New season: Norwich Playhouse

TREVOR HEATON, EDP Whats On Editor Norwich Playhouse has become the latest local venue to launch its new season.

TREVOR HEATON, EDP Whats On Editor

Comedy, music and drama vie for attention in the new programme from the St George's Street venue, with another packed line-up of attractions.

Turning to comedy first, the already-announced Count Arthur Strong (May 24, £12, concs £10) and Reginald D Hunter (May 26, £12, concs £10) start the new season, with the highly-rated Lizzie Roper (June 9) leading the charge for the new attractions.

Lizzie will be bringing her Edinburgh hit show Peccadillo Circus, which has won her numerous critical, celeb and audience plaudits. The performer will be looking into the nation's view on sex through a series of characters with a show which blends laughs and pathos. All tickets £10.

Then on June 16 it's the turn of Canada's Mike Wilmot, who's been described as that country's answer to Bill Hicks. Mike has been a familiar face on the British comedy circuit for almost a decade and promises an engaging, un-PC and near-the-knuckle show, £14 (concs £12).

Zany camp comic Craig Hill brings his Kilty Pleasures show to the venue on July 6. He blends camp stand-up and musical comedy - Julie Andrews doing hip-hop and Shirley Bassey warbling rugby songs, anyone? - in a style which has made him one of Scotland's best-loved entertainers over the past seven years. All tickets £10.

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There's no one quite like Mark Thomas on the comedy circuit, with his cutting humour allied with a passionate and crusading political sensibility. He is playing two nights at the theatre on July 19 and 20 with his As Used on the Famous Nelson Mandela… show, following a sell-out appearance in Norwich in the autumn. This time he has the arms trade in his sights, an industry in which Britain is still one of the leading players in the world. Tickets - £14 (£10 concs) - will be in demand for this superb performer.

Turning to drama and musicals now, and May 1 sees Terre Haute, by Edmund White and performed by Peter Eyre and Arthur Darvill. The Nabokov Theatre Company production ponders a meeting between veteran libertarian novelist Gore Vidal and the notorious Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh. Tickets £12 (£10 concs).

From May 30-June 2, Norfolk and Norwich Threshold Theatre Company presents The Hired Man, a musical based on the novel by Melvyn Bragg. It follows the story of John and Emily Tallentire as they move from the hardship of the land to the coalmines of Cumbria. Tickets £9 (£7 concs), £28 family, matinee £6.

Saltmine Theatre Company presents a powerful tale of 1950s New York street gangs and redemption in The Cross and the Switchblade on June 5-6. What happens when streetwise gang member Nicky Cruz meets up with a country preacher, who arrives in New York with only a Bible to protect him? Tickets £9 (£7 concs).

One of the drama highlights of the new season is the much-acclaimed performance of Philip York as the bullying newspaper tycoon Robert Maxwell in Lies Have Been Told (June 15). Rod Beacham's play sees Maxwell tell his side of the story, from his wartime service to fame and fortune - and notoriety. All tickets £12.

On June 23, theimaginarybody presents Food, written by Joel Horwood and Christopher Heimann, and set in the turbulent world of celebrity chefs. It tells the story of chef Frank Byrne and his desperate quest to win a coveted third Michelin star. All tickets £12.

On July 1 Norwich Theatretrain performing arts company presents Under Pressure, which charts the trials and tribulations of a bunch of wannabe stars. Tickets £10.

Hexis Theatre Company presents The Luckiest Man in the World on July 4. The show, written and performed by Jayson Bartlett, looks at the themes of morality, trust, loyalty, addiction and responsibility. Tickets £8 (£6 concs), £5 (student groups).

Kenneth Grahame's evergreen The Wind in the Willows is brought to the theatre on July 8 for a special family-friendly afternoon performance. The tales of Rat, Mole and Badger and naughty Toad have delighted generations, and now Cambridge Touring Theatre has come up with a charming version of the classic book. £7 (£5 concs, £20 family of four).

Paston College theatre group Far East brings three one-hour shows to the theatre on July 11: Beauty and The Beast, adapted by Laurence Boswell, a dynamic re-interpretation of the fairy tale (for ages eight-plus); Dr Faustus by Christopher Marlowe; and Erpingham Camp by Joe Orton (both for ages 12-plus). Tickets vary from £5 to £10 according to the number of shows. 01692 402334 for this one.

G&S classic The Gondoliers (July 13-14) is presented by local thesps Livewire, following their staging of The Merry Widow at the venue. After gondoliers Marco and Giuseppe marry their sweethearts Gianetta and Tessa, they find out that one of them is really the King of Barataria. However, nobody knows which one… Tickets £9 (£7 concs). 01953 851543 for this one. There'll be a British Sign Language interpreted performance on the Saturday.

Scamp Theatre and Bristol Old Vic present Michael Morpurgo's retelling of Aesop's Fables (July 16-19), including such favourites as The Hare and the Tortoise, The Lion and the Mouse and The Fox and the Crow. Tickets £5 or £4 depending on performance.

The third element in the Playhouse programme is music and there's plenty to choose from once again.

Classics with a comic twist are promised by the zany piano duo Katzenjammer (June 8), who have been described as the natural successors to Borge and Hoffnung. All tickets £10.

On June 13-14 the Chicago

Blues Brothers present The

Blues Brothers 25th Anniversary Tour, backed by costume changes galore and a six-piece band. All tickets £15.

Then on June 21, Think Floyd will present a concert presentation of The Wall, as well as other Pink Floyd classics. £14 (£12 concs) £10 (student groups).

Searing piano-led blues, boogie woogie and jazz comes in the shape of the Daniel Smith Blues Band on June 22. The formidably-talented Daniel has numerous albums, US tours and UK appearances under his belt.

Tickets £13 (£11 concs).

Cult Sixties singer Terry Reid will be in concert on July 7. Praised by the likes of Aretha Franklin and Robert Plant, Terry turned down jobs with Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, opened and closed the first Glastonbury, and has a classic British blue-eyed soul voice has been compared with Sam Cooke, Ben E King, Rod Stewart and Joe Cocker. Support is Alex Hill, who made her stage debut aged just 16 supporting the Yardbirds. Tickets £15 (£13 concs).

That excellent genre-crossing singer Barb Jungr brings her Walking in the Sun tour to the venue on July 7, with the focus this time round on blues and gospel, including classics such as Walking in Memphis and new songs. Tickets £15 (£13 concs).

On July 21 regional performers Mixed Voice present A Night at the Musicals, with Broadway and West End hits galore (tickets £8, concs £6), while from, July 27-August 4 the Norwich Theatre Royal Youth Theatre Company presents Dodger!, a musical sequel to Oliver! £7.50 (£6 concs).

Box office: 01603 598598.

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