New season: Norwich Theatre Royal

Norwich Theatre Royal is closing for a £10m overhaul in the spring. Keiron Pim takes a look at what’s in store for theatregoers in the last season before the revamp.

It is the final season before the Theatre Royal undergoes a £10m refurbishment and the newly-announced line-up shows that the theatre plans to go out with a bang.

In March of next year the Norwich theatre will close for eight months to receive a radical overhaul that should bring it right up to date for the 21st century.

When it reopens the theatre will have a new façade, foyer space will be almost doubled, leg room in the circle seats will be increased, the number of toilets will be doubled and new air conditioning and a state of the art sound enhancement system will be fitted.

And the newly published programme reveals that, as it stands, the grand finale before the curtain comes down will be the new Northern Ballet Theatre production of The Three Musketeers. Theatre spokesman Kevin Sides said that it should be a spectacular way for the theatre to sign off.

“It's a new production from David Nixon, the artistic director at the Northern Ballet Theatre, and it should be very action-packed,” he said.

The scene: 17th century France, and Cardinal Richelieu is plotting against Queen Anne. The three musketeers - Athos, Porthos and Aramis, together with young accomplice D'Artagnan - vow to protect France at all costs.

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Set to music by the late Norfolk-based composer Sir Malcolm Arnold, it's billed as a “swashbuckling ballet that promises to be a rip-roaring adventure from start to finish”.

Then there is Tom Stoppard's adaptation of Gerald Sibleyras's Heroes, from November 6 to 11, which won best comedy at the 2006 Olivier Awards and stars Art Malik, Christopher Timothy and Michael Jayston. The play is described as being hilarious yet “tinged with sadness”, as it tells the story of three second world war veterans as they pass their days in a military hospital.

Also set to draw in crowds is an old favourite, The Rocky Horror Show, which is coming from March 12 to 17. Mr Sides said: “The Rocky Horror Show is coming back after a long time - it has been five years since it was last here. We always get lots of people dressing up in costume for that one, and it should be a good fun week for all of us here.”

And of course there is the Christmas pantomime, which this year is Cinderella, starring former Coronation Street actor and now would-be Tory MP Adam Rickitt as Prince Charming. A production of Scooby-Doo, entitled Stagefright, is also likely to be a hit with young theatregoers when it runs from February 13 to 17, as will the Chuckle Brothers's latest production, Spooky Goings On Two , on March 25.

The theatre is also boasting one-off appearances from Hollywood and West End star Rupert Everett, on November 5, promoting his new book Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins, and singer Peter Grant, not to be confused with the new Norwich City manager of the same name.

Fans of Cuban music are also in for a treat as the Buena Vista Social Club band plays on March 23.

In February the musical Chicago makes a welcome return to the city for a two-week run beginning February 19.

However the concert by Hot Chocolate star Errol Brown and the three-night run of Breakfast with Jonny Wilkinson, the new play by the author of an evening with Gary Lineker, are both cancelled.

As well as The Three Musketeers, the Northern Ballet Theatre will get theatregoers in a festive mood in the run-up to the Christmas season, with its production of A Christmas Carol, which runs from November 14 to 18. The ballet has been captivating audiences for more than a decade. The company will return in the spring for the season's finale - the Three Musketeers runs from March 28 to 31.

Then the theatre will close and press ahead with the redevelopment programme. Mr Sides said that the fundraising appeal was well on track for its target, but more contributions were still needed.

“We have been doing bucket collections after performances, and cast members of some productions have made an appeal to audiences after their shows to give donations. We are at £8m now and it's going very well,” he said.

For full details of the season call the box office on 01603 630000 or visit www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk

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