A bumper crop of in-house productions, top touring comedies and musicals, entertainment from pop and classic artists and some of the biggest names in comedy make up a new season coming to Northampton’s Royal & Derngate.
Tickets for all of the shows have gone on sale today and there will be something for everyone.
The theatre’s Made in Northampton season continues with more events to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, including his greatest tragedy King Lear, Spymonkey’s The Complete Deaths and a vibrant new version of The Tempest.
The season also features the world premiere of Roy Williams’ Soul telling the story of the legendary Marvin Gaye’s final days, and a hilarious re-telling of Flaubert’s classic novel in The Massive Tragedy of Madame Bovary!
Visiting drama includes thrilling historical trilogy The James Plays and a new stage show based on the popular TV series Heartbeat, with acclaimed political drama Dead Sheep coming later in the year.
Following Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Chicago this summer, musicals lined up for the autumn include Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Dirty Dancing, with West End hit Sunny Afternoon just announced for 2017.
There are more stirring concerts from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and visits from The Proclaimers, and Fairport Convention, with Squeeze and Jimmy Osmond among the music highlights later in the year.
A line up of top performers including Sarah Millican, Julian Clary, Sara Pascoe and Sue Perkins offer something to suit all comedic tastes. A busy schedule of children’s events features children’s favourites Horrible Histories, Peppa Pig and Gangsta Granny.
Looking ahead to Christmas, this year’s spectacular Derngate pantomime is Jack and the Beanstalk, with the European premiere of Peter and the Starcatcher casting a magical spell over the Royal.
Royal & Derngate’s Made in Northampton season continues its Shakespearean theme in April with Max Webster’s production of King Lear, starring four-time Olivier Award nominee Michael Pennington, alongside a cast of fourteen distinguished actors.
This epic new interpretation of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy will also embark on a nationwide tour after its Northampton run.
Physical theatre company Spymonkey (Every Last Trick, Oedipussy) return in May, with the chance to see a preview run of their latest hilarious production, The Complete Deaths, before its world premiere at the Brighton Festival.
Directed by Tim Crouch, the production will see the company perform all 75 of the onstage deaths in the works of William Shakespeare. This is followed by The Massive Tragedy of Madame Bovary!, lovingly derailed by Peepolykus (Spyski, The Hound of the Baskervilles). Gustave Flaubert’s ground-breaking 19th century novel Madame Bovary will be spectacularly brought to life by this internationally acclaimed ensemble company, directed by Gemma Bodinetz.
Later in May, Royal & Derngate stages the world premiere of Soul, a new play by BAFTA and Evening Standard Award-winning playwright Roy Williams (Sucker Punch, Days of Insignificance), charting the untold truths about what happened during musician Marvin Gaye’s haunting final days.
Then in a unique collaboration with the National Youth Theatre, Shakespeare’s magical story of growing up and growing old, The Tempest, will be performed by the next generation of talent, an ensemble of 18 to 25 year olds that bring together the most promising young actors from the UK and Northamptonshire. Looking ahead to the Autumn, the theatre’s acclaimed 2014 production of A Tale of Two Cities is revived ahead of a major national tour.
A sell-out success at the Edinburgh International Festival and then in London, The James Plays, directed by former Royal & Derngate artistic director Laurie Sansom for the National Theatre of Scotland and the National Theatre, now comes to the Derngate stage, giving Northampton audiences the chance to see Rona Munro’s thrilling trilogy of history plays, vividly bringing to life three generations of Stewart kings.
Other touring drama includes ITV’s popular Sunday evening 1960s-set police drama Heartbeat, brought to the stage for the first time ever, starring original members of the TV cast, David Lonsdale and Steven Blakeley.
This Autumn sees the return to the Royal stage of popular spine-chiller The Woman in Black. Other highlights include Jonathan Maitland’s entertaining new play telling the story of the downfall of Margaret Thatcher, Dead Sheep, which opened in London to huge critical acclaim last year.
A scintillating selection of musicals starts in April with Duncan James, from boy band Blue, starring in Priscilla Queen of the Desert The Musical. Then in May, X-Factor winner Joe McElderry dons the coveted coat in a brilliant new production of the ever popular family musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
The award-winning Broadway and West End musical Chicago, returns to Northampton, starring EastEnders actor John Partridge, Coronation Street star Hayley Tamaddon and X-Factor winner Sam Bailey (at certain performances).
Looking ahead to the Autumn, one of the world’s favourite musicals, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang will have audiences of all ages flying high with its mixture of madness, intrigue and exuberance, featuring a star cast including Jason Manford, Carrie Hope Fletcher, Phill Jupitus and Michelle Collins.
