Plays announced to fill the bill at the Utah Shakespearean Festival

Recession can’t stop the procession of new plays in Cedar City as the Utah Shakespearean Festival has announced its lineup of 2010 plays.  

The Bard of Avon mixes it up with Hitchcock and Dickens in next summer’s slate for the 49th season as the festival sneaks up on its golden anniversary. “We have built a slate of productions that can keep us current with the themes and issues of the 21st century, and yet remain true to the mission and values that have guided this festival for the past 48 years,” said executive director R. Scott Phillips in a statement.

Theatergoers get a triple helping of the festival’s namesake from for the summer season from June 28-Sept. 4. Love and giggles get the spotlight in “Much Ado About Nothing,” featuring that comic coupling of Beatrice and Benedick, surrounded by an amusing array of clowns and eccentrics. But comedy mixes with tragedy in “The Merchant of Venice,” with its intersecting themes of justice, mercy and the complexity of the human soul, and spotlighting Shylock, one of Shakespeare’s most memorable and tortured characters. The Bard bill climaxes with “Macbeth,” in which we learn never to underestimate a man’s passion for power or his wife’s ability to stoke it.

Beyond Shakespeare’s quill, audiences can enjoy another trio of choices: Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” centers on a couple’s efforts to arrange profitable marriages for their five daughters, only to have their efforts disrupted when two eligible young men arrive in the neighborhood. Hitchcockian suspense — with a big dose of spoofing — takes over in “The 39 Steps,” the Broadway version in which a cast of four transforms into more than 150 characters. And Dickens soars into song as the festival hosts the world premiere of “Great Expectations,” a musical based on the classic novel.

Looking ahead to the fall season from Sept. 16-Oct. 23, Shakespeare returns with “The Adventures of Pericles,” as the titular character sails from country to country in search of thrills, riches and family. The inspiring drama “The Diary of Anne Frank” retells the story of the famously brave girl in World War II Germany and the travails she recorded for posterity. Finally, a roster of oddballs — portrayed by only a pair of actors — occupy “Greater Tuna,” filled with the weirdness and wackiness of small-town life.

“The creative imagination is an amazing thing, and working with literature by some of the greatest writers in the English-speaking world should generate some spectacular results,” Phillips said in a statement. “I feel as though this will be a season to remember.”

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