Curtain up! What's on at Suffolk theatres as they reopen

Four actors from The Snow Queen singing in a line

The New Wolsey Theatre puts some extra spring in the step of its rock'n'roll panto The Snow Queen which will reopen the theatre in May. - Credit: Mike Kwasniak

After more than a year with theatres sitting in darkness – a degree normality is returning to the stage. 

From Monday May 17, theatres will be free to open their doors and invite back audiences starved of live entertainment. Actors and musicians will be back in rehearsals, running lines and practicing scales.

Not everything will be the same as, for the time being, social distancing will still be in force but limited audiences will be treated to the magic of live performance once again.

Around the World in 80 Days in rehearsal at the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds.

Around the World in 80 Days in rehearsal at the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds. This will reopen the theatre on May 21. - Credit: Tom Soper

As stage three of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown comes into force theatres can reopen with groups from two households or a rule of six also able to meet in close quarters inside and have “friendly, intimate contact”. 

However, there will be limits on how many people can attend events and these will vary due to the size and layout of the venue.

It is hoped that all limits on social contact will be lifted from June 21.

In Suffolk, our rich theatre landscape is preparing itself for a creative rebirth this summer with Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds leading the way with its homegrown production of Around The World in 80 Days.

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Here’s what our local theatres have planned as they reopen:

Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds: 
Around the World in 80 Days: The classic Victorian tale of derring-do that follows adventurer Phileas Fogg around the globe in order to win a bet but he has Scotland Yard’s finest detective on his tail. A family show written for the Theatre Royal, played in a fast-paced, mad-cap style by three actors switching a lot of hats. Runs from May 21-June 5.

Philip and Robert Glenister will be hosting a fund-raising evening at the Theatre Royal,

Philip and Robert Glenister will be hosting a fund-raising evening at the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds on May 23. - Credit: Theatre Royal

Philip and Robert Glenister: In Conversation: The acting brothers and supporters od the Theatre Royal will talk about life, love, acting, theatre and appearing in such classic TV shows as Hustle, Spooks, Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes and Living The Dream. The evening will be hosted by Look East’s Susie Fowler-Watt. The fund-raising evening will be on May 23.

Christina Johnston – Coloratura Soprano: Framlingham-born opera singer Christina Johnston will be performing an evening of uplifting classical and operatic pieces accompanied by William Saunders (head of music at St Edmundsbury Cathedral). Christina will be performing back in her home county after having worked extensively in Europe for many years. This special event will be on stage on May 30.

In June there will be Bond: An Unauthorised Parody on June 7; Greg Byron: Stand-Up Poet on June 8; Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors on June 10-12; Irving Stage Company will be presenting Stephen Sondheim’s Company on June 15-19; John Sergeant and Terry Waite will be in Conversation on June 20 and the month draws to a close on June 22-24 with Austentatious – an improvised comedy which conjures up a ‘lost’ Jane Austen novel. Tickets can be booked on the theatre website

Kay and Gerda meeting each other

Adam Langstaff and Lucy Wells as Kay and Gerda in The Snow Queen, the New Wolsey's Rock'n'Roll panto which is a new lease of life in May - Credit: Mike Kwasniak

New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich:
The Snow Queen: The New Wolsey’s 2020 rock’n’roll pantomime is being revived for May half-term, reuniting the cast from the limited run last December but now with an extra ‘spring’ in their step. The show features such iconic songs like Let’s Get Loud, If I Had a Hammer, I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), I Can See Clearly Now and Runaway Baby. The show runs from Thursday May 27 until Sunday June 13. The show can be viewed live or online.

MTFestUK 2021: Online feed of new work from London's Turbine Theatre, designed to showcase the very best in new musical theatre. Among the new works is a show from the New Wolsey’s artistic director Peter Rowe.

Tony! (A Tony Blair Rock Opera): Directed by Peter Rowe, tells the story of the life of former Bad Rumours front man and Britain’s first pop Prime Minister Tony Blair.
It being described as a reckless reappraisal of how one man went from peace loving, long haired hippy and would-be pop star to a warmongering multimillionaire in just a couple of decades.

