Spectacular year in store for North East theatre fans

The Sound of Music coming to Newcastle Theatre Royal on September 1-12.
The Sound of Music coming to Newcastle Theatre Royal on September 1-12.

A jam-packed summer and autumn of spectacular shows has been lined up for theatre-lovers in the North East.

Newcastle Theatre Royal has announced a line-up for the resty of 2015, with highlights including a new production of The Sound of Music and three huge hits straight from the West End – King Charles III, Handbagged and Hetty Feather.

Jesus Christ Superstar coming to Newcastle Theatre Royal on September 14-19.

Jesus Christ Superstar coming to Newcastle Theatre Royal on September 14-19.

One of the greatest musicals of all time returns to the Theatre Royal stage in The Sound of Music (September 1-12). The show from Bill Kenwright promises a lavish new staging, which will enchant and enthral the young and the young at heart. Based on Baroness Maria von Trapp’s 1949 autobiography, the musical tells the true story of the world-famous singing family, from their romantic beginnings and search for happiness, to their thrilling escape to freedom as their beloved Austria becomes part of the Third Reich at the start of WWll and features some of the world’s most memorable songs.

In mid-September comes a new production of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar (September 14-19), starring Glenn Carter and Tim Rogers with X-Factor finalist Rachel Adedeji. A huge hit when it exploded onto the musical scene in 1971 – stunning audiences and changing the face of musical theatre forever – it tells the story of the last seven days in the life of Jesus through an extraordinary, ground-breaking score.

His music defined an era and his story stunned the world, and now the life, fame and vanishing of America’s most famous big band leader is retold for the first time on stage in The Glen Miller Story (September 21–26). It’s been 70 years since Miller mysteriously disappeared over the English Channel and rock ’n’ roll legend Tommy Steele will play the icon in this musical spectacular accompanied by a live 16-piece Glenn Miller orchestra.

Coming direct from a sold-out West End season, Jaqueline Wilson’s Hetty Feather lands from October 8 to October 11. Following the adventures of a little Victorian foundling with a big personality, it brings Wilson’s much-loved children’s book thrillingly to life with live music, songs and circus skills and is a must see for ‘tweenies’ everywhere.

Northern Ballet's The Nutcracker coming to Newcastle Theatre Royal on November 10-14.

Northern Ballet's The Nutcracker coming to Newcastle Theatre Royal on November 10-14.

Big, bold and beautiful comedy Hairspray (January 19-30, 2016) is the first musical of 2016, kicking off the year in glorious 60s technicolour! Set in Baltimore in 1962, it tells the story of larger-than-life Tracy Turnblad – a big girl with hair and a heart to match. Tracy dreams of becoming a dancer on TV and is determined to defy the odds and follow her dream. Based on the 1988 film of the same name it opened to rave reviews on Broadway in 2002 and subsequently went on to win multiple awards and become a worldwide hit.

Back again in time for Christmas and due to unwavering popular demand is Northern Ballet’s timeless The Nutcracker (November 10-14). A classic production reimagined for a modern audience, it tells the magical tale of Clara, swept away on Christmas Eve by a Nutcracker Prince into a winter wonderland of dancing snowflakes and the famous Sugar Plum Fairy. The ballet is performed to Tchaikovsky’s enduring score, played live by Northern Ballet Sinfonia. Northern Ballet are also bringing Elves and the Shoemaker (November 13) to run in repertoire with their main stage show. Adorable and whimsical, it runs for 45 minutes and is the perfect introduction to ballet for young children.

The darlings of the ballet world Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo are set to make a welcome return on October 6-7, with two glittering performances full of playful comedy and breath-taking skill. Founded in 1974 by a group of ballet enthusiasts presenting an entertaining view of classical ballet in parody form, the all-male troupe first performed in the late-late shows in Off-Off Broadway lofts and are now treasured all around the world.

Two of the biggest names in stand-up comedy are set to bring their respective hit shows to the theatre in the autumn. Trevor Noah (September 27) is renowned for his sharp wit, intelligent commentary and unmistakable charm, and is undoubtedly one of the foremost young comedians of his generation. Dave Gorman (November 1) is a regular sell-out at the theatre and, following his 2014 hit tour, is back with a show that promises more of his unique blend of stand-up comedy and visual storytelling.

Following a sold-out run at the Almeida and in the West End, Mike Bartlett’s critically-acclaimed new future history play King Charles III visits in the autumn (September 28 to October 3). Directed by Rupert Goold – the award-winning talent behind ENRON, King Lear at the Young Vic and the RSC’s Romeo and Juliet, it presents a future where the Queen is dead and Prince Charles has taken the throne. Provocative and entertaining, it puts the spotlight on the people underneath the crowns, the unwritten rules of our democracy, and the conscience of Britain’s most famous family.

