Birmingham’s Essential Entertainment Guide
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Posted on Wed 22 Feb 2023
There’s never a dull month when it comes to theatre in the Midlands. Check out our selection of shows coming to venues across the region during the next few weeks...
A LEAP IN THE DARK
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the UK’s first-ever radio play - and to celebrate the occasion, the New Vic Theatre is presenting this stage premiere of a BBC Radio Four commission.
Described by its publicity as a hilarious comedy caper, the show tells the story of man-with-a-plan Cedric Maud, who firmly believes that a play made specially for the wireless could be just the thing to entertain listeners and put the newly formed BBC on the map.
But the venture is no walk in the park - as soon becomes apparent...
Eight actors take on a whole host of characters in this fast-paced homage to one of the most beloved artforms of the 20th century. Gwenda Hughes directs.
New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme, until Saturday 2 March
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM
Accessible language, likeable characters and a series of comic capers with an ass combine to make Dream one of Shakespeare’s most popular works.
Lysander and Demetrius both fancy Hermia, Helena’s sitting on the shelf, Titania and Oberon are up to no good, and Puck’s got his finger in more pies than Mr Kipling.
Add in a group of rude mechanicals and the recipe for success is guaranteed...
Matthew Baynton (pictured), the co-creator, writer and star of hit BBC TV comedy series Ghosts, will star as Bottom. “I’ve always wanted to be part of a Shakespeare production,” he says, “and I’ve been hoping to return to the stage for quite some time too. So to be able to combine those two ambitions in one of the great ensemble comedies is a dream come true.”
Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, until Saturday 30 March
LIFE OF PI
Lolita Chakrabarti’s innovative stage adaptation of Yann Martel’s award-winning novel, Life Of Pi, was an immediate hit when it premiered at Sheffield’s Crucible Theatre in 2019. A West End transfer followed in 2021, as did a handful of Olivier Awards - including for best new play.
The show tells the story of Pi, whose parents run a zoo in India but decide to sell up and emigrate to Canada. After a storm wrecks the ship on which they’re travelling, Pi is cast adrift on a lifeboat, which he shares with some of the creatures from the zoo - most notably a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker...
A menagerie of exotic creatures is at the heart of the show, all brought to life through the magic of puppetry.
“We’re always improvising on stage, so it feels really live,” reveals puppeteer Romina Hytten, who helps work the tiger. “That’s part of making the animals feel as alive and as realistic as possible. We don’t want it to be too choreographed or too set in stone. So there’s room to play every night, and you get to feel that exciting buzz of not being quite sure what the tiger is going to do next.”
Birmingham Hippodrome, Monday 12 - Saturday 17 February; Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, Tuesday 23 - Saturday 27 April; Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury, Tuesday 7 - Saturday 11 May
Somerset Maugham’s comedy of manners may be 103 years old but it still has plenty to say to a modern-day audience.
This latest revival of the play stars Jane Asher as Lady Kitty, a society beauty who notoriously abandoned stuffy husband Clive to elope with the handsome Lord Porteous.
Thirty years later, with the couple’s once-passionate love for one another having descended into non-stop squabbling, history looks set to repeat itself when Arnold - the son of Lady Kitty and Clive - finds himself faced with the prospect of seeing his wife Elizabeth elope with the dashing Teddie Luton... Clive Francis and Nicholas Le Prevost co-star.
Malvern Theatres, Tuesday 13 - Saturday 17 February
THE LITTLE PRINCE
Kids’ theatre company Lyngo here turn their attention to Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s bestselling children’s book, recounting the story of a young boy who lives on an asteroid and decides to visit Earth, courtesy of a passing flock of space-birds...
Stafford Gatehouse Theatre, Tuesday 13 - Saturday 17 February
Although it’s effectively a class-driven ‘scouse melodrama’, to describe Blood Brothers as such is to greatly underestimate the emotional response it produces within its audience. The show features adult actors playing children, a narrator who wanders through the scenes with warnings of impending doom, a good helping of sharp social awareness to counteract the sticky sentimentality, and a raft of much-loved musical numbers, including Bright New Day, Marilyn Monroe and the emotionally charged Tell Me It’s Not True.
One-time X-Factor semi-finalist Niki Colwell Evans takes the iconic role of Mrs Johnstone.
Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury, Tuesday 13 - Saturday 17 February; Birmingham Hippodrome, Tuesday 30 April - Saturday 4 May
Now an impressive 37 years into his firefighting career, Fireman Sam is still putting out blazes in Pontypandy and lighting up children’s eyes with delight.
