Theatre Royal new season preview

Laura DevlinThree major musicals, new plays starring big names and opera, ballet and comedy favourites are among the delights heading to Norwich this year.Laura Devlin

Three major musicals, new plays starring big names and opera, ballet and comedy favourites are among the delights heading to Norwich this year.

The Theatre Royal has today raised the curtain on its new season - with a summer run of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang among the many highlights.

A cast and crew of 100, plus sensational sets and spectacular sound effects are promised for the story of the magical car, its eccentric inventor Caractacus Potts and his two children, plus Truly Scrumptious, Grandpa Potts, the Baron and the evil Childcatcher.

And fans of one of the biggest boy bands of all time are in for a treat in August as Never Forget, the West End musical based on the songs of Take That, heads to Norfolk fresh from its West End run.

It stars Philip Olivier of Brookside and Hollyoaks fame and follows the story of five friends who enjoy a rollercoaster journey of fame, fortune and friendship accompanied by big hits like Relight My Fire, Pray, Back for Good, Babe and Never Forget.

The iconic rock opera Quadrophenia also bursts on to the Theatre Royal stage in September. Set in London and Brighton at the height of the Mod era, it tells the story of hedonistic style-conscious teenager Jimmy who is searching for a place to belong and a girl to love, and features a stunning score from The Who's Pete Townshend.

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The critically acclaimed National Theatre production of The Pitmen Painters comes to Norwich in November. Penned by Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall, it tells the story of a group of miners from the North-East who join an art appreciation class and become avant-garde artists by night - while still heading down the pit during the day.

And in July, two former soap stars head the cast in the gripping new play Deceptions. Michelle Collins, who will always be remembered as the evil Cindy Beale in Eastenders, plays a psychiatrist desperate for an interesting case. Coronation street's Jamie Baldwin - aka Rupert Hill - is a young patient who proves to be the challenge she needs, triggering a game of wills between the pair.

Meanwhile, anarchic comedy actor Rik Mayall comes to Norwich on a pre-West End tour of the Michael Frayn play Balmoral.

Set in 1937, the Royal residence has been transformed into a writers' commune after a 1917 British revolution.

The Northern Ballet Theatre will be making two visits to the Theatre Royal, firstly with their classic adaptation of Romeo and Juliet in June. They are back again in the autumn with Wuthering Heights.

Fans of classical music and opera can look forward to the return of two favourites - the Britten Sinfonia launch a new season of four autumn and winter concerts with a programme including Vivaldi's Four Seasons in October.

Glyndebourne Opera has also confirmed it returns to Norwich

in November and will be

presenting Mozart's Cosi Fan Tutte, Verdi's Falstaff and Jenufa by Janacek.

Former M People singer Heather Small, who starred in the most recent series of Strictly Come Dancing, will give a one night show in May, while South African vocal ensemble Ladysmith Black Mambazo feature in October.

Theatre Royal spokesman John Bultitude said: 'We have pulled out all the stops to provide a wide-ranging programme of entertainment right through to the winter.

'Never Forget and Quadrophenia will appeal to very different audiences but will certainly bring a taste of the West End to Norwich.

'There is also the chance to see new plays, as well as the return of a wide range of old favourites like Glyndebourne.

'Once again, audiences at the Theatre Royal are going to see some of the biggest shows in the UK right on their doorstep without having to trek down to London.'

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