New season: Marina Theatre

TREVOR HEATON, EDP Whats On Editor Lowestoft Marina Theatre unveils its new season today – and a packed one it is too. Event editor Trevor Heaton has a peek.

TREVOR HEATON, EDP Whats On Editor

It says something for the resurgence of the popular Lowestoft Marina Theatre that its new season can carry the new slogan “Your West End in the East”.

But take a look at the new programme and you'll realise that's no mere hyperbole. Martin Halliday and his small team have worked wonders at the venue in recent years and big-name shows are now regularly heading for north Suffolk.

Try this little lot for the new season: Blood Brothers, Annie, the Russian Classical Ballet Theatre, the Chinese State Circus, Spirit of the Dance's Broadway, Russian State Dance Company, Chisinau National Opera (presenting Aida) and Five Guys Named Moe - not forgetting the very successful visits from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra which we previewed a couple of weeks back.

And you can add to that one-nighters of the calibre of Ken Dodd, Barbara Dickson, Jethro, Go West, Foster and Allen, Roy Wood, Bill Bryson, Mark Little, Darren Day, Vince Hill, the Band of the Royal Marines, Joe Longthorne, Charlie Landsborough, Errol Brown and Freddie Starr.

The season gets under way on Saturday October 14 with Chris Dean's Tribute to Ted Heath and his Orchestra. Chris leads his team of talented young musicians in their rendition of songs made famous by this British big band legend. Tickets £17.50, concs £16.50.

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The theatre's long-running association with Bruce James Productions has produced several seasons of drama favourites. Their involvement continues from October 18-21 (including a 2.30pm show on the 21st) with that much-loved farce Charley's Aunt. Starring Marina favourite Damian Williams, plus Corrie's Diggory Compton, it's a classic tale of Victorian hi-jinks and deception. Seats £14.50 and £12.50, concs £1 off these prices.

The first of those top-name musicals arrives from October 23-28 (nicely timed for half term) with family favourite Annie, starring Ruth Madoc as the dastardly Miss Hannigan. A cast of more than 40 will present this much-loved musical with its memorable score including Easy Street, It's a Hard Knock Life and Tomorrow. There are matinees on the Wednesday and Saturday of the run, with tickets ranging from £24.50 to £18.50 - concs available - depending on performance.

Classical musical fans will lap up the visit of celebrated concert pianist John Lenehan (October 29) with a special Chopin-themed show to raise funds for Holy Trinity Church, Bungay (£12, concs £10). In complete (and utter!) contrast, there's a visit from that very naughty Cornishman Jethro on November 2 with more humour for the grown-ups. All tickets £17.50.

After three local events (Old Lowestoft slide show on November 3, Pakefield School of Dance November 5 and The Quaysiders' Beyond a Joke November 7-8), there's a chance to enjoy the first visit from multi-award-winning acoustic duo Show of Hands on November 9 (8pm, £14.50, concs £12.50).

Viscount Oliver's Four Tops present oodles of hits from the back catalogue of one of Motown's most consistently successful groups the following night (8pm). Expect classics such as I Can't Help Myself and Reach Out, I'll Be There and many more (£18.50, concs £17.50).

Eighties favourites Go West are back touring and will be at the venue on November 11 (8pm) with a show full of hits such as We Close Our Eyes and The King of Wishful Thinking, plus songs from their new album (all seats £19.50).

If you prefer a gentler sound, then Irish duo Foster and Allen (November 12) might be just the thing. The duo have notched up an amazing 18 gold albums since their first hit 1978 and are still going strong. £18.50, concs £17.50.

Comedy genius Ken Dodd is back on November 13 (starting 7.30pm but finishing who knows when!) - and it's already a sell-out.

A company of 120 - yes 120 - musicians and dancers will be in town from November 15 to present two favourites: Romeo and Juliet (November 15-16) and Coppelia (November 17-18). The Russian Classical Ballet Theatre performances are nightly at 7.30pm with a 2.30 Saturday matinee. Ticket prices range from £29.50-£17.50 (concs available) depending on performance.