In this brand-new adventure, perpetual troublemaker Norman Price follows two famous animal explorers into the mountains and ends up stranded in a cave. As ever, it falls to Fireman Sam to come to the rescue and save the day...
Telford Theatre, Shropshire, Wednesday 14 February; Birmingham Town Hall, Saturday 17 February; Brierley Hill Civic, Tuesday 26 March; Albany Theatre, Coventry, Thursday 4 April; Stafford Gatehouse Theatre, Thursday 25 July; William Aston Hall, Wrexham, Saturday 3 August; Roses Theatre, Tewkesbury, Saturday 24 August
Break-ups, breakdowns and bust-ups are very much the name of the game in Sarah Cameron-West’s one-woman show, a clever work of theatre that’s been described as the love child of Fleabag and The Office.
Telling the tale of a woman whose former boyfriend starts dating her workplace nemesis - the Karen of the title - the show garnered plenty of praise when it debuted at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe.
Old Joint Stock Theatre, Birmingham, Thursday 15 - Friday 16 February
THE GRUFFLO'S CHILD
Tall Stories’ delightful adaptation of the much-loved Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler book finds the Gruffalo and his youngster caught up in an exciting adventure...
Despite her dad’s warning to stay away from the deep, dark wood, the Gruffalo’s Child decides it’s time to go and explore, unworried by the legend of The Big Bad Mouse...
Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Friday 16 - Sunday 18 February
If you’re a fan of Netflix’s 1980s-set sci-fi series Stranger Things, then here’s the perfect opportunity to enjoy an extra helping (well, sort of!) of the hit show.
Promising an evening awash with marvellous mullets, sparkling fairy lights, heavy synth, poor parenting, dancing demogorgons and indulgent pop-culture references, this smash-hit musical parody visits the Midlands on the back of a storming off-Broadway success and a three-month sell-out stay in London.
Crewe Lyceum Theatre, Friday 16 & Saturday 17 February; Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury, Thursday 22 & Friday 23 February; Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Friday 1 & Saturday 2 March
AS SHE LIKES IT
Eighty or so years before the emergence of the #MeToo movement, dancer and sometime movie extra Patricia Douglas made front-page news when she claimed to have been raped at a party by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer salesman David Ross.
The studio subsequently coordinated a smear campaign against her in order to minimise the damage caused to its reputation by the scandal.
Buried in the annals of history for the rest of the 20th century, Patricia’s story was finally retold in the noughties, courtesy of a documentary titled Girl 27. Now, this new play - a fusion of live theatre and filmed footage - turns the spotlight on her traumatic experience once again, in the process posing the question: to what extent is the Hollywood of today different from the Hollywood of Patricia’s day?
The show’s UK tour is supported by Solace, a London organisation supporting women and children ‘to build safe and strong lives’.
Roses Theatre, Tewkesbury, Friday 16 February; Swan Theatre, Worcester, Wednesday 28 February; Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Saturday 16 March
Designed to enlighten, educate and entertain children aged four and older, Exciting Science promises plenty of ‘wiz, bang, pop and splurt’, as the show’s scientists carry out all manner of fun and fact-filled live experiments.
So if you think your kids would enjoy seeing some boffins create a volcanic eruption, turn a vacuum cleaner into a missile launcher and take careful aim with a smoke blaster, then this is definitely the show to check out.
Stourbridge Town Hall, Friday 16 February; Sutton Coldfield Town Hall, Tuesday 26 March; Swan Theatre, Worcester, Wednesday 27 March
Premiering at The Rep and set in the challenging world of American inter-college Bhangra competitions, Bhangra Nation tells the story of two students who love the dance form but want to take it in very different directions.
“It’s a contemporary feelgood musical,” explains the show’s director, Stafford Arima. “We’ve had some great musicals that have had South Asian characters or stories, like Bend It Like Beckham and Bombay Dreams, but there is something unique about this piece. I have strong faith that, whether or not you’re even a musical theatre fan, there’s something here for everyone...”
The Rep, Birmingham, Saturday 17 February - Saturday 16 March
JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR
Spreading the Gospel according to Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, the phenomenal rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar makes a welcome return to the Midlands.
And the show really does rock...
This gritty, reimagined production was originally staged by London’s Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre in 2016 and won the Olivier Award for best musical revival a few months later.
With hits like I Don’t Know How To Love Him, Gethsemane, Hosanna, and of course the title song itself to recommend it, the show tells the story of the final few days in the life of Jesus, as his teaching and preaching, performing of miracles and ruffling of the establishment’s feathers eventually sees him condemned to death...
