New year, new beginnings? We can certainly hope that 2021 proves a very different 12 months to 2020 – particularly for theatre.
And there is a glimmer of light for lovers of live performance.
Because the fact programmes and seasons have been hit hard by the Coronavirus pandemic has actually led to a packed diary of great shows being re-scheduled for 2021 – along with the addition of new productions.
On the musicals front, old favourites like Chicago, Footloose and Grease are being joined by first-time visitors to Liverpool including Heathers, Dreamgirls, The Book of Mormon and School of Rock.
We’ll all need a laugh, and the Royal Court is one venue promising crowd-pleasing comedies, while elsewhere there’s murder, mystery and suspense coming to the stage.
Here are 21 shows currently scheduled to come to Liverpool City Region venues in 2021.
Heathers – 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.
Footloose – Liverpool Empire
Let’s hear it for the return of the toe-tapping 80s musical whose film original made a star out of its spiky-haired hero Kevin Bacon.
Footloose centres around rebel Ren who moves to a small town where dancing is banned. How can he persuade the religious elders to turn, turn, turn and allow the teens to hold their very own prom?
The stage musical sizzles with spirit, fun and cutting-edge modern choreography as well as classic 80s hits including Holding Out for a Hero, Almost Paradise, Let's Hear It For The Boy and of course the title track Footloose.
Dial M for Murder – Liverpool Playhouse
Tom Chambers leads the cast in this new production of the classic modern thriller postponed from last spring because of the Coronavirus pandemic.
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.
Macca & Beth – Royal Court Liverpool
February 5-March 6
Back in 1995 Macca’s idea of a honeymoon was a bit different from Beth’s; A long weekend at a caravan park and a candle-lit meal from the chippy washed down with some warm Shandy Bass.
With their 25th anniversary coming up he has planned her long-promised surprise second honeymoon and Beth can’t wait. She’s got her hair, mani-pedi and tan all ready.
But Macca is thinking more Mull than Maldives. Deep in the Highlands of Scotland sits an old cottage that used to belong to his great uncle, and he wants to explore his roots and uncover long forgotten family secrets.
Yes, it’s only got one working tap, there’s no wi-fi or mobile signal and the nearest neighbours are six miles away, but it will be an adventure!
Dreamgirls – Liverpool Empire
February 23-March 6
Lavish smash hit Dreamgirls arrives at the Empire for a two-week stay in February.
Dreamgirls tells the story of three talented young singers – Effie, Lorrell and Deena – making their way against the revolutionary musical backdrop of 1960s America.
Join the three friends as they embark upon a musical rollercoaster ride through a world of fame, fortune and the ruthless realities of show business, testing their friendships to the very limit.
ITV’s The Voice finalist 2019 Nicole Dennis will play Effie White with more casting to be announced.
Chicago – Liverpool Empire
March 29-April 3
There’s a chance to paint the town - and all that jazz when killer diller Kander and Ebb musical Chicago arrives at the Empire in the spring.
Set amidst the razzle-dazzle decadence of the 1920s is the story of Roxie Hart, housewife and nightclub dancer who murders her on-the-side lover after he threatens to walk out on her.
Desperate to avoid conviction, she dupes the public, the media and her rival cellmate, Velma Kelly, by hiring Chicago’s slickest criminal lawyer to transform her malicious crime into a barrage of sensational headlines.
Grease – Liverpool Empire
It was due to entertain Empire audiences through the summer nights of 2020, but in the end it was Covid not Grease that turned out to be the word.
But you can’t keep the T-birds and the Pink Ladies down, and they’ll be back on stage like Greased Lightning for a week in April.
The musical stars Pete Andre as Teen Angel and includes all those classic hit numbers like Summer Nights, You’re the One That I Want and Hopelessly Devoted to You.
The War of the Worlds – M&S Bank Arena
Jeff Wayne’ spectacular musical stage show version of HG Wells’ classic, featuring alien spacecraft firing death rays and a giant hologram Liam Neeson as George Herbert the Journalist, is back at the arena for its first visit since 2017.
This War of the Worlds started life in 1978 as a concept album which has gone on to sell more than 15 million copies worldwide.
The accompanying live show is marking 15 years of touring and promises both the return of favourite sections – including a 35ft tall Martian Fighting Machine firing real flame heat rays - and updated and new effects.
By The Waters of Liverpool – St Helens Theatre Royal
The interrupted tour of Helen Forrester’s By The Waters Of Liverpool comes to St Helens in April.
The story is set in the 1930s, and follows Helen’s story in the years after her father faced bankruptcy in the Depression and the family were forced to leave their middle-class life and start again.
Taken out of school to look after her young siblings, Helen wages a bitter war with her parents for the right to go out to work and make her own way in life.
By 1939 and with Britain on the verge of war, Helen now aged 20, has still never been kissed by a man. But things start looking up for her when she meets a tall strong seaman and falls in love.
By the Waters of Liverpool is produced by Pulse Records Limited in association with Bill Elms, written by Rob Fennah and directed by Gareth Tudor Price.
YNWA – Royal Court Liverpool
April 23-May 22
YNWA – Let’s Talk About Six Baby, to give it its full title, comes to the Royal Court in spring 2021 after being rescheduled from last season and tells the story of one of the world’s most famous football clubs and has been written by one of its biggest fans.
It uses the songs from the terraces supported with video footage of great LFC moments.
Having won audience acclaim in Liverpool, Dublin and Belfast the show has been re-written to include all the silverware won by Jurgen Klopp’s team over the last two years.
We Will Rock You – Liverpool Empire
Take 24 Queen hits and a futuristic, fantastical story by Ben Elton and what do you have? We Will Rock You of course.
