Big musicals are set to rattle the tills at the Theatre Royal and that will be a welcome sound at a venue venturing into the new financial year for the first time without Newcastle City Council subsidy.
New productions of The Sound of Music (September 1-12) and Jesus Christ Superstar (Sept 14-19) are both heading the theatre’s way in the autumn, along with several intriguing dramas.
Danielle Hope, who was Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz after winning BBC talent contest Over The Rainbow, is playing Maria von Trapp in the former. Glenn Carter, Tim Rogers and X Factor finalist Rachel Adedeji star in the latter.
Previous productions of both shows have done well before and they look like box office bankers.
But what of The Glenn Miller Story (Sept 21-26) which follows on their heels?
This is a new show from Bill Kenwright, who is also the producer of The Sound of Music, and it stars Tommy Steele
There is no more extraordinarily boyish star than Tommy but in taking on the role of the famous band leader he will be playing a man who was almost half his age when he died.
Miller’s plane disappeared over the English Channel in 1944, when he was 40. Tommy, no less of a legend in the field of rock ’n’ roll, turned eight just two days later.
The evergreen trouper, now aged 78, will be joined on stage by a 16-piece Glenn Miller orchestra and a company of singers and dancers.
Tommy, we understand, will be projecting his charm and charisma in a narrator’s role.
Kenwright told trade paper The Stage that he had been determined to talk Tommy into starring in a musical about Miller when he learned that he had been one of his childhood heroes, much as Elvis had been to him.
The autumn season isn’t all about musicals. Some intriguing drama is coming our way including two plays involving the royal family, as befits the Theatre Royal.
King Charles III (Sept 28 - Oct 3), written in blank verse by acclaimed young playwright Mike Bartlett, is described as “a future history play”.
Directed by Rupert Goold, it opened in London last April and then transferred to the West End.
It begins with the highly plausible scenario of Charles and his family gathering after the funeral of Elizabeth II.
Less plausibly, perhaps, there’s then a bust-up over press freedom between the new King and his Prime Minister, Prince Harry has a relationship with a republican and the ghost of Princess Diana tells both Charles and William that they will become “the greatest king of all”.
Also heading our way is Handbagged (Oct 26-31), the hit play by Carlisle-born playwright Moira Buffini imagining the private exchanges between the Queen and Margaret Thatcher when she was Prime Minister.
“Highly mischievous and utterly unmissable,” promises the Theatre Royal, and also “wickedly funny and brilliantly astute”.
Marking the 21st anniversary of hit film The Shawshank Redemption – based on a Stephen King short story – comes a stage adaptation which visits the Theatre Royal in October (19-24)
Targeting a younger audience will be Hetty Feather (Oct 8-11), coming direct from a sell-out West End season. It is a stage adaptation of a story by Jacqueline Wilson following the adventures of a Victorian foundling with a big personality.
Also on stage before the year’s done will be Northern Ballet (November 10-14), with The Nutcracker and The Elves and the Shoemaker, and their comedy cousins, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo (Oct 6 and 7).
Comedians Trevor Noah (Sept 27) and Dave Gorman (Nov 1) will be dropping in for one-night stands.
Looking ahead to next year, January (19-30) will bring a run of the musical Hairspray while February (9-13) will present another chance to see Billy Elliot director Stephen Daldry’s famous production of An Inspector Calls, the JB Priestley thriller.
This adaptation, a classic now in its own right, has been at the Theatre Royal at least twice before but can now work its magic on another generation.
Tickets for all the new shows in the Theatre Royal’s summer/autumn season go on sale on March 20.
Box office: 08448 112121 or online at www.theatreroyal.co.uk where you will find details of all the season’s offerings.