Regent Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, Monday 19 - Saturday 24 February; Birmingham Hippodrome, Monday 22 - Saturday 27 April
2:22 A GHOST STORY
Husband & wife Jenny and Sam are divided. Jenny believes their new home is haunted; Sam isn’t having any of it. Something certainly feels strange and frightening. Determined to find out the truth once and for all, they decide to stay up until 2:22 - at which time, all will be revealed. Or not...
“We are beyond excited to be taking 2:22 - A Ghost Story around the UK,” says Danny Robins, the creator of popular BBC podcast The Battersea Poltergeist and the writer of this smash-hit supernatural thriller. “It’s a play that will make you laugh, scream, cry, think, and jump out of your seat - a proper spooky night out!”
The show premiered in the West End back in 2021, not only becoming a major hit but also providing singers Lily Allen and, more recently, Cheryl with an opportunity to tread the boards.
This touring production sees George Rainsford as Sam and Fiona Wade as Jenny. The Wanted’s Jay McGuiness and Vera Chok also star.
Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, Tuesday 20 - Saturday 24 February
OH WHAT A LOVELY WAR
Joan Littlewood’s brilliant satire on the folly of war resonates just as profoundly in the 21st century as ever it did way back in the 1960s, when it was originally produced.
Blending performance and documentation from the First World War, the show is here revived for a 60th anniversary tour and features a host of songs from the era, including Long Way To Tipperary, Pack Up Your Troubles In Your Old Kit-Bag, Goodbye and Keep The Home Fires Burning.
Lichfield Garrick, Tuesday 20 - Wednesday 21 February; Malvern Theatres, Tuesday 12 - Saturday 16 March; Arena Theatre, Wolverhampton, Thursday 2 - Saturday 4 May
SCIENCE MUSEUM LIVE
This brand-new family-friendly stage production - touring to Shrewsbury courtesy of London’s world-renowned Science Museum - aims to ‘ignite your curiosity, fuel your imagination, and inspire you in new and exciting ways’.
Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury, Tuesday 20 February; Albany Theatre, Coventry, Saturday 12 October
VAMPIRE'S ROCK: GHOST TRAIN
Steve Steinman’s cult rock show is now in its 21st year and currently stars Lorraine Crosby, best known for her duet with Meat Loaf on the classic number-one song I Would Do Anything For Love... The show sees mesmerising narrative cleverly intertwined with comedy and horror - and of course a host of irresistible rock anthems from the likes of AC/DC, Queen and Guns N’ Roses.
Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Wednesday 21 February; The Alexandra, Birmingham, Monday 11 March
BEN AND IMO
Legendary composer Benjamin Britten’s struggle to write an opera in time for the 1953 coronation of Queen Elizabeth II provides the subject matter for Ben And Imo.
Receiving its premiere in Stratford this month, the play focuses on the timely arrival in Britten’s life of the inspirational Imogen Holst, the daughter of composer Gustav and an accomplished musician in her own right...
Originally written by Mark Ravenhill for radio, the new production is directed by Erica Whyman.
Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, Wednesday 21 February - Saturday 6 April
SIX THE MUSICAL
From Tudor queens to battling boss-women, Six The Musical sees the wives of Henry VIII take to the stage to tell their own versions of their lives.
Sitting somewhere between a Girls Aloud gig and a traditional musical, the one-act production has been a runaway success since premiering at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017.
The production sees the cast being ably supported by all-female band The Ladies In Waiting.
Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, Tuesday 27 February - Saturday 3 March
SPRING OPERA: CINDERELLA
Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s Vocal & Operatic Studies Department here transforms an old gasworks into a fairytale world to present Jules Massenet’s four-act Cendrillon, an opera based on Charles Perrault’s 1698 version of the Cinderella fairytale.
This family-friendly production is sung in French with English surtitles.
Gas Street Central, Birmingham, Thursday 29 February - Saturday 2 March
First published in 1982, Rod Campbell’s lift-the-flap book, Dear Zoo, has delighted generations of children and accumulated millions of sales worldwide.
This hugely popular stage version of the story features child-friendly puppets, music and lots of audience participation.
Crewe Lyceum Theatre, Saturday 2 - Sunday 3 March; Royal Spa Centre, Leamington Spa, Thursday 14 - Friday 15 March; Stafford Gatehouse Theatre, Friday 29 - Saturday 30 March; Birmingham Hippodrome, Thursday 11 - Tuesday 16 April; Lichfield Garrick, Saturday 20 - Sunday 21 April
AND THEN THERE WERE NONE
Having been invited to a privately owned remote island off the coast of Devon, a group of strangers find that their eccentric millionaire host has mysteriously disappeared.
Not long afterwards, one of the 10 strangers meets with an untimely demise...
