Set the stage for 2019

Break the spine on your new 2019 diary and pencil in these important dates in the northern theatre calendar – from musical big hitters to new adaptations of classic stories

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Noughts & Crosses, based on the first book in the young adult series by Malorie Blackman, is at Derby Theatre on 1-16 February 2019 and then embarks on a tour taking in Salford’s Lowry and York Theatre Royal. 

Told from the perspectives of the two teenagers it’s a captivating love story set in a volatile, racially segregated society and explores the powerful themes of love, revolution and what it means to grow up in a divided world. Sabrina Mahfouz’s stage adaptation will coincide with a TV adaptation for BBC, followed by the fifth novel, Crossfire, in the summer.

Les Misérables arrives for a month-long run in Manchester on 19 Feb, and visits Bradford Alhambra Theatre (July-August) and Liverpool Empire (October), among other UK venues. 

Cameron Mackintosh’s newer production of Les Misérables has proved as successful as his original 1985 version. This new staging has scenery inspired by the paintings of the author of the historical novel, Victor Hugo, and includes the classic soundtrack, including I Dreamed A Dream and On My Own.  

Angela Carter’s last novel, Wise Children, following the fortunes of twin chorus girls Dora and Nora Chance, and their bizarre theatrical family, has been adapted for stage by Emma Rice and arrives at Home in Manchester (26 Feb-2 March) and York Theatre Royal (5-16 March).

Set in Brixton, Nora and Dora are celebrating their 75th birthday while over the river in Chelsea their father and the greatest actor of his generation, Melchior Hazard, turns 100 on the same day. As does his twin brother Peregrine. If, in fact, he’s still alive. And if, in truth, Melchior is their real father after all. Expect a disorderly collision of puppetry, Shakespeare and septuagenarian show girls who can still lift their legs higher than the average dog.  

On 5 March a bold new stage version of Joseph Conrad’s haunting and influential novel Heart of Darkness premieres at Cast in Doncaster. It will then tour venues including the Dukes in Lancaster, Theatre by the Lake in Keswick, York Theatre Royal, the Lowry in Salford and Liverpool Playhouse. 

Written more than 100 years ago, Conrad’s is a tale of lies and brutal greed, and of the dark heart that beats within us all. Innovative theatre company Imitating the Dog retells the classic story as the journey of a Congolese woman through war-torn Europe.

Arguably the biggest hit to arrive on a northern stage next year will be The Book of Mormon, written by South Park creators Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Avenue Q creator Robert Lopez, and coming to Manchester’s Palace Theatre, 6 June-13 July.

The Tony, Olivier and Grammy award-winning show follows a pair of Mormon boys sent on a mission to Uganda – a long way from their home in Salt Lake City – where they find villagers preoccupied with war, Aids and famine. 

Since making its world premiere in March 2011 it has swept up over 30 international awards and broken long-standing box office records in New York, London, Melbourne, Sydney and cities across the US.

From on to off-Broadway hits, the quirky musical Little Miss Sunshine tours following its UK premiere in May. The Hoover family’s VW camper rolls into the Lowry in Salford on 27 May-1 June and then Grand Opera House, York on 3 June for a six-night run. 

Based on the Academy Award-winning film by Michael Arndt, it follows young Olive Hoover, who dreams of winning a beauty contest and so sets out with her family on an 800-mile trip from New Mexico to California. 

Sir Ian McKellen embarks in January on 80 regional theatre dates for his 80th birthday. The northern treasure will arrive on home turf on 13 May, at Wigan Little Theatre, before spending his birthday at Bolton Albert Halls on 25 May. Ian McKellen On Stage: With Tolkien, Shakespeare, Others and You will take in many other venues across the region, ending with York Grand Opera House on 17 June. 

“Live theatre has always been thrilling to me, as an actor and in the audience. Growing up in Lancashire, I was grateful to those companies who toured beyond London and I’ve always enjoyed repaying that debt by touring up and down the country myself,” says McKellen. “The show starts with Gandalf and will probably end with an invitation to act with me on stage. In between there will be anecdotes and acting.”

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