Sir Ian McKellen set for Chichester return

Image caption,
Sir Ian McKellen will shortly reprise his Gandalf role in the Hobbit films

Actor Sir Ian McKellen is to appear at the Chichester Festival Theatre later this year in a Naples-set comedy.

According to his official website, the 71-year-old star last appeared at the West Sussex venue in 1965.

Sir Ian will play a mafia don in The Syndicate, a new version of a 1961 play by Italian author Eduardo De Filippo.

The actor will fit the five-week run between his filming commitments on the Lord of the Rings prequels shooting in New Zealand this year.

Michael Pennington will star alongside him in Sean Mathias's production, to play in the venue's smaller Minerva theatre.

The 2011 season will also see two of Terence Rattigan's plays performed in the centenary year of his birth.

The Deep Blue Sea will be staged in the main Festival theatre, while The Browning Version will run in the Minerva in a double bill with a new work by Sir David Hare.

The Rattigan "festival within a festival" will also include Rattigan's Nijinsky, a new play exploring why the playwright wrote then withdrew a 1974 TV script about the renowned Russian dancer.

Three musicals will feature in a Chichester season for the first time, beginning with She Loves Me in May and continuing with Singin' in the Rain in June.

They will be followed in September by Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, with Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton in the leading roles.

Also in May, Sir Trevor Nunn, former director of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre, will direct a new production of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.

Written by Sir Tom Stoppard, the 1966 comedy views the events in Shakespeare's Hamlet from the perspective of two supporting characters.

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