National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company director Lucy Bailey takes the helm for this latest version of Agatha Christie’s 1943 adaptation of her own 1939 novel - a book which she admitted had been her most difficult to write.
The Alexandra, Birmingham, Tuesday 5 - Saturday 9 March
PETER PAN GOES WRONG
A play about a play that goes wrong isn’t a new idea by any means, but it’s certainly a winning one, as the plaudits garnered by this cheeky little hit ably illustrate.
Indeed, one reviewer laughed so much that he feared he was going to hyperventilate; another admitted his funny bone had been well and truly struck by the piece; a third laughed and laughed until ‘tears ran down’.
Having first introduced audiences to the Cornley Drama Society in the Olivier Award-winning The Play That Goes Wrong, Mischief Theatre Company here let loose those selfsame comic creations on a production of JM Barrie’s children’s classic. The only trouble is, the bumbling thesps are more than a little accident-prone. So much so, in fact, that they’re not even sure they’ll manage to reach the curtain call, let alone Neverland...
The Alexandra, Birmingham, Monday 18 - Sunday 23 March
THERE'S A MONSTER IN YOUR SHOW
Children’s author Tom Fletcher’s interactive adventures here leap from page to stage, as his critically acclaimed Who’s In Your Book? series makes its debut as a brand-new musical.
The show sees Little Monster being joined by friends Dragon, Alien and Unicorn for 50 minutes of comedy, chaos and high-energy fun, during which the pals will be learning all about the joy of friendship and books.
Birmingham Town Hall, Friday 5 - Saturday 6 April; Swan Theatre, Worcester, Tuesday 30 April - Wednesday 1 May; Tamworth Assembly Rooms, Friday 3 - Saturday 4 May
SHREK THE MUSICAL
The popularity of this family-friendly West Ender hardly comes as a surprise. After all, Dreamworks’ animated Shrek movies - inspired by cartoonist William Steig’s 1990 book - were absolutely huge. So it was only ever going to be a matter of time before everybody’s favourite swamp-residing ogre made a big splash away from the silver screen.
Pretty much retelling the story of the first movie, the show peddles a line in humour that calls to mind both the surrealist Pythons and an evening of festive-season pantomime fare.
There are plenty of new songs to enjoy too, presented alongside cult Shrek anthem I’m A Believer, originally a chart-topping hit for The Monkees way back in the mid-1960s...
One-time Strictly Come Dancing favourite Joanne Clifton stars as Princess Fiona.
The Alexandra, Birmingham, Tuesday 9 - Sunday 14 April
THE DRIFTERS GIRL
Telling the story of The Drifters (one of the most successful vocal groups of all time) and Faye Treadwell (the woman who ensured their success), smash-hit West End musical The Drifters Girl features a series of much-loved songs, including Saturday Night At The Movies, Stand By Me, Under The Boardwalk and Save The Last Dance For Me.
“The show is about the boys and the band,” explains co-producer Michael Harrison, “but it’s also about what Faye did with them, what their relationship was, who went against her, who she was friendly with, the decisions she made.
“The Drifters isn’t a story which has been very well documented. We all know the story of The Beatles, and Jersey Boys told us the story of Frankie Valli And The Four Seasons. But this story wasn’t really in the public domain, considering how famous a group they were and still are. So the show unlocks all that.”
Birmingham Hippodrome, Tuesday 16 - Sunday 20 April
THE WOMAN IN BLACK
Adapted by Stephen Mallatratt from the same-named Susan Hill novel, The Woman In Black is a classic ghost story first performed on stage in 1989 - since which time it has become one of the West End’s most successful plays.
Solicitor Arthur Kipp believes that his family has somehow been cursed by a mysterious woman in black. In an attempt to tell his story - and to exorcise the evil curse which he’s convinced hangs over him - he hires a young actor to assist him in recounting his experiences...
Crewe Lyceum Theatre, Tuesday 23 - Saturday 27 April; Belgrade Theatre, Coventry, Tuesday 30 April - Saturday 4 May
After seeing her gangster boyfriend kill an employee, Reno lounge singer Deloris Van Cartier is placed on a witness protection programme and hidden in a convent, where she proceeds to take over the rehearsals of the in-house choir of nuns. Thanks to her musical expertise, the choir becomes a huge success and church attendances go through the roof.
But in giving the church a new lease of life, Deloris may inadvertently have jeopardised her own safety...
Based on the hit Whoopi Goldberg movie of the same name, this fun-filled spectacular of a show boasts a real feelgood factor and stars Lesley Joseph.
Birmingham Hippodrome, Monday 13 - Saturday 18 May
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