New season: Maddermarket Theatre

Trevor Heaton Another interesting programme beckons for Norwich’s Maddermarket Theatre. Event editor TREVOR HEATON takes a peek at its line-up for September to December in a new-season preview.

Trevor Heaton

Nestling in St John's Alley, next to St John Maddermarket Church in the heart of Norwich, the Maddermarket Theatre has a long and enviable record of putting on excellent drama - but also, in recent years, of attracting a wide range of touring shows too.

On September 2 there's a perfect example of this with the first visit to Norfolk of a new show about the iconic Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel. Never heard of him? Ah, but you have - two of his songs were translated into English to become the international hits If You Go Away and Seasons in the Sun. A huge influence on the likes of Scott Walker and Marc Almond, he lived his life with passion, dying aged only 49. Anthony Cable plays and sings Brel in this acclaimed one-man show, The Rage to Live, which contains 15 songs, and has been written and directed by Judith Paris. Tickets £10.

The following night the songs of messrs Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr are celebrated in The Rat Pack Vegas Spectacular, which features the likes of Come Fly with Me, Volare and Mack the Knife. Seats £15.

That's followed on September 4 by the Maddermarket's most popular visitors, the splendid Locrian Ensemble. With concerts given in period costume, there's plenty of spectacle as well as beautiful music. Popular classics visited this time round include excerpts from Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, and music by Rodrigo, featuring special guest, guitarist Morgan Szymanski. (£14). The ensemble return on November 29 for their traditional Christmas concert, and some seasonal surprises (£15).

More classic tunes, but this time of a much more modern vintage, when the tribute act the Backbeat Beatles play on September 5. The band was formed in 1994 by actor Chris O'Neill, who played George Harrison in the Bafta-award-winning film Backbeat. All seats £15.

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East Anglian choral group the Upper Octave are in concert on September 6 with their show Crazy for Musicals. Their visit to the Maddermarket features more great songs from Broadway, films, and the West End. Tickets £8, concs £7.

On September 21 the Norfolk Lymphoma Group will benefit from the proceeds of a charity Musical Extravaganza. Hosted by

BBC Radio Norfolk broadcaster Tony Mallion, with support from BBC TV's David Whiteley and Amelia Reynolds, it will feature local performers in a wide variety of words and music. Tickets £10.

Elvis may have left the building, but he's turned up again at the Maddermarket from September 30 to October 2, in the persona of Lee 'Memphis' King. Elvis on Tour - The Legend Continues pays tribute to the early days of pure, hip-swivelling rock'n'roll, the '68 comeback special, and Elvis's Las Vegas performances. All seats £18.50.

On October 3, it's the turn of the Bee Gees Story, spotlighting the classic songs of the mega-talented Gibb brothers. Tickets £17.50.

The week concludes the following night with another tribute to some classic pop - ABBA Gold, which has been portraying the Swedish superstars since 1993 (£18.50).

Lunchtime theatre returns to the St John Alley venue from Monday October 6 to Friday October 10 (£6, concs £5). Her Big Chance, starring Alice Brown, is another of Alan Bennett's much-loved Talking Heads series.

On October 23-24, Alex McAleer presents Psychomagic, a lunchtime show with a contemporary form of magical entertainment (£5).

From October 29-November 1, Norfolk Youth Music Theatre present Picnic at Hanging Rock - The Musical, based on Joan Lindsay's novel about the mysterious disappearance of three senior girls and their maths teacher during an innocent Sunday afternoon's investigation of an Australian geological curiosity. Tickets £10, concs £6.

More Talking Heads from November 3-7 (1.10pm, £6, concs £5) when Dot Binns performs perhaps the most celebrated monologue of the series in A Cream Cracker Under the Settee.

Veteran politician Tony Benn visits the venue on November 16 (3pm, £15) for a typically frank and engaging insider's guide to politics.

Also engaging, but in altogether different way, is the return of Norfolk entertainer Sid Kipper on November 26 with his brand-new show Mud and Pullets (£10, concs £8).

Lunchtime music next, with A Celebration of Song in the theatre bar on November 27 and 28 (all seats £4). Country star Raymond Froggatt makes a popular return on November 27 with more of his heartfelt songs (£12.50). The following night it's trad and more from the Temperance Seven (£12.50).

Attention switches to St Andrew's Hall on December 13, when the Maddermarket has arranged for a Christmas Spectacular with the English Serenata and youth choir, which includes a performance of the soundtrack to The Snowman, with narration by Royal Shakespeare Company actor Jeffery Dench, and other words and music. (£15/£12, concs available).

The theatre will also stage three of its in-house drama productions, all featuring a matinee on the final Saturday of the run, but no Sunday performances. Tickets for all of them are £12-£8. They are The Killing of Sister George (September 18-27), Frank Marcus' ground-breaking 1964 black comedy about gin-swilling actress June Buckridge, who finds out her soap character is about to be killed off. Tom Stoppard's brilliant tragi-comedy Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead runs from October 16-25, while John Steinbeck's searing Depression era novel-play from 1937, Of Mice and Men, runs from November 13-22.

And, as usual, the theatre eschews the usual Christmas panto to put on a family drama instead. This time round it's Merlin and the Cave of Dreams, Charles Way's stunning version of the Arthurian legend being nominated for a Helen Hayes award for Outstanding New Play of the Year 2004. The show runs - not on all days, of course - from December 18-January 3.

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