New season: Marina Theatre

TREVOR HEATON, EDP Whats On Editor Lowestoft Marina Theatre goes from strength to strength with its new season. Event editor Trevor Heaton reports.

TREVOR HEATON, EDP Whats On Editor

In a few short years the Lowestoft Marina has gone from a status as “just another venue” to being a big hitter on the region's entertainment map.

And you don't have to look very far to see that, with next week's staging of the smash-hit musical Blood Brothers just the latest in a series of high-profile events.

Credit for that must go to the venue's tireless manager and programmer, Martin Halliday, who - with the help of his small team and the support of Waveney Council - has brought a series of international star productions to the site.


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The new season is no exception, with the likes of Petula Clarke, Lesley Garrett, and hit productions such as the wonderful The Play What I Wrote, ART, Spirit of the Dance and the spectacular grand opera Aida all set for the Marina stage.

Aled Jones (April 4) rose to fame when he took his Christmas recording Walking in the Air high in the charts. Since then he's released 16 albums (selling more than six million copies), become a television presenter and latterly the host of Good Morning Sunday on Radio 2. His show, The Best of Aled Jones, aims to bring you exactly that. Tickets £21.50, concs £21.

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After the family treat of Mr Men and Little Miss: The Surprise Birthday Party (April 5, 2.30pm), there's the high-kicking, hoofers' delight of Broadway! on Saturday April 7 (2.30pm and 7.30pm). Brought to the stage by the team behind the hit show Spirit of the Dance, this high-energy extravaganza promises a red-hot evening with highlights from the likes of Chicago, Cabaret, Grease, 42nd Street, Les Miserables, Cats, Chorus Line, The Rocky Horror Show, and more. Seats from £18.50-£14.50, concs £1 off (and Spirit of the Dance itself will be returning on September 7 (7.30pm) and September 8 (2.30/7.30pm) with the hugely successful Irish show which has now been seen by more than 30 million people. Tickets £19.50, £18.50, with concs £1 off).

The Russian Cossack State Dance Company returns on April 8, with an ensemble of more than 50 performers in a show that's high on spectacle (£19.50, £18.50, concs 50p off). And talking of spectacle, it doesn't come much bigger than that grandest of grand operas, Verdi's Aida (April 13). It's performed by the Chisinau National Opera and Orchestra and features a company of more than 200. Yes, that's not a misprint - 200. Tickets £32.50-£18.50, concs £2 off.

The following evening there's a hit-packed Sixties fest with The Magic of Motown (£18.50, concs £17.50), with the nation's number one musical nostalgia show That'll Be the Day making a return visit on April 15 (£18.50, concs £17.50) - it's also back on September 29.

If you haven't seen it already, make a date for the excellent The Play What I Wrote (April 16-18). The Olivier Award-winning comedy drama was a huge West End hit and is much more than a tribute to Morecambe and Wise. It features a surprise celebrity guest at every show. Seats £17.50 (concs £16.50).

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - the Marina's resident orchestra - is back on April 20 with a concert which includes music from Grieg (Peer Gynt Suite), Sibelius and Shostakovich with soloist Robert Cohen (cello). It also plays the venue on June 29 and September 21. Seats £27.50-£21.50, concs £1 off.

Colin Gold brings his much-acclaimed portrayal The Billy Fury Story to the venue on April 22. His portrait of the much-missed British rock'n'roll legend features live backing from Fury's original backing group The Tornadoes (£16.50, concs £15.50).

And talking of legends, one of the biggest stars of the Sixties scene calls in at the Marina on April 25. Petula Clark's career has taken in film, musicals, chanson and chart-topping smashes such as Downtown, Don't Sleep in the Subway, The Other Man's Grass (Is Always Greener) and many more. And if you caught her appearance on Friday Night is Music Night a while back you'll know her voice is still in excellent fettle (£23.50, concs £23).

The outrageous Freddie Starr is unleashed on April 26 for some no-holds-barred adult humour (£18.50, concs £17.50), while laughter of a gentler kind comes the following evening with the poet Pam Ayres (£15.50, concs £13.50 - returns only).

Noel Coward's comedy Private Lives is staged at the venue from May 3-5 (with a matinee on the Saturday).

Then on May 19, the Royal Artillery Band will be in concert to raise funds for the local work of the SSAFA. Tickets £15, concs £14.

Tommy and Bobby - better known as Cannon and Ball - are celebrating 40 years of comedy with this new show which will also feature a question-and-answer session. The duo are still packing 'em in round the country, and Lowestoft shouldn't be an exception. Tickets for the May 27 show are £17.50, concs £16.50.

