR Minerva Theatre, 30 January – 3 February
For ages 12+

Winner of the 1997 Olivier Award for Best New Play, Conor McPherson’s chilling modern classic THE WEIR embarks on a UK tour to mark its 20th anniversary year.

In a small Irish town, the locals exchange stories round the crackling fire of Brendan’s pub to while away the hours one stormy night. As the beer and whiskey flows, the arrival of a young stranger, haunted by a secret from her past, turns the tales of folklore into something more unsettling. One story, however, is more chilling and more real than any of them could have ever imagined.

A shadowy tale delving into the dark corners of human lives, THE WEIR is directed by Adele Thomas and is a co-production between English Touring Theatre and Mercury Theatre Colchester.

THE LITTLE MATCHGIRL and Other Happier Tales
For ages 9+ Minerva Theatre, 6 – 10 February

Inspired by the beautiful and devastatingly sad Hans Christian Andersen tale The Little Matchgirl, and combining Andersen’s other tales The Princess and the Pea, The Emperor’s New Clothes and Thumbelina, THE LITTLE MATCHGIRL and Other Happier Tales reveals a spellbinding world of magic and mystery. As our destitute heroine struggles to survive, she strikes her matches to keep warm. Each match will conjure a new story, a new vision, and we will tumble down the rabbit hole with her.

This exquisite production comes to Chichester following its critically acclaimed premiere at Shakespeare’s Globe; it is written and co-adapted by Joel Horwood, and directed and co-adapted by Emma Rice. For adults and brave children alike, expect music, puppetry, dark magic… and perhaps some modern truths that we would rather remain hidden.

THE WINSLOW BOY Festival Theatre, 8 – 17 February

A major new revival of Terence Rattigan’s best-loved play, set in 1910 Edwardian London, directed by Olivier-nominated Rachel Kavanaugh (Half A Sixpence).

Having been expelled from the Royal Naval College for stealing a five-shilling postal order, young cadet Ronnie Winslow’s entire family are pulled apart by the repercussions as they fight to clear his name or face social ostracism, as the case becomes a national scandal.

Based on a real-life event, this gripping masterpiece is a highly-charged moral drama; a courageous and often delicately humorous window into the class and political hypocrisy of the time.

Words, Music and Comedy
STACEY KENT Festival Theatre, 3 November
Internationally acclaimed vocalist Stacey Kent returns to Chichester to perform music from her latest album I Know I Dream. The collection of songs includes American Standards, Bossa Nova classics, Chansons and reprises of some of Stacey’s most-loved repertoire, including songs from her Grammy-nominated album Breakfast on the Morning Tram.

Celebrate the life and career of a man who interviewed over 2,000 of the 20th and 21st centuries’ most important cultural figures. In conversation with his son Mike and showing highlights from the Parkinson archive, this is an intimate and entertaining look at Sir Michael’s remarkable journey from a pit village in Yorkshire to the top of those famous stairs, whilst reliving the best moments from a show that for many defined their Saturday night.

THE GARDEN Steven Pimlott Building, 13 November
Participatory arts company Spare Tyre return with THE GARDEN, an immersive performance for people with dementia and their carers. Bringing the outdoors in, it takes audiences on a multi-sensory journey through the seasons.

JIMMY CARR: The Best of, Ultimate, Gold, Greatest Hits Tour
For ages 16+ Festival Theatre, 20 November
Jimmy Carr has been on the stand-up scene for a decade and a half, performing nine sell-out tours to over 2 million people. Now all that experience is being put to good use, with all the greatest material from his extraordinary career in one show – this is the very best of Jimmy Carr.

BBC CONCERT ORCHESTRA Classical Impressions Festival Theatre, 3 December
A fairy-tale evening to remember, as the BBC Concert Orchestra perform pieces including Paul Patterson’s Little Red Riding Hood. Actor, comic and impressionist Alistair McGowan joins the Orchestra and conductor Martin Yates for a wickedly inspired retelling of the story adapted from Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes.