To mark the 21st anniversary of one of the most popular films ever made, prison thriller The Shawshank Redemption will hit the stage for the first time later this year and will visit Newcastle between October 19 and October 24. Based on the short story by Stephen King, it tells the tale of Andy Dufresne, a young banker in the 1940s who is handed a double life sentence for the brutal murder of his wife and her lover despite protests of innocence. Incarcerated at the notorious Shawshank facility, he strikes up an unlikely friendship with ‘fixer’ Red, and a desperate plan is quietly hatched. Widely considered the number one all-time movie, this new production examines desperation, injustice, friendship and hope behind the claustrophobic bars of a maximum security penitentiary.

Moira Buffini’s West End smash hit Handbagged (October 26-31) offers a delectable dramatic treat which is wickedly funny and brilliantly astute. It takes two of the world’s most powerful women, the enduring British icons, Elizabeth I and Margaret Thatcher, born in the same year and speculates on what they really talked about behind closed palace doors, when the stiff upper lip softened and the gloves came off. Highly mischievous and utterly unmissable.

JB Priestley’s classic thriller An Inspector Calls is another hit show and the first drama to be programmed for 2016 (February 9-13). A Theatre Royal favourite hailed as the theatrical event of our generation, this landmark production has won more awards than any other play in history and thrilled audiences in the West End, on Broadway and throughout the world with its epic and wildly imaginative staging, raw emotion, evocative score, lashing rain and chilling suspense.

There are nine dramas already on sale for 2015, offering something for every taste.

From haunting thrillers - Daphne Du Maurier’s absorbing masterpiece Rebecca (May 11–16), Reginald Rose’s gripping courtroom thriller Twelve Angry Men (June 15–20), Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None (July 27 to August 1) and bestselling crime thriller novelist Peter James’ Dead Simple (May 26-30); to the historical and literary - Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird (April 20-25), John Boyne’s heart-wrenching tale The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (May 19-23) and Oscar Wilde’s much loved masterpiece The Importance of Being Earnest (June 8–13). The Royal Shakespeare Company is also here with its Younger Audiences production of The Famous Victories of Henry V (June 30) and from the award-winning Mischief Theatre Company is new comedy Peter Pan Goes Wrong (July 1-4).

Pop Princess and BBC Strictly Come Dancing sensation Pixie Lott has just been announced for Putting on the Ritz (June 2–6) – a star-studded musical extravaganza taking audiences on a wonderful journey through the hits of George Gershwin, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter. Strictly stars Trent Whiddon, Kristina Rihanoff and Robin Windsor also feature in the show.

From Strictly Come Dancing performers to one of the show’s hardest judges Craig Revel Horwood, who is gracing our stage as the tyrannical Miss Hannigan in the world premiere of a new production of Annie (July 11-18). Meanwhile, Alexandra Burke has also been announced for the summer’s biggest show The Bodyguard (April 1–18), and Belinda Lang, Gary Wilmot and Ashley Day will add a dose of stardust to a true classic – Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! (June 23-27).

There are two shows already on sale specifically for younger audiences - Judith Kerr’s much-loved The Tiger Who Came To Tea (July 3-4), and, following a sell-out day of shows in March, Sing-A-Long-A Frozen (Sunday, May 10) is back as an additional date due to overwhelming public demand.

Tickets are still available to be snapped up for Shrek The Musical, direct from the West End and playing until March 29, as well as Matthew Bourne’s internationally-acclaimed dance thriller The Car Man (April 28 to May 9). Plus, with a staggering 50,000 tickets already sold eight months before it opens, the 2015/16 pantomime Dick Whittington (24 Nov 2015 – Sun 17 Jan 2016) is set to be the theatre’s biggest and fastest selling panto of all time. Fans better be quick if they want to see Clive, Danny, Chris and the gang in another spectacular production jam-packed with fun, adventure, comedy and … cats!

Tickets for all new shows in the summer/autumn 2015 season go on public sale on Friday, March 20. Tickets can be purchased from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 08448 11 21 21 or pay less online at www.theatreroyal.co.uk.

Friends of the Theatre Royal can book new season shows on Monday (March 16), before the general public next Friday, and receive 20 per cent off tickets, as well as discounts on drinks at our bars, exclusive ticket exchange, reduced booking fees and Friends’ prices will never change. To become a Friend and book early, contact the Box Office on 08448 11 21 21 or sign up online at www.theatreroyal.co.uk.