New season: Norwich Theatre Royal

A whole line-up of stars and cultural delights is unveiled for theatre-lovers in Norfolk with the release of the new Theatre Royal programme. Keiron Pim takes a look at what the coming months at the Norwich theatre have in store.

It is a programme that has something for everyone, from serious drama to light entertainment, pop stars and musicals to stand-up comedy.

The new season at Norwich's Theatre Royal boasts a string of stars to keep us entertained through the winter and spring.

There's Nigel Havers, the leading man in a new adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier's thriller Rebecca, and a trio of top-quality operas from Opera North.

Cameron Mackintosh's stunning production of the musical Miss Saigon will arrive for a four-week run in April, while comedians Jack Dee and Harry Hill are also sure to draw in the audiences.

Music fans will have the chance to relive the Seventies with the appearance of Hot Chocolate singer Errol Brown, and there's top family fun with Postman Pat, Roald Dahl's The Witches and Scooby Doo.

And of course there's the pantomime, which this year is Sleeping Beauty, starring Nicole Faraday of Bad Girls and Casualty as Morgan Le Fay.

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Perhaps the biggest name set to tread the boards this season is Nigel Havers. The renowned actor leads a large cast in a new adaptation by Tony Award-winning writer Frank McGuinness, which comes to Norwich prior to runs in London and New York.

Havers plays Maxim De Winter, who returns with his new wife to Manderley, where his first wife died. There the past is guarded by the sinister housekeeper, Mrs Danvers, and so begins a tale that has been a favourite book for generations and formed an Oscar-winning Alfred Hitchcock film.

Theatre Royal spokeswoman Jane Walsh said: “I think it should be very interesting. Nigel Havers has been here a couple of times in the not-too- distant past in Art.

“I think he is very well suited to the role, he absolutely looks the part.”

The play runs from March 2 to 7.

It is followed shortly afterwards by one of the classics of the stage in the 20th century, RC Sherriff's Journey's End, which runs from March 21 to 26.

Set in the first world war, it concerns a group of British Army officers in the trenches in France. Stanhope, a young captain promoted beyond his years, prepares his men for a raid across No Man's Land. Laurence Olivier played Stanhope in the first performance in 1928 and today the play remains a timely commentary on war.

However in terms of preparation for the Theatre Royal staff it pales alongside the arrival of one of the biggest musicals of recent years.

“The really big thing that's taking up a lot of space will be Miss Saigon,” said Jane. “It's a huge commitment having a musical for four weeks, and in a way it influences the rest of the season and what goes around it.”

Set in 1975 in the days before the American evacuation of Saigon, it is a love story centred on the relationship between a GI and a young Vietnamese woman. The show runs from April 5 to 30.

For one night only, former Hot Chocolate singer Errol Brown will be performing hits including So You Win Again, Every One's a Winner and of course You Sexy Thing, and Jane said tickets were already selling well.

Jack Dee brings his deadpan humour to the Theatre Royal for two nights – May 22-23 – and Harry Hill's surreal, award-winning brand of comedy is here on February 18.

Sleeping Beauty has Coronation Street's Brian Hibbard as the panto dame Nanny Nicehands, and Rikki Jay returns to Norwich for the seventh year running as Muddles. The panto combines the age-old story of Sleeping Beauty with Arthurian legend, and features David Gant as Merlin. The pantomime runs from December 19 to January 22 and tickets will be priced between £4 and £13.50.

Jane said that dance was well represented this season.

“We have got the Northern Ballet and Richard Alston, so there's a good presence from a dance point of view.”

The Richard Alston Dance Company is in Norwich on March 10 and 11 as part of its 10th anniversary tour, with three examples of the work that has seen Alston described in the London Evening Standard as “an accomplished dance maker, the most fluid contemporary choreographer we have”.

The three dances, Gypsy Mixture, Fever and Such Longing, respectively choreograph Eastern European gypsy music remixed by DJs, the madrigals of Claudio Monteverdi and the meditations of Chopin's Nocturnes and Etudes, played live.

The Northern Ballet brings La Traviata to Norwich from March 15 to 19, in a beautiful balletic portrayal of decadent Parisian life in the mid-19th century. Verdi's music describes Alexander Dumas's love affair with a courtesan who dies of consumption.

And for the children there's what Jane called “ a great choice of shows” – first is Postman Pat, from February 14 to 16. Then the cartoon classic Scooby Doo comes to life on stage in Stagefright (February 21-26).

Roald Dahl's The Witches will be here from May 17 to 21.

The St Petersburg Ballet Theatre returns between February 7 and 12 with two romantic ballets. The Nutcracker, from the Monday to Thursday, takes Tchaikovsky's music to “a land of romance and fairytales”, and on the Friday and Saturday is La Bayadere, a tale of doomed young love set in ancient India.

t For details, see www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk or call the box office on 01603 630000.

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