A new year bring new shows and old favourites to the theatres of Liverpool City Region.
Whether it's world-famous musicals, dark comedies, new adaptations, physical theatre, thought-provoking yarns or madcap escapades, the old adage remains true - there's something for everyone over the next 12 months.
From Vamos Theatre at the Unity to War Horse at the Empire, The Lady Vanishes at the Floral Pavilion to the ‘Scottish play’ at the Epstein, it’s all happening on a stage near you.
Here’s my pick of 19 show which you can see between now and next Christmas.
Yellow Breck Road – Royal Court Liverpool
February 1-March 2
It’s less goodbye than hello Yellow Breck Road as the Royal Court starts the year with a comedy that we’re promised will be ‘out of this world’.
Playwright Gerry Linford returns following the premiere of his Miracle of Great Homer Street last season, this time with a tale of Dot Potter, just turned 21 and who dreams of joining her mates in Ibiza instead of staying at home in Anfield looking after her foul-mouthed gran.
As night falls, Dot’s world is turned upside down when a bump to the head send her spinning through space.
Gemma Brodrick, Eithne Browne, Paul Duckworth, Lynn Francis and Andrew Schofield are among the confirmed cast.
Caroline’s Kitchen - Liverpool Everyman
Caroline Langrishe and Aden Gillett star in this state of the nation play that heads for Liverpool following a successful run in the West End.
Caroline Mortimer is the nation’s favourite TV cook.
In the glow of the studio lights, she has it all - a sparkling career, a big house, a (golf) loving husband, smart kids and the best kitchen money can buy.
But when the camera turns off the truth comes out and when an unexpected guest disrupts a night of celebration there is more to spill than the wine...
A Brave Face – Unity Theatre
Vamos Theatre brings its own special style of wordless storytelling back to the Unity for 2019.
Afghanistan: 2009. Ryan is there to see the world, learn a trade, get a life. Training's complete, combat is a buzz. But on one particularly hot and desperate tour of duty, Ryan sees things he can’t talk about, to anyone. And when he returns home, the trouble really begins.
A Brave Face explores post-traumatic stress, an unseen and often unrecognised injury of war, and the impact it can have on even the closest of families.
The Lady Vanishes – Floral Pavilion
February 25-March 2
Kenwright-does-Hitchcock in this version The Lady Vanishes which comes to the Floral Pavilion as part of a UK tour.
Husband and wife Maxwell Caulfield and Juliet Mills star in the Classic Thriller Theatre Company production inspired by the 1939 film.
Socialite Iris is travelling home to England on the train when an accident introduces her to the mild-mannered Miss Froy.
After her travelling companion suddenly disappears, Iris is perplexed to find that all the other passengers deny ever having seen her.
With the help of urbane musician Max she turns detective and together they become drawn into a complex web of European intrigue as they try to solve the mystery of why the lady vanished.
Read an interview with Maxwell Caulfield HERE
SparkPlug – Unity Theatre
February 26-March 2
Manchester, 1983. Dave loves Rod Stewart, Joanne and his Ford Capri. He’s all set for a new start. Only Joanne’s about to have someone else’s baby. Is Dave ready to become a dad even though he’s not the father?
SparkPlug, from Box of Tricks Theatre, is a punchy and poetic exploration of family, race, identity and love, inspired by autobiographical events and exploring playwright David Judge’s background as an actor and spoken word artist.
SparkPlug was a finalist in the 2017 Alfred Fagon Award for best new play of the year.
Macbeth – Epstein Theatre
Fie my lord, fie! Daniel Taylor Productions return to the Epstein Theatre in spring 2019 with the latest in its series of accessible Shakespeare performances.
This time actor/director Taylor and his cast turn to the Bard’s bloody Scottish play, complete with witches, clan warfare and a wood on the move.
Set in the aftermath of a ruinous civil war in Scotland, this exciting new production explores the damaging psychological effects of war, betrayal and destructive political ambition by those who seek power for its own sake.
The Girl on the Train – Liverpool Playhouse
Paula Hawkins’ gripping best-seller is brought to the stage in a new theatrical production starring Samantha Womack and Oliver Farnworth.
Rachel Watson longs for a different life. Her only escape is the perfect couple she watches through the train window every day, happy and in love. Or so it appears.
When Rachel learns that the woman she’s been secretly watching has suddenly disappeared, she finds herself as a witness and even a suspect in a thrilling mystery in which she will face bigger revelations than she could ever have anticipated.
Under The Umbrella – Unity Theatre
With a dual setting of Coventry (it’s a Belgrade Theatre production) and Guangzhou, this compelling new play by Amy Ng explores tradition, trauma and triumph in the art of finding love.
Wei has turned 27 and suddenly her grandmother is worried as the age brings with it the label of “shengnu,” or “leftover woman,” so a husband needs to be found before she’s missed her chance.
Affixing Wei’s dating profile onto an umbrella, her grandmother and mother join the hundreds of parents at the Marriage Market of Guangzhou. Here there’s only one successful transaction: a first date for your child.
Abigail’s Party – Liverpool Playhouse
Jodie Prenger takes on the role of social monster Beverly, made famous by Liverpool’s Alison Steadman in the original 1977 stage and later screen version of Mike Leigh’s classic comedy of suburban middle-class manners.
Prepare for cocktail nibbles, Demis Roussos, cheese and pineapple on sticks and much squirming in your seat as Beverly and husband Laurence throw a party for their newlywed neighbours, Tony and Angela.
The cast also includes Corrie and Emmerdale’s Vicky Binns and Daniel Casey, best known as DS Gavin Troy in Midsummer Murders.
Kinky Boots – Liverpool Empire
March 28-April 6
The Broadway and West End smash hit is currently on a UK tour and will be high-kicking it in to Liverpool ahead of Easter.