Direct from the West End, there will also be the chance to see Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story on Stage and Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story. Also enjoying West End success, Olivier Award-winning musical Sunny Afternoon, telling the captivating tale of British band The Kinks, is now on sale for January dates in Northampton.
Strictly Come Dancing professional Pasha Kovalev brings his one night show, It’s All About You, this Spring, while the acclaimed Richard Alston Dance Company return to Northampton this Autumn for two nights of stunning dance.
With performances by the sharp-witted Bill Bailey and popular Geordie Sarah Millican virtually sold out already, a stellar line up of top class comedians taking to the Derngate stage this Summer also includes the gloriously camp comic Julian Clary. Sue Perkins and Romesh Ranganathan are among those to look forward to later in the year.
Comedy fans can also enjoy performances in the more intimate setting of the Royal auditorium with a programme featuring the exquisitely clever Sara Pascoe, as well as the return of Upfront Comedy with a raucous international line up.
Stuart Goldsmith takes to the Underground stage, where the fortnightly Screaming Blue Murder Comedy Club also continues, showcasing many of the comedy circuit’s rising stars.
Also bringing laughs to the Royal auditorium, the critically-acclaimed Graeme of Thrones is an original un-authorised parody of the phenomenon that is Game of Thrones.
Magician Jamie Raven, who burst onto an unsuspecting world in 2015’s series of Britain’s Got Talent, brings his mind-blowing illusions to Northampton this Summer, while entertainment highlights of the Autumn include visits by global superstar Dame Joan Collins and everyone’s favourite scientist Professor Brian Cox.
The theatre’s orchestral season continues with more performances from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and their world-class conductors and soloists, including the return of renowned pianist Alexandra Dariescu playing Rachmaninov, a spectacular concert themed around Holst’s The Planets, accompanied by stunning film footage from NASA, and the ultimate British extravaganza, The Last Night of the Derngate Proms.
Opera producer Ellen Kent returns in the Autumn with Verdi’s Aida.
The widely varied music season includes performances by the UK’s best-selling classical crossover artist, Russell Watson, and direct from the USA, Jimmy Osmond’s tribute to Andy Williams.
Hugely successful folk group Bellowhead’s Farewell Tour concert is already sold out but tickets are now on sale for Fairport Convention, the band credited with originating British folk-rock music.
Award-winning jazz saxophonist Yolanda Brown performs with special guest, X-Factor winner Matt Cardle, and there are gigs from well-loved Scottish band The Proclaimers and long-running 70s group Squeeze.
Phillip Schofield hosts The Knights of Music, a celebration of the music of legendary Knights and Dames of the entertainment industry, including Sir Elton John, Sir Tom Jones and Dame Shirley Bassey.
In The World’s Greatest Drummer, three leading drummers, Ian Palmer, Steve White and Pete Cater, pay tribute to Buddy Rich.
Royal & Derngate also presents some of the best tribute shows around, including performances from The Illegal Eagles, We’ve Only Just Begun celebrating the music of The Carpenters and The Simon and Garfunkel Story.
A packed season of family entertainment includes two new live stage shows from the ever popular Horrible Histories – Groovy Greeks and Incredible Invaders – both including thrilling 3D special effects.
This Summer the producers of Horrible Histories also bring David Walliams‘ popular children’s story Gangsta Granny to the Northampton stage for the very first time.
Peppa Pig’s Surprise sees Britain’s favourite pig return to Northampton in a charming, colourful new show. Other children’s shows include the playful, interactive story-show The Doodle Dance Show, and the return of The Ministry of Science Live in October.
Looking ahead to Christmas, this year’s spectacular family pantomime will be the magical Jack and the Beanstalk, starring Simon Webbe from boy band Blue and Northamptonshire’s own Ashleigh and Pudsey.
Meanwhile the Royal stage will be transformed into the Neverland you never knew for the European premiere of Peter and the Starcatcher, a fascinating and funny prequel to Peter Pan, which won five Tony Awards for its hugely successful run on Broadway.
Showcasing home-grown talent, Royal & Derngate’s Youth Theatre and Young Company come together to perform the well-loved, multi-award-winning musical Oliver! in a spectacular new production on the Royal stage. Young Company: Respond present original poems and songs inspired by the Made in Northampton production of Soul.
Royal & Derngate is also pleased once again to be regional hosts for the National Theatre Connections Festival, offering youth theatre companies the chance to perform works commissioned specially from leading playwrights. Adult drama group, the Actors Company bring to life the market jungle of David Eldridge’s savage yarn, Market Boy, and following their sell-out 10th Anniversary Gala Concert in 2015, Royal & Derngate Community Choir return to the Royal stage for another vibrant evening of gospel, soul, reggae and pop music.
For more information about any of these events, or to book, call the box office on 01604 624811 or visit the theatre’s website www.royalandderngate.co.uk.