ADMISSION: ONE SHILLING Minerva Theatre, 16 December
Patricia Routledge and international concert pianist Piers Lane tell the extraordinary story of Myra Hess and her famous wartime National Gallery concerts. Recounted in Dame Myra’s own words compiled by her great nephew, composer Nigel Hess, with music by Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Schumann and Chopin, we hear how the 1,600 lunchtime concerts began and continued while bombs rained down on London.

The Life and Loves of Roland Penrose Minerva Theatre, 12 January
In this drama by Antony Penrose, Surrealist artist Roland Penrose and his wives, Valentine Boué and Lee Miller, tell their story in their own words, accompanied by a stream of images. Man Ray, Leonora Carrington, Edward James and Pablo Picasso also feature in this collaboration between Farleys House, the former home of Penrose and Miller, and the Edward James collection and archive at West Dean College.

THE BILLY JOEL SONGBOOK Minerva Theatre, 13 January
Elio Pace and his band celebrate the phenomenal music of Billy Joel, following his highly acclaimed reunion concerts in the USA with Joel’s original touring band. Featuring Uptown Girl, Just The Way You Are and My Life, as well as fan favourites such as Piano Man, performed by the dynamic singer/songwriter and his six-piece band.

JOE STILGOE AND HIS BIG BAND Festival Theatre, 17 January
Internationally acclaimed singer Joe Stilgoe and his Big Band will play classics from the likes of Cole Porter and Louis Prima, plus hits from his five critically lauded, Jazz Chart-topping albums. Expect a mixture of virtuosic musicianship, breathtaking theatricality and interaction with the audience, combining on the spot improvisation and the quickest of wits.

BBC CONCERT ORCHESTRA Friday Night is Music Night
Festival Theatre, 19 January
The world’s longest running orchestral music show returns for an evening of musical magic, broadcast live on BBC Radio 2 and presented by Ken Bruce with special guests.

OMID DJALILI: Schmuck For A Night
For ages 16+ Festival Theatre, 20 January
Following his critically-acclaimed performance in Fiddler on the Roof, award-winning comedian Omid Djalili returns with his intelligent, sometimes provocative and always entertaining stand-up: a hugely energetic and captivating comedy masterclass.

SOWETO KINCH Minerva Theatre, 26 January
A saxophonist, MC and composer specialising in a trademark style of Jazz, Rap and Spoken Word, Soweto Kinch is revered among musicians and rappers alike. With an array of accolades including two MOBO awards, BBC Rising Star Award, Montreux Jazz Festival Award and a Mercury Award nomination, as well as his own weekly BBC radio show, Soweto brings his trio of saxophone/vocals, drums and bass to Chichester.

OLA ONABULÉ Minerva Theatre, 27 January
Ola Onabulé has established a reputation throughout the world with his songs of love, loss and the human condition, performing at renowned jazz festivals including Montreal, Istanbul and Edmonton. He now presents his new album It’s the Peace That Deafens: 12 songs evoking identity, reconcilation and nostalgia.

POP-UP OPERA Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel Minerva Theatre, 16 February
Pop-Up Opera return with a wintry delight: Hansel and Gretel, sung in German with English captions. Humperdinck’s music magically evokes the contrasting worlds of the story; brother and sister Hansel and Gretel are drawn into the idyllic yet dangerous world of the forest where they encounter the Sandman, the Dew Fairy and the Witch.

STEWART LEE: Content Provider Festival Theatre, 18 February
For ages 16+
Following a sell-out visit in 2016, and after four years writing and performing his TV show Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle, Stewart Lee returns to the Festival Theatre with Content Provider – his first brand new full-length show since the award-winning Carpet Remnant World.

Conversations with Coward Minerva Theatre, 18 February
Following an award-winning New York season, Simon Green and David Shrubsole bring their unique theatrical conversation with Noël Coward to Chichester. Coward’s own inimitable words and music are woven with gems from Ivor Novello, Irving Berlin and George Gershwin, the wisdom of Maya Angelou and original musical settings of Coward verse.

About the Author

Carl Eldridge
Carl Eldridge is a hugely experienced journalist who has worked on local and national newspapers, magazines and written for websites over the past 30 years. He lives in Bognor Regis with his wife and son. And he is a life-long Arsenal fan.