New season: Marina Theatre, Lowestoft

TREVOR HEATON, EDP Whats On Editor In recent years Lowestoft’s Marina Theatre has been transformed into one of the region’s best entertainment venues. But you don’t have to take our word for it – see for yourself, says Event editor Trevor Heaton.

TREVOR HEATON, EDP Whats On Editor

Three years ago the Lowestoft Marina was a pleasant, but fairly sedate, local theatre with a steady, if unimaginative, programme of touring shows and homespun entertainment.

Now it's one of the region's best venues, with audience levels now running at three times what they were only a few years ago. Big names in entertainment are queuing up to appear at the Waveney Council-run venue.

And it's mainly down to the venue's ever-enthusiastic manager and licensee, Martin Halliday, who programmes all the shows and strives to make the theatre ever bigger and better.


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The simple message has been – and will continue to be: support us and we'll keep on giving you more in return.

That's why, for example, the world-famous Royal Philharmonic Orchestra has agreed to be orchestra in residence at the seaside venue – something that would have been unheard of until recently. And that's also why legendary American crooner Jack Jones has added the Suffolk venue to the handful of his big city dates early next year.

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This season's programme – launched today – is the biggest and most varied in the theatre's history, with comedy, theatre, ballet, music, children's shows, dance, musical theatre and more lined up.

The most prestigious date on the Marina calendar is the return visit of the spectacular Moscow City Ballet from November 11-13. Directed by Victor Smirnov-Golovanov the company – one of Russia's leading corps de ballet – will perform The Sleeping Beauty on November 11 and The Nutcracker on the following two days. The Moscow City Ballet features an outstanding company of more than 70 plus a full orchestra.

The Russian Cossack State Dance Company visits the Marina for the first time on November 19.

Widely acknowledged as Russia's premiere Cossack dance troupe, this world-class company of 40 dancers, musicians and singers brings with it a dynamic production which includes amazing feats of highly skilled acrobatic Cossack dance.

And there'll be more spectacle on December 12, with Broadway's The Spirit of Christmas, the latest production from the team behind the world-wide dance hit Spirit of the Dance.

Music is strongly represented with a wide variety of artists to suit all tastes.

One of the biggest boy band stars of the 1980s will be appearing on November 21. Matt Goss, who shot to instant fame with brother Luke in Bros, made a comeback last year as a singer-songwriter to wide acclaim and a sell-out UK tour. The latest tour coincides with the release of his new album.

Still on the subject of the 1980s, The Best of the 80s showcases four of the decade's top pop acts on October 8: Nick Heyward, former lead singer with Haircut 100, Toyah Willcox, Altered Images featuring Clare Grogan, and Curiosity Killed the Cat.

Another package show brings together some great Motown names on October 14. Motor City Memories features former Temptations lead singer Richard Street, Supreme Kaaren Ragland and Junior Walker's All Stars. They will be paying tribute to more than 60 Motown classics in a non-stop musical feast.

One of Britain's most distinctive pop voices will be in concert on December 8. Paul Carrack first hit the big time with the huge hit How Long with the band Ace, and has recorded classics for Squeeze (Tempted) and Mike and the Mechanics (The Living Years) as well as well-received solo material.

And another great British singer – jazz, rhythm and blues and pop vocalist Georgie Fame – will be in concert on December 3, joined on stage by his two sons, Tristan and James.

Nineties cult Britpop group Space return like an “Avenging Angel” with their all-new Suburban Rock 'n' Roll Greatest Hits Tour on October 24, featuring top 10 hits including Female of the Species, Neighbourhood, Mr Psycho and You and Me Vs the World along with tracks from their latest album Suburban Rock 'n' Roll.

The story of legendary King of Skiffle, Lonnie Donegan, is presented on October 28 in Lonnie D. Starring his sons, Peter and Anthony, Lonnie's Skiffle Group and full supporting cast, this musical and concert rolled into one also includes original footage of Lonnie himself.

Celebrating 30 years of Queen hits – Magic, A Kind of Queen return to Lowestoft on October 30. The group regularly sells out in shows across the region. Another fine tribute outfit – Talon – will be playing the music of the Eagles on October 10.

Two days earlier there's a treat for fans of the 1960s with the Bachelors with special guest Susan (Bobby's Girl) Maughan.

The Christmas office party will go with a swing on December 16, with Merry Christmas Everybody 2004, featuring – you've guessed it – Slade, plus Dr and the Medics and Bolan tribute T-Rextasy.

Looking forward to 2005, the James Taylor Quartet is best known for their memorable live performances. With James' Hammond leading the way JTQ jam out funk on February 11 with driving horns, sly rhythms and kitschy-cool melodies.

American singer and saxophonist Curtis Stigers makes his first appearance at the Marina on February 12. From Lennon to Billy Joel, Joe Jackson to Ray Charles and Bob Dylan, Stigers takes classic pop gems and transforms them with a jazz flavour.

On February 25, in a major coup for the Marina, legendary singer Jack Jones appears in concert backed by his 20-strong orchestra. He will perform some of his best-known hits including Wives and Lovers, Call Me Irresponsible, Lollipops and Roses, If, What I Did For Love, Dear Heart, The Impossible Dream, Lady and the unforgettable theme from The Love Boat.

The world of music theatre is well represented too, with West End star Gary Wilmot – backed by his orchestra – stops off on his UK tour on November 20 with My Kind of Music. Supported by the London Community Gospel Choir, Gary will perform songs from his favourite shows including his recent appearance at the London Palladium in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

And smash hit Broadway and London West End musical Godspell, runs from October 20-23. Stephen Schwartz's part-rock, part-revival singing score abounds in such memorable songs as Day By Day and Prepare (The Way of the Lord). Bruce James Productions brings together a young and talented cast in a vibrant, and moving production.

The venue is committed to its role as a live theatre, and will be featuring productions of Noel Coward's sparkling comedy Hay Fever (September 22-25), Damian Williams in Richard Harris' and Leslie Darbon's farce Two and Two Make Sex (November 3-6), and Simon Williams' modern thriller Kiss of Death (November 24-27).

Turning to comedy, Cornwall's Minister of Culture, the very naughty Jethro makes an appearance on November 28 in an evening of adults-only humour.

And one of the most inventive and hilarious touring shows of the last 10 years is back on December 4 by popular demand. The Reduced Shakespeare Company perform The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) with all 37 plays in 97 minutes, including Othello as a rap – and Hamlet done backwards in two minutes!

Other autumn attractions include local slides and archive film in Yesteryear Remembered (October 2), Jaleo Flamenco (October 3), that ever-popular (and mischievous) bear Sooty (October 9), the Band of the RAF Regiment in concert (October 16) for the Battle of Britain Wings Appeal, the internationally-acclaimed Shakespeare for Schools Festival (October 18), plus local entertainment including the Lowestoft Players' traditional panto Aladdin (December 19-January 2).

And there's plenty more lined up for the New Year, including West End hit comedy Stones In His Pockets (February 4), a celebration of the Music of James Last (February 26), Karen Noble's tribute to Dusty Springfield (February 27), the not-for-the-squeamish Circus of Horrors (March 2), poet Pam Ayres (March 4), the Band of Her Majesty's Royal Marines, Portsmouth (March 5), French pianist extraordinaire Richard Clayderman (March 12), Dave Simpson's catwalk drama Raving Beauties (March 16-19) and two spectacular traditional productions by the Ukrainian National Opera Of Odessa, Madama Butterfly and La Traviata (March 26-27).

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

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