Excitement and sadness too as CFT artistic director unveils his final season

There’s certainly excitement, but there is sadness too as Chichester Festival Theatre artistic director Daniel Evans – destined for the RSC later this year – today unveils his final CFT season.
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“I'm really delighted with the season but I have to admit that as I was coming in today I did have a massive pang of sadness and sorrow that this is the last one. Sadness because it has all been absolutely amazing. I've had the time of my life here. I'm not quite ready to do a big valedictory speech. I have certainly got a few more months before I leave but I think the fact of leaving does make the pleasure of what this season is going to bring all the greater. I'm just really pleased that we've ended up with this season which is almost like a big encapsulation of so many of the things that we have excelled at over the years in Chichester. We've got four world premieres. We are continuing to invest in new work and new voices and we've also got three musicals. We know that since the pandemic people really do enjoy the idea of going out and just having fun and seeing things like Charlie Stemp in Crazy For You last year and also the comedy of The Unfriend last year. We want to offer something that's really uplifting, a really joyous experience for people but at the same time we want to offer challenging work like the world premiere of The Inquiry, a new play by Harry Davies, a Guardian investigative journalist. And then of course we have got our wonderful, brilliant youth theatre who will be contributing very much this year.”

Click here for your full guide to the main-house season at Chichester Festival Theatre. Click here for your full guide to the Minerva season at Chichester Festival Theatre.

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The big centrepiece for the summer is going to be Gina Beck in The Sound Of Music (music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, directed by Adam Penford, July 10-September 3) in the main-house.

Daniel Evans, artistic director of Chichester Festival Theatre. Photo Seamus RyanDaniel Evans, artistic director of Chichester Festival Theatre. Photo Seamus Ryan
Daniel Evans, artistic director of Chichester Festival Theatre. Photo Seamus Ryan

“It has taken years for us to get The Sound of Music because the Rodgers and Hammerstein estate rightly considers it to be the jewel in their crown. This may be partly because it has become a famous film but they are very careful with controlling how much it is done and where it is done but it is a tribute to the Festival Theatre and our reputation with musicals that we knocked on their door and they said yes. Partly what makes it so special is that not long afterwards Hammerstein died so in one way it is the culmination of their careers together. It was certainly their last show together.

“But certainly as a piece of musical theatre writing it is just absolutely unbeatable. It's the combination of book and music, how they are held together, the form and the content. It's just magical. Literally it is about the sound of music, how music is brought into this rather sterile household and how it brings love and compassion to that household in an era and in an area of the world where freedom was being taken away. It was the annexation of Austria about to happen so there are associations with today. But it's also a deeply personal story. There is the religious aspect to it but there's also that strong personal family dramatic situation, the dynamic between a father who is widowed and children that need a mother. Everyone thinks that they know the musical but do people really think about the title? It is The Sound of Music and it is thinking about what that sound of music does. Sometimes I will just go to the piano if I want to lift my mood. You just put on a song if you want to lift your mood. Music can give you calm or peace or really psyche you up for a night out. This is a musical all about what music can do for you.”

And it didn't take long for Daniel to find his Maria: “Gina was here in South Pacific. S he has one of the greatest voices in musical theatre. She is a master technician as a singer but she is also a very gifted actress.”