The Saltmine Theatre Company present The Cross and the Switchblade - Nicky Cruz's best-selling account of how a preacher brought hope to the vicious world of 1950s New York street gangs - on June 4. Seats £10, concs £7.50.

Bruce James Productions continues their long-standing links with the Marina by presenting Olivier Award-winning comedy ART from June 6-9. Yasmin Reza's smash-hit play (translated by Christopher Hampton) is a discussion of what makes something 'art' but, much more, is a witty study of friendship. The play features some strong language. It features Eric Potts (from Coronation Street), Damian Williams and Benjamin Roddy. Tickets £14.50 and £12.50 (concs £1 off).

June 10 sees the larger-than-life entertainer Faith Brown bring her one-woman show to the theatre. A varied career has taken her to venues up and down the country (including a Norwich Theatre Royal panto stint) and numerous television appearances, including I'm A Celebrity - Get Me Out Of Here. Tickets £17.50, concs £16.50.

Little did the young actor William Roache realise in 1960 that the northern drama series he was due to appear for a few weeks would still be going strong in the 21st century. The drama? Coronation Street, of course, and Roache, as Ken Barlow, is the only actor left in the cast to have appeared in that very first show. So who better to talk of life behind the scenes at the much-loved soap? His one-man show comes to the Marina on June 16 (£12.50, concs £11.50).

Something different on June 17 (3pm) with a special afternoon show Say it with Flowers, in which international florist Andrew Grisewood creates some masterpieces, with plenty of music and humour on the way (£9.50).

There's another Bruce James Production from June 21-23 (matinee on the Saturday). It features three of Alan Bennett's superb Talking Heads monologues: A Lady of Letters, Her Big Chance and A Cream Cracker Under the Settee. £14.50 and £12.50 (matinee £9.50), concs available.

Singalong wartime nostalgia show We'll Meet Again - Hits from the Blitz is back for a special 3pm show on June 24 (£12.50, concs £9.50), followed by - in complete contrast - the World Darts Champions Road Show (June 28), 2007 Lakeside World Darts Champions Martin Adams and Trina Gulliver (and the chance to challenge them). All seats £17.50.

Pink Floyd fans won't want to miss a special show from much-acclaimed tribute act Think Floyd on June 30. Their show will feature a celebration of the classic albums Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here, plus other tracks ranging from the Syd era to The Division Bell (£16.50, concs £15.50).

After a summer gap for live shows, proceedings resume with Spirit of the Dance (see above) and from September 17-19 with Dancing Queen, a new and glittering production celebrating the timeless hits of Abba. Seats £19.50 and £18.50, concs £1 off.

Back by popular demand on September 22 is The Elvis Collection, starring Billy J McGregor and his band in a fast-paced, hit-packed tribute show. Tickets £16.50, concs £15.50.

On September 27 you can enjoy musical fireworks of another sort with the passionate and intense sound of Spain in Jaleo Flamenco. It's the combination of explosive footwork, emotional singing and virtuoso guitar playing from Southern Spain (£16.50, concs £15.50).

Eve Ensler's witty, warm, moving, provocative and always intense celebration of womankind, The Vagina Monologues, plays the theatre on September 28 (8pm). The show features some very strong language and isn't suitable for under 16s. Tickets £17.50, concs £16.50.

Irish country star Val Doonican makes a rare appearance in the region with a 3pm show on September 30. The former chart and television star is one of the most likeable performers around, so tickets (£15.50, concs £12.50) will be in demand.

Ray Cooney and John Chapman's comedy There Goes the Bride plays October 10-13, while October 28 sees A Feast of Gilbert and Sullivan from the team behind the high-acclaimed New Year's Eve Gala. John Ayldon, Patricia Leonard, Marilyn Hill-Smith, Nicholas Sales and Jeremy Peaker join forces with the British Philharmonic Concert Orchestra (£19.50, concs £18.50).

Naughty Cornish export Jethro returns on November 2 (£17.50), while tribute acts Talon - the Best of the Eagles (November 3, £16.50, concs £16) and One Night of Queen (November 8, 8pm, £17.50, concs £17).

November 24 sees one of the biggest shows of the year with a gala evening featuring that

much-loved classical star (and Celebrity Fame Academy judge!) Lesley Garrett. This is definitely the night to put on the glad-rags as Lesley - who's also been playing in the West End revival of The Sound of Music - is joined by the Manchester Camerata conducted by Philip Ellis for a glittering evening's entertainment (£44.50-£34.50, concs 50p off).

The season concludes with Agatha Christie favourite The Unexpected Guest (November 26-December 1).

All shows 7.30pm unless stated. Bookings: 01502 533200 (10am-4pm Monday-Saturday, 24-hour answerphone service available).

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