With the New Year comes a new crop of great shows to see at the theatre.
And Liverpool audiences are in for a treat in 2020 with both the arrival of some completely new productions, and the return of some old friends.
Whether it’s a meaty, thought-provoking drama or an unashamedly feelgood sing-a-long musical, a real-life story or a fantastical adventure, a laugh-out-loud comedy or a peek-behind-your-fingers thriller, there’s something to suit every mood and taste heading for a theatre near you.
The Unity Theatre marks its 40th anniversary with a host of exciting new shows while the Empire and Playhouse are welcoming fresh musicals to the city for the first time.
And from well-known faces to stage debuts, there are casts out there just waiting to transport audiences away from everyday life for a few hours.
Here are 20 shows to check out in the City Region as we roll in to 2020.
Once – Liverpool Empire
Once pays a visit to the Empire on the inaugural UK tour for the hit musical.
The multi award-winning stage show is based on the 2007 Irish indie film of the same name which features the tale of two lost souls – a 30-something Dublin street busker called Guy and a Czech musician, only identified as ‘Girl’ – who fall in love unexpectedly.
The uplifting story unfolds over five intense days where small actions lead to big changes for both characters. It is staged on a minimal set and with the actors also doubling as musicians.
Woyzeck – Hope Street Theatre
It’s 1980s Berlin. The Cold War rages and the world sits at a crossroads between Capitalism and Communism. On the border between East and West, a young soldier - Woyzeck - and the love of his life are desperately trying to build a better future for their child.
But the cost of escaping poverty is high in this searing tale of the people society leaves behind.
Old Fruit Jar productions presents this retelling of Georg Buchner’s unfinished story, retold by multi award-winning playwright Jack Thorne.
Curtains – Liverpool Empire
January 28-February 1
Jason Manford stars as Detective Frank Cioffi in this Tony Award-winning musical from Kander and Ebb – the geniuses behind Cabaret and Chicago.
Jessica Cranshaw, faded film star and leading lady in the new Broadway-bound musical Robbin’ Hood, has been murdered on stage on opening night.
The entire cast and crew are suspects. Time to call in the local detective, who just happens to be a huge musical theatre fan.
The cast also includes Strictly glitterball champion Ore Oduba and Carly Stenson
Lost in Colomendy – Royal Court Liverpool
January 31 to February 29
For generations of Liverpool kids, a stay at Colomendy in North Wales was a shared childhood experience.
Now it forms the backdrop for this opening show in the new Royal Court season, a new Nicky Allt comedy starring Paul Duckworth, John Evans, Liam Tobin and Alan Stocks.
Barry, Big H, Stan and Brian have known each other since they played knock and run and footy as kids. Now they play hide and seek from the boss at B&Q while they try to see their shifts out in peace.
Helen the new manager has been brought in to try to get them working better as a part of the B&Q Customer Support Experience Squad. Her answer? A compulsory team building exercise which sends the lads back to Colomendy for the first time since 1978.
What could possibly go wrong?
The Spine – Unity Theatre
20 Stories High and Nathan Powell in association with Unity Theatre present this new play about goals, brotherhood and the football academy system.
Kyle, Liam and Hakeem dream of football, fame and fortune...now the premier league is at their fingertips.
But the cracks begin to appear as the pressure of academy life takes its toll.
On Your Feet! – Liverpool Empire
Expect a toe-tapping, hip-shaking February in Lime Street as the true love story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan makes its first visit to Liverpool.
On Your Feet charts their journey from its origins in Cuba, on to the streets of Miami and finally to international superstardom and features some of the most iconic pops songs of the era, including Rhythm is Gonna Get You, Conga, Get On Your Feet, Don’t Want To Lose You and 1-2-3.
The show is directed by two-time Tony Award® winner Jerry Mitchell (Kinky Boots, Legally Blonde) and stars Philippa Stefani as Gloria and George Ioannides as Emilio Estefan.
The Strange Tale of Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel – Unity Theatre
In 1910 the unknown Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel set sail for New York as part of Fred Karno's famous music hall troupe. They shared a cabin and then spent two years together touring North America, with Laurel as Chaplin’s understudy.
Laurel returned home, later finding success with Oliver Hardy. Chaplin of course developed his Little Tramp character and within five years became one of the most famous figures in the world.
This Told by an Idiot and Theatre Royal Plymouth production is a hilarious and deeply moving homage to two men who changed the world of comedy forever.
Night of the Living Dead Remix – Liverpool Playhouse
Theatre company imitating the dog and the Leeds Playhouse are set to bring their production Night of the Living Dead™- Remix to the Playhouse as part of a new UK tour.
Night of the Living Dead started out as a low-budget independent horror movie telling the story of seven strangers taking refuge from flesh eating ghouls in an isolated farmhouse.
Seven performers enter the stage armed with cameras, a box of props and a rail of costumes. Can they recreate the ground-breaking film, shot-for-shot before our eyes, using whatever they can lay their hands on?
Band of Gold – Floral Pavilion
Kay Mellor’s popular TV crime drama springs off the screen and on to the stage in a new tour heading for New Brighton.
The drama, which centred around a group of sex workers in Bradford, won plaudits and audiences of 15 million viewers weekly.
This stage version, described as a “nail-biting, murderous thriller”, stars Gaynor Faye, Laurie Brett and Shayne Ward among the cast.
