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Westport County Playhouse Rejiggers Schedule; Around the World in 80 Days to Open Season

Westport Country Playhouse incoming artistic director Mark Lamos and managing director Michael Ross announce a new look to the 2009 season. The Playhouse will open its 79th season in April with "Around the World in 80 Days" directed by Michael Evan Haney. "Around the World in 80 Days" was original scheduled for a September run, but will now open the 2009 season.

"Around the World in 80 Days," an adventure tale adapted from the book by Jules Verne and written by Mark Brown, will play April 21 through May 9. Hailed by the New Yorker as "a riveting testament to the ingeniousness of the human imagination," and heralded by Associated Press as "a clever, action-packed production skillfully directed by Michael Evan Haney," "Around the World in 80 Days" is a wild, global adventure for the whole family about Phileas Fogg and his ever loyal man-servant Passepartout---complete with elephants, steamboats and trains.

Following "Around the World in 80 Days," the season's second play will be "Children," a timeless and touching family drama by A.R. Gurney, the playwright who penned "The Dining Room," "Sylvia" and "Love Letters." It will run May 26 through June 13. When their mysterious brother, Pokey, returns to the family's beachside vacation home, all the family plans crumble as love affairs and family secrets explode. Westport favorite John Tillinger will direct.

Third in the series will now be the modern musical, "tick, tick...BOOM!" with book, music and lyrics by Jonathan Larson, who created the smash hit "Rent." It is scheduled June 23 through July 18. The engaging musical captures the struggles of a starving artist and his determination to live out his dream. A recent off-Broadway production won the Outer Critics Circle Award for outstanding musical. The show contains mature language and themes.

Moving to the fourth slot in the season will be the classic comedy, "How the Other Half Loves," playing July 28 through August 15, written by Alan Ayckbourn and directed by John Tillinger, the playwright and director who recently brought to the Playhouse the hit comedies "Time of My Life" and "Relatively Speaking". A late night affair turns into a dinner party to remember where comedy is the main course.

A fifth and sixth play, not yet announced, will be finalized soon. One of the final two shows will be directed by Lamos. Their production dates are, respectively, August 25 through September 12 and September 29 through October 17.

Newly appointed artistic director Mark Lamos commented, "I am thrilled that the changes we are making to the season both pay homage to the hard work and dedication of outgoing artistic directors Joanne Woodward and Anne Keefe while allowing Michael Ross and me to plan the final two shows of the 2009 season." He continued, "I think it is important that the Playhouse audience has an opportunity to get to know Michael and me before the 2010 season."

In addition to the six-play series, "The Greatest Gift," a world premiere by David Wiltse, Westport Country Playhouse's playwright-in-residence, will be the Playhouse's holiday offering with music, laughter, song and dance for the entire family.

"To Kill a Mockingbird," originally set to open the season, has been cancelled. "'To Kill a Mockingbird' is a great piece of literature, and makes for an incredible night of theater," said Lamos. "I am delighted Connecticut audiences will have the opportunity to see it at Hartford Stage."

The 2009 performance schedule is Tuesday at 8 p.m., Wednesday at 2 and 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Special series feature Previews, Opening Nights, Thursday TalkBack, Sunday Symposium, Backstage Pass and Open Captioning.

Series ticketing options include the new Season Pass, Pick-A-Plan, FlexTix and the traditional subscription package. Students and educators are eligible for 50% discounts. Groups of 10 or more save up to 30%. For group sales information call (203) 227-5137, x120.

About the Playhouse

Celebrating its 79th season in 2009, the venerable Westport Country Playhouse is creating extraordinary, quality productions of new and classic plays. The Playhouse has produced more than 700 plays, 36 of which later transferred to Broadway, most recently the world premiere of "Thurgood" and a revival of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" with Paul Newman, and in earlier years "Come Back, Little Sheba" with Shirley Booth, "The Trip to Bountiful" with Lillian Gish and "Butterflies Are Free" with Keir Dullea and Blythe Danner. The list of actors, directors and other theater artists who have worked and continue to perform on the Playhouse's legendary stage reads like a "Who's Who" of the American theater. They include, in recent years, Karen Allen, Matthew Broderick, Kristin Chenoweth, Jill Clayburgh, Jane Curtin, Richard Dreyfuss, Philip Seymour Hoffman, James Earl Jones, Eartha Kitt, Angela Lansbury, Bernadette Peters, Christopher Plummer and Gene Wilder; and in past years, Olivia de Havilland, Henry Fonda, Jane Fonda, Helen Hayes, Gene Kelly, Liza Minnelli, Gloria Swanson and Jessica Tandy.

For its artistic excellence, the Playhouse received a 2008 Westport Arts Award for Theater Achievement, a 2005 Governor's Arts Award, a 2000 "Connecticut Treasure" recognition by then Connecticut Lieutenant Governor M. Jodi Rell, numerous Connecticut Critics Circle Awards and a grant from The National Endowment for the Arts, among other significant honors. The Playhouse was designated as an Official Project of Save America's Treasures by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is entered on the Connecticut State Register of Historic Places.

Following a multi-million dollar renovation completed in 2005, the Playhouse enhanced it rich history as a summer venue into a year-round, state-of-the-art producing theater, which has preserved its original charm and character. Last year, 85,000 attended or participated in Playhouse programming. In addition to a full season of theatrical productions, the Playhouse presents educational programming and workshops; a children's theater series; symposiums; music; films; and readings of short fiction, classical works and new plays. Westport Country Playhouse serves as a treasured home for the theatrical arts, its audiences and its artists. For the State of Connecticut, it is a true cultural landmark. The Playhouse is a 501(c) (3) not-for-profit organization.

For more information or ticket purchases, call the box office at (203) 227-4177, or toll-free at 1-888-927-7529, or visit 25 Powers Court, off Route 1, Westport. Information about the Playhouse is also available at


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