Haute Living loves Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, which this summer, will celebrate its 81st season. While we can’t guarantee it won’t rain (this is England) the setting – a steeply raked auditorium with a 1,240 seating capacity slap bang in the middle of one of the capital’s prettiest parks – is simply magical.
Today Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre – a genuine London highlight – confirmed lead casting for two of its 2014 season productions – Hobson’s Choice and the Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess. Mark Benton will play Henry Hobson in Hobson’s Choice, with Jodie McNee as his daughter Maggie. Meanwhile Rufus Bonds Jr and Nicola Hughes play the title roles in Porgy and Bess with Phillip Boykin re-creating his Tony Award nominated performance as Crown, and Sharon D Clarke as Mariah.
Mark Benton is best known for his television roles in Early Doors, Northern Lights and Waterloo Road. His stage credits include Richard III (Royal Shakespeare Company), The Front Page (Donmar Warehouse), A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (Nottingham Playhouse) and the 2013 UK tour of Hairspray. In September 2013 Mark was a popular contestant on BBC1’s Strictly Come Dancing.
Jodie McNee has previously appeared in King Lear (Shakespeare’s Globe), Twelfth Night (Liverpool Everyman), The Empty Quarter (Hampstead Theatre) and A Life of Galileo, Written on the Heart and Measure for Measure (Royal Shakespeare Company).
Hobson’s Choice will run from 12 June to 12 July and will be directed by Nadia Fall whose credits include The Doctor’s Dilemma and Home (National Theatre) and Disgraced (Bush Theatre). The set and costumes will be designed by Ben Stones whose credits include Creditors (Donmar Warehouse), The Kitchen Sink (Bush Theatre), and Doctor Faustus (Royal Exchange) for which he won the MEN Best Design Award 2011.
Rufus Bonds Jr is an American actor who has appeared in The Color Purple (US National Tour), Disney’s The Lion King (US National Tour) and the original Broadway production of Parade for which he was nominated for the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical.
Nicola Hughes revisits the role of Bess following her Olivier Award nominated performance in Trevor Nunn’s 2006 production at the Savoy Theatre. Her stage credits also include The Color Purple (Menier Chocolate Factory), Fosse (Prince of Wales Theatre / Olivier Award nomination), and Velma Kelly in Chicago (Adelphi Theatre).
Porgy and Bess will also star Phillip Boykin who will reprise the role of Crown, for which he received Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations for the 2012 Broadway production (Tony Award, Best Revival of a Musical). Double-Laurence Olivier Award nominee Sharon D Clarke, whose credits include We Will Rock You (Dominion Theatre), Ghost (Piccadilly Theatre) and The Amen Corner (National Theatre), will play the role of Mariah.
Rufus Bonds Jr and Phillip Boykin are appearing with the permission of UK Equity, incorporating the Variety Artistes’ Federation, pursuant to an exchange program between American Equity and UK Equity.
Celebrated as a landmark piece of American theatre, the Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess will run from 17 July to 23 August, directed by Timothy Sheader, with a book adapted by Suzan-Lori Parks and a musical score adapted by Diedre L. Murray. The set and costume will be designed by Katrina Lindsay whose credits include Table and London Road (both National Theatre), Cabaret (West End and UK Tour), and Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Broadway) for which she won the 2008 Tony, Outer Critics Circle and Drama Desk Award for Best Costume Design. Choreography will be by Liam Steel whose credits include the musical staging and choreography for the film of Les Misérables and at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, co-directed and choreographed Into the Woods which was remounted at the Delacorte Theatre in New York’s Central Park in 2012.
Further casting for the season will be announced shortly. For more information, visit www.openairtheatre.com