Our Lady of Blundellsands – Liverpool Everyman
Liverpool stage and screenwriter, and novelist, Jonathan Harvey returns to the Everyman and Playhouse with a world premiere of his new play Our Lady of Blundellsands.
The plot follows Sylvie Domingo as her fantasy world starts to come crashing down around her.
Harvey, a former English teacher, made his stage debut at the Playhouse Studio in 1998 with the award-winning The Cherry Blossom Tree. His other plays include Beautiful Thing, Boom Bang-A-Bang, Rupert Street Lonely Hearts Club, Coronation Street, and the Pet Shop Boys musical Closer to Heaven.
Pete Price is Dead – Royal Court Liverpool
March 13 to April 11
No, it’s not a rumour started on social media, but the title of a new comedy written by, and starring, Radio City’s Leanne Campbell.
The radio station is under threat. The accountants have been in and the whole station is set to be replaced by a feed direct from London. The famous tower will be shut down and turned into the world’s tallest Home and Bargain.
They’ve got one chance of survival - a mystery consortium has appeared and is about to buy the station to keep it in Liverpool. The deal goes through today but only if all the presenters sign up to the new schedule. There’s only one problem… Pete Price is dead.
Ghost Stories – Liverpool Playhouse
March 31-April 4
Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson’s creepy Ghost Stories is returning to the theatre where it all began.
The acclaimed production will come to the Liverpool Playhouse as part of a national tour.
There’s something dark lurking in the theatre. Enter a nightmarish world, full of thrilling twists and turns, where all your deepest fears and disturbing thoughts are imagined live on stage.
Sirens, Men and Crabs – Unity Theatre
The delightfully quirky Teatro Pomodoro team up with the Unity – celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2020 – to present this singular retelling of the Odyssey.
Welcome to a world where the Sirens are the unsung heroines, Ulysses will never be the hero he wants to be and Giant Crabs are taking over.
Sirens, Men and Crabs is a surreal blend of clown and dark comedy that promises to turn Ancient Greece upside down.
By The Waters of Liverpool – Epstein Theatre
The sequel to the much-loved Twopence to Cross the Mersey hits the stage in 2020 with a tour that takes in St Helens Theatre Royal (March 17-21) and the Epstein Theatre.
Following young Helen Forrester as she reaches adulthood, the story reaches the war years when Helen meets a tall strong seaman and falls in love.
The production stars Mark Moraghan as Helen’s father, Eric Potts, Lynn Francis, Danny O’Brien, Chloe McDonald and Roy Carruthers.
Dial M for Murder – Liverpool Playhouse
Tom Chambers leads the cast in this new production of the classic modern thriller.
Chambers plays Tony Wendice, a jaded ex-tennis pro who has given it all up for his wife Margot. When he discovers she has been unfaithful his mind turns to revenge and the pursuit of the ‘perfect crime’.
Dial M for Murder promises a masterclass of suspense on a May evening.
Billionaire Boy – Liverpool Empire
Joe Spud is 12-years-old and the richest boy in the country. He has his own sports car, two crocodiles as pets and £100,000 a week pocket money.
But what Joe doesn't have is a friend. So he decides to leave his posh school and start at the local comp. But things don't go as planned for Joe and life becomes a rollercoaster as he tries to find what money can't buy.
Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em – St Helens Theatre Royal
Hapless hero Frank Spencer is brought to life on stage by Joe Pasquale in this stage version of Raymond Allen’s 1970s TV hit.
Expect mirthful mishaps and DIY disasters aplenty as accident prone Frank does his best to navigate his way through life.
Long suffering wife Betty (Sarah Earnshaw) has exciting news for Frank, but he’s preoccupied by possible newfound fame as a magician. With guests arriving for dinner and crossed wires all round, priceless misunderstandings are on the menu.
The show also stars Susie Blake as Frank’s disapproving mother in law.
Heathers the Musical – Liverpool Empire
Welcome to Westerberg High, where Veronica Sawyer is just another of the nobodies dreaming of a better day.
But when she’s unexpectedly taken under the wings of the three beautiful and impossibly cruel Heathers, her dreams of popularity finally start to come true.
Until JD turns up, the mysterious teen rebel who teaches her that it might kill to be a nobody, but it is murder to be a somebody.
The black comedy rock musical, based on the 1988 film starring Winona Ryder, comes to Liverpool after two record-breaking London seasons.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – Liverpool Empire
It’s the show everybody’s talking about and now it’s heading for Liverpool on its first UK tour.
The award-winning feelgood musical will star Layton Williams - currently strutting his stuff on the London stage – and Shane Richie when it comes to the Empire in June.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie tells the story of 16-year-old Jamie New who lives on a council estate but doesn’t quite fit in.
Supported by his loving mum and surrounded by his friends, Jamie overcomes prejudice, beats the bullies and steps out of the darkness, into the spotlight.
The Book of Mormon - Liverpool Empire
July 14-August 8
The multi-award winning smash hit musical pays its first visit to Liverpool when it comes to the Empire in summer 2020.
The Book of Mormon is the brainchild of South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, together with Robert Lopez, ad follows a pair of Mormon boys sent on a mission to a place that’s a long way from their home in Salt Lake City.
The show has been performed on three continents and won more than 30 international accolades – including four Oliviers - as well as nine Tony Awards.