Throw in a cast of larger-than-life characters – Cherie Blair, Princess Diana, John Prescott, Peter Mandelson, Alistair Campbell, Osama Bin Laden, George W Bush, Saddam Hussein, Gordon Brown and, of course, that dodgy dossier.

Written by Harry Hill and Steve Brown, the action is all set to rockin’ tunes. This is available to screen from June 21-27.

Other new musicals also available from that date are: Cake; Proud; #50 Days; Far From Heaven;  Housefire’ Millennials and The Man In The Ceilng. For more information and booking details go to the New Wolsey website.

Eastern Angles Christmas Show is a Suffolk tradition Photo: Mike Kwasniak

Eastern Angles will be turning their Christmas Show into a summer show - Credit: Archant

Eastern Angles: Sir John Mills Theatre, Ipswich:
Sam Snape and the Curse of the Chillesford Chough! Julian Harries repurposes his postponed Eastern Angles Christmas Show into a slice of summer silliness. Another of Julian’s hilarious genre parodies, this time his mad-cap comedy will cross the film noir world of Raymond Chandler with a Suffolk equivalent of Father Brown as the eccentric sleuth tries to solve the mystery of the exploding sheep, take down a posse of local hoodlums, break the dreaded curse and get back to the vicarage for tea and cake. This runs from June 10-19. The show can be viewed live or online. Tickets can be booked from the Eastern Angles website.

Regent Theatre, Ipswich:
Here Come The Boys: A trio of Strictly favourites  – Aljaž Škorjanec, Pasha Kovalev and Graziano di Prima – team up for a night of high energy dancing accompanied by a cast of dancers including three internationally acclaimed female partners, a world champion beatboxer and a team of commercial street dancers. This dance extravaganza will reopen the theatre after lockdown on July 12.

Anton and Giovanni: Him and Me: Strictly stars Anton Du Beke and Giovanni Pernice join forces for this dance spectacular. The dance masters will be joined on stage by a world class cast of dancers and singers. The pair will be performing on stage in Ipswich on July 21.

Anton du Beke and Giovanni Pernice will be bringing some Strictly glamour to the Ipswich Regent

Anton du Beke and Giovanni Pernice will be bringing some Strictly glamour to the Ipswich Regent - Credit: Ipswich Regent

Hairspray: The sensational West End musical comes to Ipswich with Brenda Edwards as Motormouth Maybelle and Norman Pace as the mild-mannered Wilbur Turnblad. This fun-filled, feel good show is bursting with show-stopping numbers, dazzling costumes, and dizzying dance-routines. 

It features some of musical theatre’s biggest and best hit songs, including Welcome to the 60s, You Can’t Stop The Beat and Good Morning Baltimore. Hairspray is the hilarious, joyous, and uplifting musical that everyone needs right now. Hairspray is running at the Regent from August 23-28.

Tickets for all Regent shows can be booked on the Regent website.

Snape Maltings Concert Hall:
Sarah Connolly and Joseph Middleton:
 The pair put on an additional matinee performance after the main show sold out in record time. A dazzling and characterful presence on opera stages around the world, Dame Sarah Connolly has a particular affinity with our work and heritage, teaching young artists at Snape Maltings and researching Britten’s works at The Red House. This evening she gives a recital of songs by Brahms, Mahler, Bridge and Tippett. The concert is being staged at Snape on May 22, 3pm

Nicholas McCarthy: Award-winning pianist Nicholas McCarthy was born without his right hand and his performances showcase the dynamic world of left-hand alone repertoire. In this recital he includes pieces by Bach, Scriabin, Strauss and Julie Cooper. Nicholas will be performing on Sun May 23 May, at 3pm & 7pm.

