22 shows to catch in Liverpool in 2022
There’s no doubt it’s been a tough two years for the theatre industry – and for theatre lovers who have missed the thrill that comes with sitting in a darkened auditorium.
But heading in to 2022, it seems there could now be light looming at the end of the tunnel, with a packed programme of shows coming to Liverpool stages over the next 12 months.
Some have been postponed several times, while others are fresh out of the starting blocks for the New Year.
Together they offer a box of delights for live audiences, from big budget musicals to intimate new studio productions, and through-provoking subject matter to supreme silliness.
Whatever floats your live performance boat, there’s something out there you won’t want to miss.
Here’s my pick of the shows heading this way during 2022.
Les Miserables – Liverpool Empire
It’s got scenery inspired by Victor Hugo’s own paintings, a huge cast – including a certain Empire Stage Experience alumnus as Marius – and, of course, Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg stirring score of classic musical numbers.
Do you hear the people sing?
You certainly do – and what better way to start 2022 than by joining the cast of ‘Les Mis’ at the barricades?
Blackbird – Royal Court Studio
Ray is confronted by his past when Una arrives, unannounced, at his office.
Guilt, rage and raw emotions run high as they recollect their relationship from 15 years ago – when Una was 12 and Ray was 40.
The production comes from Roots Theatre and is directed by the award-winning Nick Bagnall.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks – Liverpool Empire
No Christmas or Easter in the 1960s and 70s was complete without either The Sound of Music or Bedknobs and Broomsticks on the TV.
Now the new world premiere stage version of the latter is bobbing along to the Empire as part of an inaugural UK tour.
With original songs by the uber talented Sherman Brothers, new music and lyrics by Neil Bartram and a book by Brian Hill, the production promises to take audiences on a magical musical ride.
Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! – Liverpool Empire
Matthew Bourne returns to the Empire with one of his sweetest theatrical treats.
Nutcracker! follows Clara’s journey through a shimmering, ice-skating wonderland to the scrumptious candy kingdom of Sweetieland, influenced by the lavish Hollywood musicals of the 1930s.
Featuring Tchaikovsky’s delightful score and Anthony Ward’s delicious sets and costumes, it’s a world away from The Midnight Bell which Bourne brought to the Playhouse last autumn.
Cherry Jezebel – Liverpool Everyman
Jonathan Larkin’s new play Cherry Jezebel receives its world premiere at the Liverpool Everyman this spring.
The reality of growing up Queer in Liverpool is tough.
Legendary queens Cherry Brandy and Heidi Handjob have spent years on the drag scene and Cherry carries the scars to prove it. Walking art-kid Pearl Reckless is the new queen on the block and searching for connection.
Cherry has Heidi to rely on to join her at 3am on a sticky dancefloor, but what happens when you want to keep on dancing and the music’s stopped? As the queer family Cherry has forged slips through her fingers, who can our Queens turn to keep the party going?
Kerbs – Unity Theatre
March sees the return to the Unity of Graeae Theatre, the UK’s leading disabled led theatre company, with new show Kerbs.
The debut play from Michael Southan explores taboos around sex, romance and disability and is directed by DaDaFest artistic director Nickie Miles-Wildin.
Lucy and David are dating and desperate to find some time alone. The perfect spot? A caravan holiday park of course. But can their romantic weekend away go to plan?
A Chorus of Disapproval 21 – Hope Street Theatre
Young widower Guy joins an amateur operatic society rehearsing for a production of The Beggar’s Opera – and soon makes an impact both on stage, where he secures a leading role, and off stage where he embarks on a series of amorous adventures which mirror the production’s action.
Alan Ayckbourn’s 1984 play was first staged at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough and was later made into a film directed by Michael Winner and starring Jeremy Irons.
Here, the stage version comes to the Hope Street Theatre for three nights in the spring.
The Royal – Royal Court
March 11-April 9
Reporters and celebrities are waiting outside the new Royal Liverpool University Hospital on the day it’s set to open its doors (yes, I know, cue hollow laughter).
The wards are ready, and all the patients have been moved, Well, nearly all of them.
Ward 8X is the last to be moved as the wrecking balls start to swing, and the only staff left are highly trained medical professionals like top tea lady Teresa, Casualty-obsessed nurse Flo, and Maureen – a psychotic mortuary assistant.
