Set the stage

Crack the spine on your 2020 diary and pencil in these big northern theatre dates for the year

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Theatregoers should be in clover during 2020 as some big productions are set to rumble into the region. Feelgood smash hit musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, about the tribulations of a modern-day teenage schoolboy-cum-drag queen living on a council estate, has been running in the West End since 2017 but it’s now out on tour. With Shane Richie and Shobna Gulati among the cast, it’s at Sheffield Lyceum in January, Liverpool Empire in June and then Leeds Grand and Salford Lowry in July, just ahead of a major film version being released.

A surefire big hitter will be the long-mooted stage version of Back to the Future, everyone’s favourite 1985 time-travel mother-snogging movie. Refitted as a musical with new songs added in alongside those featured in the film, such as The Power of Love and Johnny B Goode, the show finally makes its world première at Manchester Opera House for 12 weeks from 20 February 2020. A big London transfer is already on the cards.

Also heading from big screen to stage is Once the Musical. Originally a low-key independent 2006 Irish movie about a Dublin busker falling for a Czech immigrant, it became an unexpected heart-warming success and spawned a stage adaptation, which has in turn been garlanded with awards. The UK tour hits Liverpool Empire in January, York Theatre Royal in February, Sheffield Lyceum in May and Salford Lowry in June.

After its recent début in Leeds, Kay Mellor’s Band of Gold is touring too, visiting the Salford Lowry and Darlington Hippodrome in January. Inspired by Mellor’s mid-90s ITV thriller about an alliance between women working in Bradford’s red light district, the live show’s cast includes Mellor’s daughter, television star Gaynor Faye.

Following a revival of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, Manchester’s Royal Exchange offers Let The Right One In (9 July-
8 August). John Ajvide Lindqvist’s atmospheric 2004 vampire novel has since been filmed twice, in both Swedish and English. In 2013 Jack Thorne, who recently adapted His Dark Materials for TV, scripted an English stage version, which the Royal Exchange will be presenting in the round where shadows lurk and there’s nowhere to escape.

Above: Once the Musical. Main image: Band of Gold

York Theatre Royal is due to host several stage productions based on acclaimed books. Crongton Knights, based on Alex Wheatle’s award-winning children’s novel about a mercy mission on a gang-riddled housing estate, arrives on 25-29 February (with dates at Salford’s Lowry and Huddersfield’s Lawrence Batley Theatre to follow in March). It’ll be followed on 3-21 March by Alone in Berlin, from Hans Fallada’s recent best-seller about the wartime resistance to the Nazi regime. On 10-21 July, the theatre presents a new production of The Penelopiad, a feminist spin on Greek mythology, adapted from the Margaret Atwood novel by the author herself.

There’s plenty of intriguing all-original theatre to be found too. At Liverpool Everyman, Our Lady Of Blundellsands (6-28 March) is a  new comedy drama by Gimme Gimme Gimme and Beautiful Thing writer Jonathan Harvey about the relationship between two sisters coming to a head at a family birthday party. At Leeds Playhouse, Maggie May (31 April-18 May) concerns an ageing Leeds couple dealing with the onset of dementia, with each performance itself being dementia-friendly.

Shandyland, a story of “love, death and drink” by Gareth Farr, follows 20 years in the life of Amy, from her birth on the floor of her parents’ northern working-class community pub. It’ll be coming to Liverpool Everyman
(27 May-6 June), Oldham Coliseum (9-20 June) and York Theatre Royal (23 June-4 July).

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