In the last 18 years the epic musical spectacular has entertained more than 16 million people in almost 20 countries, and now it’s returning to Liverpool for one week in May.
Olivier Award nominee Ian McIntosh plays Galileo while Elena Skye is Scaramouche, Jenny O’Leary is Killer Queen and Michael McKell is Buddy. Menawhile Adam Strong will take on the role of Khashoggi.
It was postponed from 2020, but when it comes to We Will Rock You – the show must go on!
Waitress – Liverpool Empire
May 31-June 5
There’s a sweet treat planned for theatregoers at the Empire in the shape of the first UK tour for hit West End musical Waitress.
The irresistible stage version of the 2007 film comedy centres around Jenna, a waitress and expert pie maker who dreams of some happiness in her life.
When a hot new doctor arrives in town, life gets complicated. With the support of her workmates Becky and Dawn, Jenna overcomes the challenges she faces and finds that laughter, love and friendship can provide the perfect recipe.
Music is by the Grammy award-winning Sara Bareilles (Love Song, Brave), the book by screenwriter Jessie Nelson (I Am Sam) and Tony® Award-winner Diane Paulus (Pippin, Finding Neverland) directs.
A Murder is Announced – Floral Pavilion
The residents of Chipping Cleghorn are astonished to read an advert in the local newspaper that a murder will take place this coming Friday at Little Paddocks, the home of Letitia Blacklock.
Unable to resist, the group gather at the house at the appointed time - when the lights go out and a gun is fired. Enter Miss Marple, who must unravel a complex series of relationships and events to solve the mystery of the killer...
The rescheduled Middle Ground Theatre Company production’s cast includes Sarah Thomas, Barbara Wilshere and Tom Butcher.
Friendsical – Philharmonic Hall
Friends parody Friendsical entertained at the Edinburgh Fringe and now it’s heading for Liverpool Philharmonic Hall for two nights.
When Ross’s wife leaves him for another woman, he fears he will never find love again. But then Rachel runs back into his life…will he end up with his one true love?
The gang of friends take on naked Tuesdays, a power cut and a dinosaur convention in one evening of music, mishaps and the importance of mates.
Book and lyrics are by Miranda Larson, who also directs the show, and music by Barrie Bignold.
Hairspray – Liverpool Empire
Baltimore 1962 and Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair and an even bigger heart, is on a mission to follow her dreams and dance her way onto national TV.
Tracy’s audition makes her a local star and soon she is using her new-found fame to fight for equality, bagging local heartthrob Link Larkin along the way.
You can’t stop the beat – and why would you want to?
Mam! I’m ‘Ere! – Royal Court Liverpool
June 25-July 24
Royal Court favourite Mam! I’m ‘Ere! returns for another summer season of silliness and 70s disco tunes.
Sally was left on her dad’s doorstep one cold and windy Liverpool night. Quarter of a century later and she has met the love of her life on her dad’s failing disco holiday campsite in Wales. There is just one person missing from her wedding plans – her mam.
After teasing out stories from her dad's best mates she narrows her search down to three very different women from his past...
Read a previous interview with writer and director Stephen Fletcher HERE
The Book of Mormon – Liverpool Empire
June 29-July 24
Multi-award winning The Book of Mormon, from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, together with Robert Lopez, comes to the Liverpool Empire in June after being rescheduled from summer 2020.
The Book of Mormon 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.
Since its world premiere at New York’s Eugene O’Neill Theatre in 2011, the musical has been performed on three continents and won more than 30 international accolades – including four Oliviers - as well as nine Tony Awards.
The Robert Lopez co-created the Broadway musical Avenue Q and co-wrote the songs for Disney’s Frozen and Coco. He is one of only fifteen artists to win all four major entertainment awards - Emmy®, Grammy®, Oscar® and Tony® Awards.
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.
Pete Price is Dead – Royal Court Liverpool
October 8-November 6
This new show by Leanne Campbell had just opened at the Royal Court when the pandemic struck and theatres closed their doors.
The Roe Street venue had hoped to bring it back for a month last autumn but then postponed it yet again until the same time in 2021.
Radio City is up for sale and a new owner has flown in from America. He has agreed to buy the whole company as long as the full roster of DJs is kept on. Particularly his father’s favourite presenter, Pete Price.
Everything looks set to go without a hitch until shortly before the new buyer arrives when, following a tragic accident, Pete Price Is Dead.
The cast is expected to feature Campbell and X Factor star Ray Quinn alongside Royal Court regulars Michael Fletcher, Lindzi Germain, Keddy Sutton and Liam Tobin. And, of course, Pete Price.
School of Rock – Liverpool Empire
Slacker Dewey Finn talks his way into a substitute teacher job meant for his flatmate and brings rock ‘n’ roll to a straight-laced elite prep school in this successful stage adaptation of the popular Jack Black film.
School of Rock visits Liverpool as part of an inaugural UK tour, sticking it to the man for a week in the autumn.
Expect some rocking numbers from the show’s pint-sized musical prodigies who play all the numbers from the film plus 14 new Andrew Lloyd Webber songs live on stage.
The Thunder Girls – Auditorium at M&S Bank Arena
Fame and greed tore their friendship apart, they haven’t spoken in decades…now welcome to The Reunion Dinner from Hell!
Thirty years after The Thunder Girls’ lead singer, Chrissie Martin, broke up the band to go solo, she attempts to get them back together one last time for the gig of a lifetime.
But bitterness, jealousy and revenge are all on the menu when the former friends go to war once more. Can the girls set aside their grudges for a huge pay cheque? Or are some old wounds just too deep to heal?