New season: Norwich Playhouse

Trevor Heaton Norwich Playhouse is an excellent-sized venue for comedy – which is why there is usually a queue of stand-ups heading for St George’s Street. And the good news for 2009 is that there’s plenty more on the way. And that’s not forgetting lots of music, dance and drama too.

Trevor Heaton

Norwich Playhouse is an excellent-sized venue for comedy - which is why there is usually a queue of stand-ups heading for St George's Street. And the good news for 2009 is that there's plenty more on the way. And that's not forgetting lots of music, dance and drama too.

First-up (February 3, £14, concs £12) is Graham Fellows' great comic creation, John Shuttleworth, a Sheffield-based singer-songwriter, who's become a cult hit through his much-admired Radio 4 shows. The show, on Minor Tour (and Other Mythological Creatures), has been added following big demand for the December 1 date. Then on February 7 and 8 (£15) there's Mock The Week's brilliant political satirist Andy Parsons with more edgy comedy.

Someone you may know from another popular BBC2 comedy panel show is at the venue on February 19. Musical comedian David O'Doherty calls in at the Playhouse as part of his first-ever UK tour. Tickets £12 (concs £10).

As for the number of tours Barry Cryer has made we've lost count (and we think he has too). He returns to the venue on February 20 (£17.50) with his Still Alive show. Joining him is his fellow I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue regular, the long-suffering pianist Colin Sell.

One of the hotly-tipped new names on the circuit is the supremely daft Pappy's Fun Club, who bring their Funergy! show to the Playhouse on February 21 (£10). They've won acclaim at Edinburgh and the Melbourne Comedy Festival plus have appeared on Radio 4 and Channel 4. Jason Manford returns to Norwich after his successful show a few months back. The 8 out of 10 Cats star will be at the venue on February 25 (£14, concs £12).

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Another Playhouse favourite, Count Arthur Strong, is back on February 28 (£14, concs £12). The spoof superannuated variety star brings his hit Edinburgh 2008 show to Norwich.

Television regular Mark Watson will be at the Playhouse on March 5 (£16.50) with his new show, following the success of his 100-date UK tour. Activist-comic Mark Thomas (March 9 and April 24) blends political satire with investigative journalism, uncovering the facts which governments and big business don't like uncovered. Expect plenty of laughs - but plenty to make you think too. Tickets £15, concs £10.

The very likeable Lucy Porter is no stranger to the Playhouse and brings her Bare Necessities show there on March 27 (£14, concs £12). Ha Ha Hamlet! was a hit at the Halesworth Arts Festival a few weeks back, and now the Monty Python-meets-the-Chuckle Brothers calls in at the Playhouse (April 3, £15, concs £12). The three Covent Garden street performers take on the Bard's most famous drama and discover lots of extra jokes.

Music is another strong element to any Playhouse season, and the treats begin on January 10 with a chance to say farewell (probably) to a British jazz legend. Acker Bilk and his Paramount Jazz Band play the venue for probably the last time, as the soon-to-be-80 star is restricting himself to gigs nearer his Somerset home in future. Tickets - £19.50, concs £18 - will therefore be in even more demand than usual.

The fantastic back catalogue of the Bee Gees is the subject of acclaimed tribute band Jive Talkin' on January 17 (£16.50). The nine-piece ensemble, which includes a live string section and special guest artists, is fronted by real-life siblings and Bee Gees veterans Darren and Gary Simmons, plus Jarrod Loughlin.

One of the classics of the 20th-century stage is next (January 20-24), when Theatre Paradisum presents Bertolt Brecht's The Threepenny Opera. With music by Kurt Weill, and translated by Ralph Manheim and John Willett, this is a flamboyant new production featuring 10 live musicians and a cast of nine actors. Tickets £15, concs £12, students £9.50. On January 31 (£12, concs £10).

There's a return visit from the Katzenjammer piano duo of Kevin Farrell and Steven Worbey who combine superb musicianship with a delicious sense of the absurd - such as Liszt inspired by Tom and Jerry!

On February 14, the Counterfeit Stones re-enact the Rolling Stones' colourful history from 1963 to 1981 (tickets £18.50). In contrast, February 18 sees the return of the Suffolk-based Insect Circus for two shows, combining magic, physical theatre, circus skills and extraordinary costumes, all linked together by a very unusual ringmaster. Tickets £9, concs £7, family £28.

On March 23-24 it's hip-hop dance show Flhip Flhop - Everything Happens on the Break, which tells the story of a crazy pair of painters escape the monotony of their dull jobs by taking refuge in hip-hop, MC-ing and beatbox, combining witty dialogue and intricate choreography to create an energetic comedy for all ages. £10, concs £8.

Female impersonator Ceri Dupree gets out his frocks and high heels on February 26 for colourful stand-up and vocal impersonations has been dubbed a “one-man, 15-woman show”. All tickets £12.50. Theatre legend Sir Donald Sinden brings his one-man show to the Playhouse on February 27 (£17.50), which is full of great anecdotes of working with just about everyone in showbiz. All tickets £17.50.

And talking about anecdotes, Sixties footballing legend Jimmy Greaves - and some guest soccer pals - will have plenty to share at the St George's Street venue on March 3 (£18.50, concs £16.50). The Ring of Fire: A Tribute to the Music of Johnny Cash (March 14, £13.50) celebrates the life and legacy of one of American popular music's towering figures.

It's ukulele Jim, but not as we know it... the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (March 13, £19.50, concs £17.50) combine superb musicianship with a brilliant tongue-in-cheek take on everything from the classics to the Sex Pistols, while Edinburgh Fringe show Learn to Play the Ukulele in Under an Hour (How George Formby Saved My Life) on April 23 (£10) will aim to show you how to do exactly that, blended with plenty of laughter too.

Mind the Gap theatre company, which features learning disabled and non-disabled artists, presents Boo, written by Mike Kenny, on March 17-18, loosely based on the character of Boo Radley from To Kill a Mockingbird. Tickets £10, concs £8. More drama on March 19 (£15, concs £12) with Dai (enough), Iris Bahr's critically acclaimed solo show that thrusts the audience into a bustling Tel Aviv cafe moments before a suicide bomber enters.

Playhouse regular Stacey Kent is always a welcome visitor to the Playhouse, so expect heavy demand for the much-acclaimed jazz singer and her band on March 20 (£17.50, concs £15). Norwich Theatretrain returns to the Playhouse with their latest production, The Look of Love, on March 21, with its sister group Lowestoft Theatretrain presenting The Betrayal on April 4. Tickets (each show) £10, concs £6 - 01603 766908 for these ones.

More talented young performers from April 15-18 (£11, concs £8, family £32), when Norfolk Youth Music Theatre presents The Secret Garden, a musical based on the classic children's book by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

Earlier, on February 13, James Devine's Tapeire blends punk with Irish dance in a new Celtic-inspired multi-media dance production. Tickets £15, concs £12.

More dance on April 2, when Norfolk Dance presents Turnstyle 6 (£6, concs £5 from 01603 283399 from March 2). Step back to the jazz, swing and big band hits of the 1920s and 30s on April 25 (£15, concs £13) with Michael Law and The Piccadilly Dance Orchestra.

t 01603 598598 box office (at Norwich Theatre Royal) www.norwichplayhouse.org.uk