Inspired by a true story, Kinky Boots tells the gloriously improbable tale of how one Northampton shoe factory was saved from closure by a very unusual manufacturing partnership.
Charlie Price is struggling to live up to his father’s expectations and continue the family business of Price & Son. With the factory’s future hanging in the balance, help arrives in the unlikely but spectacular form of Lola, a fabulous performer in need of some sturdy new stilettos.
Based on the hit film, Kinky Boots the stage musical has a book by Harvey Fierstein and music by Cyndi Lauper.
Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake – Liverpool Empire
Choreographer Matthew Bourne started his annual Liverpool visits back in 2010 with a production of his memorable Swan Lake.
He also brought the boldly audacious and witty – and emotional - telling of the Tchaikovsky classic to the Lime Street theatre in 2013.
Now he’s back, hotfoot from a winter residency at Sadlers Wells, with a newly-rebooted (or should that be re-feathered?) version. There’s no news yet on casting, but the set is by Liverpool designer and long-time Bourne collaborator Lez Brotherston.
Sweeney Todd – Liverpool Everyman
April 12-May 18
Stephen Sondheim’s Demon Barber of Fleet Street gets the Everyman treatment in a production helmed by associate director Nick Bagnall.
He’s joined by Everyman Rep alumnus Liam Tobin as the titular Sweeney in what promises to be a deliciously dark and theatrically thrilling production.
Join Sweeney and his co-conspirator Mrs Lovett for some blood-curdling, pie-eating action in the close confines of the Hope Street auditorium.
My Fairfield Lady – Royal Court Liverpool
April 26-May 25
George Bernard Shaw meets George Henry Lee in this new show at the Royal Court based loosely on his classic tale Pygmalion.
Mary is in the Royal on her way out. She’s not too bothered though, she’s had a good innings. Came from nothing and ended up running her husband’s company – one of the biggest scaffolders in the North West. There’s a tidy amount to leave behind and just her only child, Higson, to leave it to. Nice lad but a bit of a biff. He needs a good woman to take him in hand. A good scouse woman.
Lizzie runs the upmarket florists in Liverpool ONE. She's from old money in Cheshire but now has no money in Fairfield, she’s got airs and graces that she can’t afford. She and Higson hit it off, but she needs to pass herself off as a scouser to land the jackpot. She’s going to need some lessons, lucky that her mate Sandra is there to lend a hand.
Hair – Liverpool Empire
The age of Aquarius is dawning at the Empire in May when the 50th anniversary tour of hippie musical Hair continues with a visit to Merseyside.
It’s 1967 and Hair’s ‘tribe' youngsters in the East Village of New York are yearning to change the world, questioning authority and the American flag. Wild, colourful, sexually liberated and free, they are united in protest and song, under the shadow of the Vietnam War.
The touring cast includes Dancing on Ice 2018 champion Jake Quickenden as Berger, Hollyoaks’ Daisy Wood-Davis as Sheila and X Factor 2011 finalist, Liverpool’s Marcus Collins, as Hud.
The Comedy About A Bank Robbery – Liverpool Empire
Following The Play That Goes Wrong in 2018, this year brings a return to the Empire for the award-winning Mischief Theatre which is touring its West End smash The Comedy About a Bank Robbery.
Summer 1958. Minneapolis City Bank has been entrusted with a priceless diamond. An escaped convict is set on pocketing the gem with the help of his screwball side-kick, trickster girlfriend…and the maintenance man.
With mistaken identities, love triangles and hidden agendas, even the most reputable can’t be trusted. In a town where everyone’s a crook, who will end up bagging the jewel?
Cooped – Liverpool Playhouse
Playhouse favourites Spymonkey follow their festive hit A Christmas Carol with a second visit to the Williamson Square theatre within six months.
Cooped is described as a “deliciously demented take on the pulp gothic romance” - think Hitchcock’s Rebecca meets The Pink Panther.
A spooky mansion, a plucky young heroine and a handsome English aristocrat. Add a German butler and a Spanish soap star and you're...Cooped.
Overflowing with brilliant characters, rip-roaring farce and virtuoso physical comedy, this is the show which made the Brighton-based theatre company an international comedy sensation from Just For Laughs Montreal to Sydney Opera House.
War Horse – Liverpool Empire
July 31-August 17
Joey and Topthorn return to the Empire stage for a third visit for Michael Morpurgo’s trenches tearjerker, brought thrillingly to life in this multi award-winning National Theatre production.
Directed by Marianne Elliott and Tom Morris, Nick Stafford’s adaptation of the story of courage, loyalty and friendship features ground-breaking puppetry work by South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company which brings breathing, galloping horses to life on stage.
Les Misérables – Liverpool Empire
Gunfire, smoke, flashing light effects? The barricades are going up at the Empire in autumn 2019 as Les Mis storms the theatre.
With scenery inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo, and a score which includes I Dreamed a Dream, On My Own, Bring Him Home, One Day More, Empty Chairs and Empty Tables, this new touring production is a must-see for the city’s musicals fans.
Seen by more than 120 million people worldwide in 45 countries and in 22 languages, Les Misérables is undisputedly one of the world’s greatest and most popular shows.
Priscilla Queen of the Desert – Liverpool Empire
Prepare to rock the frocks and get glittered up as the visually spectacular but heartfelt musical returns to Lime Street
With more glitter than ever before, this smash-hit show features a dazzling array of stunning costumes, fabulous feathers and a non-stop parade of dance-floor classics including It’s Raining Men, I Will Survive, I Love The Nightlife and Finally!
Based on the Oscar-winning film, Priscilla is the hilarious adventure of three friends who hop aboard a battered old bus bound for the Outback to put on the show of a lifetime. Their epic journey is a heart-warming story of self-discovery, sassiness and acceptance.