Britians National Theatre opened its doors in 1963 with Laurence Olivier as its first director. Eight hundred productions later, the venerable institution celebrates its 50th anniversary
Directed by the NT's Artistic Director Nicholas Hytner, the star-studded evening of live performance also features rare glimpses from the archive spotlighting many of the most celebrated actors who have performed on the National's stages over the past five decades.
Extracts range from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (with Benedict Cumberbatch) to The History Boys (with playwright Alan Bennett and original stars James Corden and Dominic Cooper), and from Mourning Becomes Electra (with Helen Mirren and Tim Pigott-Smith) to Bedroom Farce (with Maggie Smith's Downtown Abbey co-star Penelope Wilton).
There are musical numbers from A Little Night Music (Judi Dench singing "Send in the Clowns"), My Fair Lady (Alex Jennings as Henry Higgins leading Eliza and Pickering in "The Rain in Spain"), and Guys and Dolls (Clive Rowe bringing down the house with"Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat").
Archival scenes include Noel Coward's Hay Fever (with Maggie Smith), Amadeus (with Paul Scofield), and Richard III (with Ian McKellen). There are juxtapositions of then and now, such as Smith's youthful turn in the Coward play followed by her live-on-stage speech from Farquhar's The Beaux' Strategem.
The cast of 100 also includes Roger Allam, Simon Russell Beale, Frances de la Tour, Christopher Eccleston, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Derek Jacobi, Rory Kinnear, Adrian Lester, Anna Maxwell Martin, Andrew Scott, and many more.
The National Theatre Story by Daniel Rosenthal will be published in the United States by Oberon Books/Theatre Communications Group to coincide with the PBS broadcast.
PBS Television Website
Detailed schedule information:
Friday, 14 February 2014 at 9 p.m. ET