Stars help Theatre Royal shows go on

Norwich's Theatre Royal may be shutting this month ahead of its £10m revamp, but in true theatrical tradition a whole host of famous faces are making sure the show will go on.

Norwich's Theatre Royal may be shutting this month ahead of its £10m revamp, but in true theatrical tradition a whole host of famous faces are making sure the show will go on.

An army of stars from stage and screen will appear in a performance of Twelfth Night at the Marquess of Cholmondeley's stately home at Houghton Hall, near Fakenham, in a charity show to raise money for the theatre's 250 Appeal.

Pirates of the Caribbean star Kevin McNally, Simon Callow, whose films include Four Weddings and a Funeral and Shakespeare in Love, and Norfolk's very own Stephen Fry are just some of the cast to appear in this July's Shakespearean comedy of shipwreck, love and mistaken identity.

“It is an extremely ambitious project and it is great to have such an impressive line-up of actors supporting our appeal,” said Jane Walsh, of the Theatre Royal.

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“We are extremely grateful to Lord Cholmondeley for lending us such a beautiful location and to Stephen Fry who has been one of the main people involved in getting the show off the ground. The play will take place in the west front of the house and on the lawn. We will be building a grandstand for the audience to sit in. It will be set in the 1930s and have a very 'Gosford Park feel' to it.”

Olivier-award winner Desmond Barrit will play Feste the jester, while Simon Callow and Stephen Fry will share the part of strait-laced servant Malvolio.

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Neighbours' actress Caitlin Stasey takes the lead part of shipwrecked Viola, while her long-lost twin brother, Sebastian, will be played by actor Alexander Owen.

The lovesick Duke Orsino will be Waterloo Road's Jamie Glover with the object of his affection, Countess Olivia, performed by Sasha Behar, who was Coronation Street's femme fatale Maya Sharma. Mel Smith and Harriet Walter will add to the comedy mix by playing Olivia's rowdy uncle Sir Toby Belch and Olivia's maid Maria respectively.

It is hoped the show and three other summer fundraisers will generate in total about £120,000 for the theatre's revamp fund. At the moment about £8.4m has been raised for the refurbishment that includes enhanced acoustics, better legroom for theatregoers, a new restaurant, more bars and more toilets.

The other three events begin with an open afternoon on May 13 at Stody Lodge Gardens, near Melton Constable, which features Japanese water gardens and the largest rhododendron and azalea gardens in the country.

People can take part in a celebrity golf day at Weston Park Golf Club on May 17. There is also a Musical Garden Party at Gayton Hall, near King's Lynn, on July 6 with fireworks and music by Norfolk County Youth Orchestra and players from the Britten Sinfonia.

When the curtain goes up on the new-look Theatre Royal in November there is an impressive array of shows already lined up.

Dick Whittington is this year's pantomime with Theatre Royal veteran Richard Gauntlett named as the first star to join the show.

“We haven't had Dick Whittington here for a long while and we thought we should have a boy's pantomime this year because it was Cinderella last year,” said Ms Walsh. “It is the same creative team we have had for the past few years so it should be good!”

Talking about the rest of shows she said: “After being shut for six months it is important that we come back with a very strong line-up and that is exactly what we have - with David Essex in Andrew Lloyd Webber's Aspects of Love, the Glyndebourne on Tour, the St Petersburg Ballet Theatre's The Nutcracker and the RSC's The Comedy of Errors to name but a few.

“But we haven't filled all the gaps yet - they will still be lots more shows announced later in the year.”


t March 29 to 31 - Ben Elton's Popcorn, by the Youth Theatre Company, at The Garage, Norwich.

t April 5 to 7 - A Midsummer Night's Dream, by the Youth Theatre Company, at The Garage, Norwich.

t May 13 - Open afternoon at Stody Lodge Gardens, near Melton Constable.

t May 17 - Celeb-Am Golf Day at Weston Park Golf Club.

t July 6 - Gayton Hall Musical Garden Party, near King's Lynn.

t July 25 to 28 - Twelfth Night at Houghton Hall, near Fakenham.

t July 27 to August 4 - Dodger! by the Youth Theatre Company at Norwich Playhouse.

t November 13 to 17 - Glyndebourne on Tour at the Theatre Royal

t November 27 to December 1 - Aspects of Love at the Theatre Royal.

t December 4 to 8 - RSC's The Comedy of Errors at the Theatre Royal.

t December 19 to January 20 - Dick Whittington at the Theatre Royal.

t January 28 to February 2 - Norfolk and Norwich Operatic Society's Titanic - The Musical, at the Theatre Royal.

t February 4 to 9 - St Petersburg Ballet Theatre's The Nutcracker at the Theatre Royal.

For more information call the box office on 01603 630000 or visit www.theatreroyalnorwich.

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