Sixties star PJ Proby presents his tribute to his close friend Johnny Cash in Ring of Fire on November 19. He'll be joined by the Tennesseans and a special guest for this nostalgic and tuneful trawl through Cash's vast back catalogue and you can expect to hear classics such as Folsom Prison Blues, I Walk the Line and many others. £18.50, concs £17.50.

The voice of country-rock favourites Dr Hook, Dennis Locorriere, has established himself as an equally popular solo artist and you can catch up with him on November 26 (£18.50, concs £16.50). A brace of local productions (including the popular A Christmas Spectacular on December 1-2) follow, and then it's time for British pop legend Roy Wood (December 3, £19.50). Roy was a founder member of The Move and the Electric Light Orchestra, then scored more hits with Wizzard.

That much-loved writer Bill Bryson presents 'an evening with…' on December 4. The US-born author, now based in Norfolk (sensible chap) has had a string of best-sellers, including The Lost Continent, A Short History of Nearly Everything, Notes From a Small Island and his new success, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. Tickets £18.50, concs £18.

That'll Be The Day's Christmas Show will be packing them in on December 7 with its fast-moving programme of classic 1950s-70s pop hits and comedy. Tickets £18.50, concs £17.50.

The RPO's Christmas concert follows the following day, with Mark Forgen conducting the Lowestoft Choral Society and guest soloists in Handel's Messiah (£27.50-£21.50, concs available).

Paul Daniels plays Scrooge in a stage version of Charles Dickens' immortal A Christmas Story. The family production is running from December 11-16, with three 1.30pm mid-week matinees, and a 2.30pm Saturday show. Tickets £16.50-£7.50 depending on show. Concessions available.

More Christmas family fun, this time with The Lowestoft Players from December 21-January 7. Their panto Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs runs for 16 shows, with tickets ranging from £12.50-£8 (concs available).

Put on your gladrags and celebrate the New Year in style with a special 10pm December 31 concert with the British Philharmonic Concert Orchestra. The New Year's Eve Gala Celebration will feature popular classics, film themes and West End songs. Soloists include Lydia Griffiths from 'Les Mis'. Tickets £25.50, concs £24.50.

The Chinese State Circus arrives at the Marina from February 9-11 for six shows. The two-hour performance includes the famous Shaolin Wu-Shu Warriors, artists from the Peking Opera and a team of talented acrobatic performers. Tickets £25-£10 (concs £3 off these prices).

The Blockheads will be calling in on February 17 to play the great songs made famous by their much-missed frontman Ian Dury. So expect the likes of Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll, What a Waste and Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick. £16.50.

Barbara Dickson is celebrating 40 years as a star performer, with numerous hits and stage and television drama appearances to her credit. Her acclaimed new album, Nothing's Gonna Change My World, is her tribute to the songs of the Beatles. She'll be showcasing it - and plenty of her old hits too, no doubt - on February 18 (£19.50, concs £18.50).

Home is Where Your Clothes Are is a farce by Anthony Marriott and Bob Grant. It's another of those popular Bruce James Productions and it'll be bringing plenty of comic fun to the venue from February 21-24 (matinee on the Saturday). Seats £14.50-£12.50, concs available. All matinee seats £9.50.

Children's character Brum will be live on stage on February 25 (2.30pm) in a tuneful show aimed at three to seven year olds. Seats £8.50, concs £7.50, family (four) £30.

The songs of Barry Manilow will be celebrated by a talented cast led by Darren Day in Could It Be Magic (March 1). They will also perform songs made famous by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, Bette Midler and Bill Joel (£19.50).

Neighbours favourite Mark Little brings his sell-out and hilarious show Defending the Caveman - looking at that ever-fertile comic subject, the battle of the sexes - on March 4. £17.50, concs £17.

The Band of Her Majesty's Royal Marines will be in concert on March 10 in a show which certain to be eagerly-awaited by military music fans. Please note that tickets (£15, concs £14) will go on sale on December 1 for this charity concert.

