New season: Maddermarket Theatre

Trevor Heaton There's no denying there's something special about the Maddermarket, tucked away behind St John Maddermarket in the heart of Norwich's ancient streets.

Trevor Heaton

There's no denying there's something special about the Maddermarket, tucked away behind St John Maddermarket in the heart of Norwich's ancient streets.

And that's largely down to its reputation for top-notch drama married with a tasty year-round programme of visiting productions.

The visiting shows begin on April 30 (running to May 3) with the regular visit by the East Norfolk Operatic Society. They'll be presenting another helping of G&S, this time round Patience, which took the rise out of the 'aesthetic' craze of the 1870s and 1880s (tickets £9/£7, matinee £8/£6).

Musical theatre of a later era on May 28, when former stars of Les Miserables serve up a feast of tasty tunes in Masters of the House, featuring well-known songs (and others that ought to be) and plenty of anecdotes (£16).

The Maddermarket team present lunchtime treats on May 29-30 and July 31-August 1 with A Celebration of Songs in the theatre bar (£4).

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Fast-rising local singer, songwriter and pianist Zoe Galant has, at the age of 20, already played and recorded with top jazz musicians and performs regularly at London's premier jazz venues, including the 606 and the Pizza Express Jazz Club in Soho. You can hear what all the fuss is about on May 29 (£8).

A superb one-man show is staged the following day. David Benson presents his semi-autobiographical portrayal of that much-loved but sometimes shocking comic actor Kenneth Williams in Think No Evil of Us. Funny and moving, it's won acclaim at the Edinburgh Festival and in the West End. Tickets £12.50.

After a few years touring with an acoustic show, veteran folk-rockers the Strawbs plug in the amps for an electric format tour, which visits the St John's Alley venue on May 31. So much more than their chart-topping Part of the Union, the gig features the original 1970s line-up. £13.

Hits of the 1950s and 60s on June 5 with the fast-moving, colourful and hit-packed show C'Mon Everybody. Expect the classics of Duane Eddy, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Connie Francis and many more - and Eddie Cochran, naturally (£15). And folk rockers Oysterband are at the venue on July 3 in a date rescheduled from March 25. All seats £15.

But before then (June 16-20) there's popular lunchtime drama with Judi Daykin in a Broad Horizons production for another of Alan Bennett's classic Talking Heads tales. Tickets for the production of Bed Among the Lentils are £6, concs £5.

On July 30 Rumpus Theatre Company presents Carry On in the Blackout, a funny, nostalgic and tuneful show about the Home Front in Norfolk during the second world war (£10).

The backbone of the programme, though, remains its year-round programme of top-notch amateur productions with a professional outlook.

They begin from May 15-24 (as usual with the in-house shows, no Sunday performances and there's a matinee on the final Saturday) with Canterbury Tales - The Musical. Based on Neville Coghill's best-selling and racy modern English translation, it's a tuneful and bawdy romp through The Miller's Tale, The Steward's Tale, The Wife of Bath's Tale and The Merchant's Tale. Tickets £12-£8 (which applies to the other productions too).

Caryl Churchill's award-winning play Top Girls, running from June 19-28, features an all-female cast looking at the challenges of modern work, and featuring its famous dinner party scene.

Joan Macalpine's adaptation of Henry Fielding's 18th-century romp Tom Jones is the show from July 17-26. It's the tale of the foundling who grows up to find himself succumbing to the charms of one charming wench after another - while all the time try to solve the mystery of his parentage.

The chilling tale Wait Until Dark runs from August 21-30. Frederick Knott's nail-biter tells the story of a blind housewife who finds herself the target of three thugs looking for a stash of heroin - but then she finds a way to try to even the odds.

A quick word about the venue's Christmas show. As usual, the Maddermarket eschews the usual panto fare for something a bit different. This year's offering will be Charles Way's acclaimed work Merlin and the Cave of Dreams from December 18-January 3.

t box office 01603 620917; email mmtheatre@btconnect.com