Norwich Theatre Royal is all set to host some well-loved tales on its stage next year with Sister Act, Funny Girl, Shirley Valentine, Abigail’s Party and The Railway Children all heading to the city.
And it doesn’t end there – whether comedy, drama, musicals, opera or children’s productions, the stories will keep coming with Million Dollar Quartet, Fantastic Mr Fox, Gangsta Granny and more.
Announcing its new season heading into Summer 2017, the theatre no sooner waves goodbye in March to a four-week long run of MAMMA MIA! then it is inviting audiences to Abigail’s Party. It is 40 years since Beverley first served up cheesy-pineapple nibbles and Demis Roussos for her guests, so pop a date down in your diary to attend the drinks party from hell which is on the calendar from March 27 to April 1, starring Amanda Abbington in a sharp satirical play which is touring prior to going into the West End.
X-Factor winner and three-time Brit nominee Alexandra Burke, who recently wowed Norwich audiences in The Bodyguard, returns to the city as Deloris in the smash hit musical Sister Act from May 1-6, directed and choreographed by Craig Revel Horwood and with West End favourite and former Norwich Theatre Royal panto star Rosemary Ashe as Sister Mary.
Strong female characters also feature in Funny Girl The Musical from June 26-July 1 and in Willy Russell’s Shirley Valentine from September 5-9. Critically-acclaimed for its West End Run, casting for Funny Girl (which brought Barbra Streisand to global fame 50 years ago) is yet to be announced; while Shirley Valentine will see West End musical star and 2008 winner of I’d Do Anything Jodie Prenger star in this one-woman show about a Liverpool housewife who leaves her husband and kids at home to reboot her life in Greece.
Million Dollar Quartet, the Broadway and West End smash hit musical, arrives in Norwich from May 22-27. It tells the story of one unforgettable recording session at Sun Records in Memphis on December 4, 1956, that brought together rock ‘n’ roll legends Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins for the first and only time. Firm Norwich favourite Jason Donovan (last here in Priscilla earlier this year) stars as legendary record producer Sam Phillips and the show features a score of all-time rock hits such as Blue Suede Shoes and Great Balls of Fire.
An emotional and life-affirming Michael Morpurgo story is brought to the stage in Running Wild from April 25-29. Caught up in a tsunami in Indonesia, a young girl is swept into the jungle and befriended by animals. Presented by The Children’s Touring Partnership, which has previously brought Goodnight Mister Tom, Swallows and Amazons and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas to Norwich, it features animal puppetry to rival War Horse, including a life-size Asian elephant and endearing orangutans.
Another children’s story sure to delight is The Railway Children which runs from July 31-August 5. Based on E. Nesbit’s classic novel, and made famous by the iconic 1970 movie which starred Jenny Agutter and Bernard Cribbins, it tells of the children who move to the depths of the country when their father mysteriously disappears. They discover new friendships and freedoms and an unexpected secret.
Also offering family entertainment are two of the UK’s best-selling children’s authors – David Walliams’ Gangsta Granny is presented from July 13-15 in a tour by Birmingham Stage Company prior to heading for the West End; and Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox is on stage in a brand new musical adaptation from June 21-24. Ideal for small children, Ben & Holly’s Little Kingdom, from the BAFTA award-winning TV animation show and the makers of Peppa Pig, will be live on stage on May 30 & 31.
Belly laughs aplenty will be on the cards with The Play That Goes Wrong from June 12-17. Norfolk audiences have already enjoyed Peter Pan Goes Wrong and can now see the original multi-award-winning production which features the accident-prone thespians of The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, this time putting on a 1920s murder mystery as the scenery comes crashing down around them.
Both comedy and drama are on offer from regional producing theatre The Watermill Theatre which presents two of Shakespeare’s best-loved plays from June 6-10 when they present Romeo + Juliet and Twelfth Night. Both productions are directed by Paul Hart, artistic director of The Watermill Theatre and former Propeller associate.
A tale from another literary legend Agatha Christie will entertain from July 3-8 when A Murder Is Announced. The Miss Marple mystery sees a group of Chipping Cleghorn residents gather at a house at an appointed time when suddenly the lights go out and a gun is fired…
Ellen Kent and Opera & Ballet International brings epic opera to Norwich with Verdi’s Nabucco and Aida on May 9 and 10 respectively. Both will be sung in Italian with surtitles. And English Touring Opera will present one of the world’s best-loved operas Puccini’s Tosca on June 1 & 2 and an all-singing, all-dancing comedy, Patience, by Gilbert & Sullivan, on June 3.
And from August 7-12, Dreamboats and Petticoats returns. Inspired by the multi-million selling albums, the West End sell-out musical features some of the greatest hits from the rock ‘n’ roll era with an endearing storyline of young love.
Norwich Theatre Royal’s Youth Company offers ideal summer holiday entertainment with Alice Back In Wonderland from July 26-29, a fun-filled musical adventure from David Lambert, the writer of its previous shows High School Prom Queen and Peter Pan Return To Neverland.
And the Theatre Royal also hosts Norfolk & Norwich Festival shows from Finnish circus troupe Race Horse Company with Super Sunday (May 15 & 16), Chotto Desh with an Olivier Award-winning show about a young man’s dreams of moving from Bangladesh to Britain (May 18), and leading female jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater (May 20).
An eclectic array of one-night shows is also programmed in for next year, ranging across music, comedy and dance: Solid Silver Sixties Show (April 2), Buddy Holly & The Cricketers (April 24), Count Arthur Strong with The Sound of Mucus (May 21), An Audience with Ian Waite & Natalie Lowe (May 28), That’ll Be The Day (May 11), Reginald D Hunter (June 4), Milkshake Live! (July 2), Heather Millan School of Dance and Performing Arts with Once Upon a Fairy Tale (July 9), Some Guys Have All The Luck (July 11), Rhythm of the Dance (July 10) and Purple Rain (September 3).
And the theatre’s annual Open Day, when the public can take a peek into theatre life, will be on August 26.
Already announced is the critically-acclaimed international festival of hip hop dance theatre, Breakin’ Convention, which arrives in Norwich on May 13. Known as one of the major highlights on the British dance calendar, it will feature some of the world’s top hip hop acts including Soweto Skeleton Movers and Tentacle Tribe who will be flown into the UK to perform sets on the Theatre Royal stage alongside East Anglian dance companies.
Judy Foster, of Norwich Theatre Royal, said: “Theatre is all about telling stories and the exciting programme of newly-announced shows we have lined up for next year will do just that. We’re excited that our Norfolk audiences will get the chance to see several productions, such as Abigail’s Party and Gangsta Granny, before they head into the West End, while other acclaimed smash-hit shows are coming to us after achieving West End and Broadway success, from Sister Act and Million Dollar Quartet to Funny Girl. We also have some delightful family shows as well, such as The Railway Children and Fantastic Mr Fox, and Running Wild really should not be missed – the animal puppets will truly astound!”
Head to theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk for more details on all these shows.
24 Nov: Friends postal, fax and online booking opens
1 Dec: Friends booking in person and by phone opens
8 Dec: Public postal, fax and online booking opens
16 Dec: Public booking in person and by phone opens