Summer At Snape: Britten-Pears Arts have a whole summer programme planned including a Folk Weekend running from May 28-30 including acts such as Christina Alden & Alex Patterson and The Shackleton Trio, The Young'uns and Honey & The Bear. Other performers in June include Daniel Pioro and Katherine Tinker and Allan Clayton & James Baillieu.

More artists will b added to the schedule in the coming weeks. For more information  and tickets go to the Snape Maltings website.

Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe:
Kinky Boots:
Felixstowe’s Dennis Lowe Theatre Company will be bringing this modern, West End classic to the stage. Based on true events, written by Harvey Fierstein and with music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper, this huge-hearted musical tells the story of two people with nothing in common—or so they think.

Charlie is a factory owner struggling to save his family business. Lola is a fabulous entertainer with a wildly exciting idea. With a little compassion and a lot of understanding, the unexpected pair learns to embrace their differences and they create a line of sturdy stilettos unlike any the world has ever seen. Kinky Boots is on stage from June 24-27.

The Best of the West End:  The Dennis Lowe Theatre Company return to the stage with, a summer showcase, featuring smash hit songs from musicals old and new. This show has been completely reimagined during the enforced shutdown to be bigger and better than ever.
Expect to hear songs from Hamilton, Jersey Boys, Mamma Mia, Kinky Boots, Frozen, Les Misérables, Waitress, Dear Evan Hansen, Half a Sixpence, Anything Goes, Miss Saigon and Chicago. This one-off show will be on stage on July 25.

In July, the Spa Pavilion will be host a brace of tribute shows. On July 17, Coldplace, hugely regarded on the tribute act circuit for their accuracy, musicianship, dedication and passion for Coldplay's music. Their aim, as a tribute to one of the world's biggest bands, is to capture the feeling of a live Coldplay performance, the music, the visuals, the energy and the atmosphere.

On July 31, Felixstowe will be getting that Little Mix Experience, a high-energy show, packed with all of Little Mix’s greatest hits and it’s suitable for all ages. Featuring songs such as 'DNA', 'Wings', 'Salute', 'Black Magic' and 'Shout Out To My Ex'.

For more information and tickets go to the Spa Pavilion website.

Halesworth Cut:
The arts centre is north Suffolk will reopen on June 2 for a screening of the Gene Kelly classic An American In Paris. This classic cinema screening with go ahead with social distancing regulations in places and masks should be worn.

Cut Conversations will continue. Author Simon Garfield will be interviewed by Suffolk-based book expert Catherine Larner on Zoom on May 23 but gardener and writer Anna Pavord will be live in the building to talk with Catherine about her book The Tulip.

Theatre seating will be organised around bubbles or households with distancing in place, and audiences will be able to book advance tickets for the theatre or receive a link for the livestream. Go to Halesworth Cut website for more information.

Red Rose Chain:
Sadly this year’s Theatre in-the-Forest production, which was to have opened at Sutton Hoo, has had to be moved to 2022 but the Ipswich-based company will be showcasing their new outdoor venue in an online Gala event on July 31. They will also be launching a new show The Princess and the Frog for under 5’s in the autumn. Macbeth for Theatre in the Forest 2022 will go on sale in August this year. 

For more information and to watch Red Rose Chain’s new short film Normal Times, a story about disability in times of crisis to go the Red Rose Chain website.

The Jerwood is currently closed but DanceEast is hosting online performances and digital workshops and taster sessions for their Centre for Advanced Training (CAT) programme. 

Works currently available to screen online are:  GRASS Films, a digital double bill of Sunny Days and Insect Hands. Shot in the great outdoors, both films celebrate the magic of the natural world – rolling in long grass, finding spiders in the park and the warm feeling of the sun on your face. (June 11-13)

Drowntown, by Rhiannon Faith, is a slice of gritty dance theatre, with autobiographical testimonials and text, this socially conscious work gives voice to the vulnerable and unheard. With tenderness and honesty, this gripping work explores themes of isolation, raises awareness and lobbies for change. (June 25).

For details of all classes and performances go to the DanceEast website.