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You are in: Norfolk » Going Out » Stage

07 September 2004 1407 BST
New season announced at Theatre Royal
Picture: Scene from Dangerous Liasons by Northern Ballet Theatre
Dangerous Liaisons by Northern Ballet Theatre
A glittering line-up of musicals, drama and dance are coming to Norfolk in the latest season from the Norwich Theatre Royal.

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Some of the biggest names and shows in theatre are coming to the city for the new Norwich Theatre Royal season.

After the sell-out success of Cats, the theatre is banking on another run of musicals to deliver further record returns at the box office.

The new season includes Cameron Mackintosh's new production of Boublil and Schönberg's musical Miss Saigon.

Norfolk can also look forward to the Olivier Award nominated production of Cole Porter's High Society and for lovers of all things '80s, Boogie Nights 2.

Jane Walsh is the theatre's programming manager. She said it's a combination of factors which draw the big shows to Norwich.

"The physical size of the theatre and seating capacity puts us in the premier league of UK regional theatres, but without the audiences we would be sunk," she said.

"More than 10,000 members in our Friends Scheme makes it the biggest by far for a regional theatre and give us a fantastic core audience. It's also to do with the marketplace.

"The Theatre Royal audience is a regional one, with the main part of it coming from three counties: Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire.

"There's no direct competition in those counties for the large scale musicals, so producers aren't worried about venues competing against each other for the same shows," she added.

Picture: Rambert Dance Company
Rambert Dance Company

For dance lovers there are return visits from the Richard Alston Dance Company, the Rambert Dance Company, St Petersburg Ballet Theatre and Northern Ballet Theatre.

Opera buffs can look forward to Verdi's Aida and Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana from the Chisinau National Opera. Glyndebourne also return with works from Mozart and Puccini.

The balance of popular shows against the more challenging and contemporary works is always a fine line to tread for Jane Walsh.

"If you look at the theatres around the country that programme a lot of contemporary and challenging work they will also generally get substantial amounts of public funding," she said.

"Because we generate more than 93% of our income, our programming tends to be largely mainstream - each show has to have a chance of at least earning its keep.

"But it's also important to recognise that without contemporary work a section of the audience will get bored.

"Theatre is a constantly changing art form, always developing, always moving forward, which is what a lot of people like about it.

"A diet of just one kind of food gets very boring and bland after a while, no matter how well prepared it is," she added.

Picture: Lulu

The autumn line-up also brings a number of household names to the county with appearances from Lulu, David Essex, Nicholas Lyndhurst, Bill Wyman and Lenny Henry.

Theatre for children plays an important part of the new season.

There are stage versions of The Fimbles, Scooby Doo, Engie Benjy and the theatre's annual pantomime, this year with the story of Sleeping Beauty with former Casualty star Nicole Faraday.

"We've been working hard over the last three years or so to improve facilities for families coming to the theatre," said Walsh.

"There's more high quality work being produced for children on the large scale, so we're reflecting that. As a result, we're selling more tickets for children's shows, so it makes sense to encourage that appetite.

"Finally, we have to think about long-term audience development. If we don't encourage children to think that theatre is fun and accessible and not exclusive, we won't have an audience in 30 years' time," she added.



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