Spring - 'tis a season to be jolly at Newcastle Theatre Royal

Tony Maudsley as Kenneth in Benidorm.
Tony Maudsley as Kenneth in Benidorm.
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A theatrical treasure chest of riches, featuring breath-taking dance, thought-provoking drama, feel-good musicals and family shows are on the cards this season and beyond at Newcastle Theatre Royal.

The Grade I listed Theatre will be bursting at the seams this year as it welcomes no less than five big musicals, including Evita (May 22-26), Hairspray (June 25-30), Dusty the Musical (July 17-21), Calendar Girls (Sep 18-29) and Kinky Boots (Oct 29 – Nov 10).

Kinky Boots

Kinky Boots

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s hit show Evita returns to Newcastle in May, starring Madalena Alberto (Les Misérables) and Gian Marco Schiaretti (Tarzan). Telling the story of Eva Peron – wife of former Argentine dictator Juan Peron – Evita follows Eva’s journey from humble beginnings through to extraordinary iconic status and features some of the most famous songs in musical theatre.

Returning for one week only after a sell-out visit in spring 2016, West End and Broadway hit Hairspray lands on June 25-30. Set in 1962, Hairspray tells the story of Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart, who’s on a mission to follow her dreams and dance her way onto national TV. This is a feel-good show with the ultimate dance-in-your-seat and singalong soundtrack.

Dusty the Musical (July 17-21) is a landmark new show based on the authorised biography of Dusty Springfield, featuring many of her soulful pop hits, including I Only Want to Be with You, Son of a Preacher Man and You Don't Have to Say You Love Me. With a fiercely funny and emotionally-charged script from BAFTA and Olivier-nominated writer Jonathan Harvey, Dusty celebrates the extraordinary and vivacious woman with the iconic voice.

Into autumn and Calendar Girls the Musical (Sep 18-29), by Gary Barlow and Tim Firth, is the award-winning musical comedy based on the true story of a group of ordinary ladies who achieved something extraordinary. Straight from the West End, this is a glorious new production with an all-star cast.

But perhaps the most anticipated show of the autumn season is Kinky Boots (Oct 29 – Nov 10), winner of every major Best Musical award, including the 2016 Olivier Award for Best New Musical. Featuring songs by Grammy and Tony-winning pop icon Cyndi Lauper and a book by Broadway legend Harvey Fierstein this dazzling show is a joyous story of Brit grit, taking audiences from the factory floor of Northampton to the catwalks of Milan.

Dance fans will delight in three big names this season, starting with the breathtaking Ballet British Columbia (Mar 13-14). Making its Theatre Royal debut, Canada’s leading national dance company present an exhilarating evening of dance by three internationally-celebrated female choreographers. Recognised for their fresh creativity, this 18-strong company of dancers is set astound UK audiences with a unique blend of cool, classical elegance, contemporary flair and extraordinary skill.

Returning in May, due to popular demand, is international Irish dance sensation Spirit of the Dance (16-19) on its record-breaking 20-year anniversary tour. One of the world’s most successful dance shows, Spirit of the Dance showcases the heart-pounding rhythms of Irish dance as well as sensual Flamenco and red hot salsa. Their thunderous feet perform miracles in this thrilling and explosive production.

Another big name to return this season is Stomp (Aug 13-18), the unstoppable smash-hit but fresher, faster and funnier than ever. Combining dance, comedy and music into a theatrical experience like no other Stomp takes familiar objects like newspapers, bins, plastics bags and even the kitchen sink and uses them to create a universal language of rhythm and movement that’s playful, thrilling and exploding with energy.

For drama lovers, the Theatre Royal presents one riveting new show and one old favourite. Sherlock Holmes – The Final Curtain (May 8-12) is a gripping new stage show with an all-star cast, including Robert Powell and Liza Goddard, in celebration of the world’s greatest detective. Holmes lives in retirement on the south coast and is concerned in his advancing years that he may be an easy target for his enemies. So when a new case presents itself Holmes is determined to kill two birds with one stone - solve the mystery and confront his own demons.

Following its sell-out success in January, the multi award-winning West End smash hit comedy drama The Play that Goes Wrong returns on July 2-7. The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society are putting on a 1920s murder mystery, but as the title suggests, everything that can go wrong... does! As the accident prone thesps battle on against all the odds to reach their final curtain call, hilarious results ensue! Now playing on Broadway and enjoying its 4th year in the West End, the show has secured rave reviews and won a host of celebrity endorsements along the way. I saw it in London last year and thought it was the finest example of silly slapstick this side of pantos - very funny.

Another comedy treat, back once again to warm the hearts of their loyal fans are the incorrigibly Grumpy Old Women (May 20). Fed up with flogging their guts out and always having to be in charge, the GOW have put their knobbly old feet up in glorious retirement. Free at last to practise their extreme colouring-in, ukulele orchestra and novelty fudge-making! But, with the world in a bigger mess than ever before, they will need to unleash their superpowers as only three old Grumpies know how! Stars Jenny Eclair, Dillie Keane and Lizzie Roper.

Looking further ahead, the official world premiere of ITV’s smash hit comedy Benidorm (Sep 7-15) opens at Newcastle Theatre Royal prior to a major national tour. Produced by Newcastle-born West End producer Michael Harrison (The Bodyguard; Young Frankenstein) the show features the much-loved TV cast and will bring a heady dose of sangria-soaked Solana sunshine to the stage for the first time.

Two great new shows for our smaller customers complete the new season – a brand new live stage show from the Youtube sensation Little Baby Bum (July 10-11) invites pre-schoolers to step into the magical and colourful world of nursery rhymes, while August sees the return of everyone’s favourite piggy in Peppa Pig’s Adventure (Aug 22-23 ) where Newcastle welcomes back Peppa and friends as they embark on a camping trip full of games, laughter and live music.

Tickets for all new shows in the spring/summer '18 season can be purchased online at www.theatreroyal.co.uk or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 08448 11 21 21 (calls cost 7p per minute plus your phone company’s access charge).