Two quality dramas with a top-class cast and the chance to enjoy the work of three diverse dance companies are all part of the new programme at Norwich Theatre Royal.
Add in some of the world’s finest internationally renowned orchestras, the chance to see some of the region’s brightest young performing talent and a variety of popular musicals, and the scene is set for a strong programme of performances through 2020 and beyond.
The autumn brings a feast for drama fans with two classic plays taking to the stage both with a top-class cast. Much-loved entertainer Julian Clary and Norwich Theatre Royal favourite Matthew Kelly star in The Dresser on October 6-10. Set in 1942 in a war-torn provincial theatre, an ageing actor manager known as Sir is struggling to cling on to his sanity and complete his 227th performance as King Lear. It is up to his devoted dresser Norman to ensure the show goes on in this affectionate and hilarious portrait of backstage life.
The following week, Noel Coward’s witty and scathing story of the rich and reckless, Private Lives, is performed from October 13-17. It stars Patricia Hodge OBE and Nigel Havers as Elyot and Amanda who were once married to each other. They find themselves on honeymoon in the South of France with their new partners at the same time. The production also marks the debut of Nigel’s New Theatre Company, which is bringing its very first show to the city.
An enchanting and dramatic story of the world’s most famous sorcerer whose magic helps unite a kingdom is told when Northern Ballet presents Merlin on October 20-24. A sweeping epic adventure of heartbreak, humour and more than a little magic, it is choreographed by Olivier Award-winning Drew McOnie (Broadway’s King Kong and the stage version of Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom).
Some of Brazil’s finest dancers Sầo Paulo Dance Company come to Norwich as part of their debut UK tour. They will fuse the elegance of classical ballet with the sensuality of Latin dance when they premiere three pieces on October 27-28. They are the emotionally charged Anthem, which explores the issues around collective identity and is created by Acosta Danza resident choreographer Goyo Montero; Gnawa which mixes Mediterranean colours and flavours with hypnotic North African music; and percussive beats and flirtatious looks provide a high-energy fusion and energy in Agora.
Rambert is also promising a double-bill of world premieres on its October 1-2 visit. Star choreographers Imre and Marne Van Opstal, who are part of Nederlands Dans Theater and Batsheva, join forces for the first time to create a new piece. Also premiering his latest work is Wim Vandekeybus, known for his fearless and unconstrained style of choreography.
The theatre also hosts the Norwich Theatre Royal debut of hip-hop dance collective Far From The Norm which presents BLKDOG on August 24. It explores how an ageing artist aims to recapture his youth while also seeing how everyone copes with the ongoing need for acceptance. The company creates work with a hip-hop theme, which aims to tackle various social and political issues. Their appearance in the city comes after showcases worldwide at the likes of the Latitude Festival in Suffolk, The Lowry in Salford, Breakin’ Convention in Europe and Canada, and SiDance in South Korea.
Three internationally acclaimed orchestras have confirmed Norwich Theatre Royal visits over the next 12 months. The Czech National Symphony Orchestra celebrate its bohemian heritage in a concert accompanied by returning violin soloist Chloe Hanslip on October 4. Critically acclaimed Serbian/French violinist Nemanja Radulović joins forces with the Armenian State Symphony Orchestra on January 30, 2021 for a programme of work by Khachaturian and Tchaikovsky. Also in 2021, one of the Czech Republic’s leading orchestras which was founded by the composer Janacek in the 1870s – Brno Philharmonic – is on stage on April 11 with a programme which also features the recent BBC Young Musician of the Year, pianist Lauren Zhang.
Meanwhile Glyndebourne brings two classic operas to life later this year. It presents the classic love story Madama Butterfly on November 24 and 27 with its seductive score, exotic colour and Puccini’s memorable melodies. True love conquers all in The Magic Flute on November 25 and 28 with a playful production pitting the forces of darkness against those of good, setting Mozart’s opera in a turn-of-the-century Viennese hotel, which is magically brought to life with puppetry. There will also be the chance to go Behind The Curtain of The Magic Flute on November 26 as audiences can find out more about the set design, hear some of the music and get an insight into the production from the cast.
The team behind hits The Play That Goes Wrong and Comedy About A Bank Robbery bring their brand new comedy Groan Ups to the stage on September 21-26. It follows an unruly classroom of six-year-olds on their journey to adulthood including their time as anarchic high school teenagers, and explores whether we ever really grow up. Producers Mischief Theatre promise lots of laugh-out-loud humour in a show that promises to bring back lots of memories of our younger lives.
The Norwich Theatre Royal Young Company takes centre stage this summer too. Fresh from the success of Grease two years ago, it presents a powerful new production of the musical classic West Side Story from July 30 to August 1. Set on the Upper West Side of New York City, it follows two teenage gangs as they struggle for supremacy in their tough neighbourhood. As the member of one gang falls for his rival’s sister, a bitter battle erupts with tragic consequences.
Talking of Grease, it is back this summer from August 17-22. Pop performer and TV favourite Peter Andre will play Teen Angel at selected performances of this brand new production directed by Nikolai Foster (White Christmas, An Officer and a Gentleman, Sunset Boulevard, Breakfast At Tiffany’s). Mixing the gritty and the glamorous, this thrilling new version will boast a dynamic, fresh young cast and will be bursting with hits including Summer Nights, Greased Lightning, Hopelessly Devoted To You and You’re The One That I Want.
There is more musical excitement when summer sunshine brings brightness to a Norfolk winter with Mamma Mia on November 3-21. Fresh from a successful sold-out run at the Theatre Royal three years ago, the exhilarating feel-good musical featuring the songs of Abba is back. Set on a Greek island paradise where the sun always shines, it tells the story of a daughter’s quest to find the father she has never known. It brings her mother face to face with three men from her distant past on the eve of a wedding they will never forget.
There are also a number of one-night shows joining the Norwich Theatre Royal programme too. The music of Tina Turner is celebrated in What’s Love Got To Do With It? on June 15 while the English Philharmonic Orchestra brings a new dimension to classic summer harmonies in Good Vibrations: The Music Of Brian Wilson & The Beach Boys on July 5.
First-class music and slick choreography combine in a celebration of legendary superstars like Lionel Richie, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and The Jackson Five in The Greatest Hits Of Motown: How Sweet It Is on September 28, whilea powerful blend of African gospel, freedom songs and international classics are performed by the Grammy Award-winning Soweto Gospel Choir on October 31.
Following the 2019 sell-out show, Here Come The Boys is back for 2020 on June 30 with four incredible dance superstars heading the cast of this high-octane show. Strictly Come Dancing favourite Aljaz Škorjanec is joined by former Strictly star Pasha Kovalev, Australian dance sensation and Broadway star Michael Dameski, and the return to the Theatre Royal stage of international ballet sensation and West End star Sam Salter.
Meanwhile a carefully curated selection of short films celebrating epic human endeavour and astounding marine life will be showcased in the Ocean Film Festival on October 30.
John Bultitude, of Norwich Theatre Royal, said: “Autumn is going to herald two fantastic dramas which definitely have a touch of class about them bringing some of this country’s finest actors to our stage. Add in some stunning premieres from some of the globe’s most exciting choreographers and freshest dance performers, and some classic musicals for all ages, and there is a fantastic season on the way in the weeks ahead.”
The new shows go on sale at 9.30am on:
Wednesday 11 March – Gold Friends and Corporate Club
Thursday 12 March – Friends of the Theatre
Wednesday 18 March – General Public
To book, log onto www.norwichtheatre.org or call the box office on 01603 630000.