Sixties star Vince Hill presents a special 3pm matinee show on March 11 when he'll be singing plenty of favourite songs including Edelweiss and Roses of Picardy.

Murder thriller Ladies In Retirement, by Edward Percy and Reginald Denham, will be running from March 14-17 (Saturday 2.30pm matinee). £14.50, £12.50 - concs available - and matinee £9.50.

Karen Noble's acclaimed tribute to the fantastic Ms Springfield comes to the venue on March 18. Tickets for Dusty - The Musical Story - are £17.50, concs £16.50.

Big is beautiful in the comedy show The Big Ballet (March 23) in which an ensemble of 20 Russian ballet dancers will show you that being voluptuous is no barrier to dance in this light-hearted show (£16.50, concs £15.50).

Joe Longthorne will be in concert on March 22, showcasing his amazing vocal skills - Shirley Bassey once said he did her better than she did herself! Seats £22.50 and £19.50 (concs available).

Popular British country singer Charlie Landsborough (March 24) put in decades of performing before he became an 'overnight' star. Now his appearance on a bill is guaranteed to spark a rush for tickets, so don't delay in grabbing yours. £18.50, concs £17.50.

Hit musical Blood Brothers - Willy Russell's wonderful and moving story of twin boys separated at birth and reunited by a mother's secret - is running from March 26-31. With matinees on Wednesday and Saturday at 2.30pm, tickets range from £29.50 to £25.50 (concs available) depending on performance.

After the family treat that is Mr Men and Little Miss on April 5 (2.30pm, £8.50/concs £7.50, family £30), it's Hot Chocolate's frontman Errol Brown (April 6) presenting songs from the hugely-successful band's vast back catalogue. Tickets £24.50, concs £23.50.

The creators of the very successful Spirit of the Dance - a frequent visitor to the Marina over the years - bring their new show Broadway to the venue on April 7.

They'll be presenting high-kicking and red-hot versions of highlights from the likes of Cabaret, Chicago and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (£18.50-£14.50, concs available).

More spectacle with the next two shows: The Russian Cossack State Dance Company on April 8 (£19.50, £18.50, concs available) and that grandest of grand opera, Verdi's Aida (April 13, £32.50-£18.50, concs available), presented by the Chisinau National Opera. And when we say grand we do mean grand - there'll be a cast of 200!

Forty years of Tamla hits in the UK are celebrated in the fast-moving show The Magic of Motown (April 14, £18.50, concs £17.50), with masses of songs made famous by everyone from The Temptations to Diana Ross.

Ireland's king of laughter Brendan Grace will be demonstrating the sort of comic timing which has kept him at the top of the tree for 35 years on April 15 (£15.50, concs £14.50).

The magic of Morecambe and Wise is brought to town with the show Bring Me Sunshine on April 21 (3pm).

Sanders and Martin present this tribute to the much-missed comedy duo, with a little help from special guest Don Maclean. Tickets £12.50, concs £9.50.

Colin Gold stars as legendary rock'n'roller Billy Fury in the show Halfway to Paradise (April 22). The musical biography is now it its 10th year and feature Colin backed by Billy's original band the Tornadoes. £16.50, concs £15.50.

Adult comedy comes next (April 26) in the hands of the outrageous Freddie Starr (£18.50, concs £17.50), while poet Pam Ayres will be bringing humour of a gentler sort on April 27 (£15.50, £14.50).

The season concludes in rousing style with hit musical Five Guys Named Moe, Clarke Peters' foot-tapping show based round the Thirties songs of Louis Jordan. Our hero Nomax has to cope with being broke and alone - but five guys called Moe are going to change that.

The production is running across a variety of showtimes from May 7-12. Tickets from £24.50-£18.50 (concs available) depending on performance.

All shows 7.30pm unless stated.

The theatre will also be running its popular film screenings too.

Box office: 01502 533200. Website: www.marinatheatre.co.uk

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