Lindzi Germain and Angela Simms’ smash hit show was first staged at the Royal Court in 2016, then again in 2017. Now it’s back for a third run at the theatre.
Rice – Unity Theatre
Actors Touring Company and Orange Theatre present the European premiere of Asian-Australian playwright Michele Lee’s smash hit Rice, directed by Matthew Xia.
Nisha is a hotshot young executive working for Golden Fields, Australia’s largest producer of rice and determined to become the first female Indian chief executive in Australia.
Yvette, an older Chinese migrant, is the cleaner who sees to Nisha’s desk and who has her own entrepreneurial ambitions – but also a daughter facing court for leading a protest against a national supermarket chain.
Together, Nisha and Yvette form a powerful – if unlikely – bond.
The Comeback Special – Epstein Theatre
March 30-April 2
Two scallies, a lot of weed and the ghost of Elvis. Just a normal Saturday night in Fazakerley.
Robbie has a power. It’s not unique, his nan had it too; maybe if she’d listened to the ghost in the white jumpsuit Robbie wouldn’t have to put up with him. But then the fame, the fortune, the girl, and the lad who wants to kill him wouldn’t be there and he’s more than happy with three of those things.
Ian Salmon’s first play returns after a sold out run at the Royal Court Studio in 2019.
Sheila’s Island – Liverpool Playhouse
Playwright Tim Firth has reimagined his hit play Neville’s Island for an all-female cast in a new version billed as “The Office meets Lord of the Flies meets Miranda”.
It’s bonfire night 2019, and Sheila, Denise, Julie, and Fay are Team C in Pennine Mineral Water Ltd’s annual team-building weekend.
Somehow, Sheila has been nominated team leader, and, using her cryptic crossword solving skills, has unwittingly stranded her team on an island in the Lake District.
The intrepid heroines find themselves manufacturing weapons from cable ties and spatulas and create a rescue flag with plastic plates and a toasting fork.
Little Wimmin – Unity Theatre
Figs in Wigs bring their live art, feminist ‘adaptation’ of Louise May Alcott’s much-loved novel to the Unity this spring.
Billed as ‘wildly irreverent and cosmically comical’, the production “dismantles the traditional canon to make way for the doomed future of humankind” – touching on subjects including climate change, astrology and the infinite nature of the universe.
Gosh, what would Jo say?
Macca & Beth – Royal Court
April 29-May 28
Gerry Linford’s Covid-delayed new comedy finally receives its premiere at the Royal Court in 2022.
Beth and Macca have been summoned north to the Scottish Highlands for the reading of his eccentric uncle’s will. What could go wrong?
Well there’s a massive snowstorm in July and a house full of trouble for a start.
Linford’s previous shows for the theatre are Yellow Breck Road, The Menlove Avenue Murder Mystery and Ellen & Rigby.
Waitress – Liverpool Empire
West End smash hit musical Waitress dishes up a slice of top entertainment at the Empire in May.
Meet Jenna, a waitress and expert pie-maker who dreams of a little happiness in her life. When a hot new doctor arrives in town, life gets complicated.
The score is from Grammy Award-winning Sarah Bareilles, and Matt Willis plays Doctor Pomatter.
The Rise and Fall of Little Voice – Liverpool Playhouse
Jim Cartwright’s heart-warming, Olivier Award-winning Northern fairytale gets a new UK tour with a date at the Playhouse in May.
Little Voice leads a quiet life, seeking companionship and joy from music’s most iconic singers, while mum Mari prefers the sound of her own voice, indulging in a life of cheap thrills and seedy men.
Left to her own devices, LV starts to embody the famous divas she plays on repeat, all from the safety of her own bedroom.
But when Mari starts dating small-time club owner Ray Say, LV’s astonishing impersonations are thrust into the spotlight.
Christina Bianco is Little Voice, Shobna Gulati plays Mari and Ian Kelsey is Ray Say.
As You Like It – Liverpool Playhouse
Liverpool favourites Northern Broadsides are turning to the Bard for their 30th anniversary year with this new touring production of As You Like It.
In a stylish but stifling court, where the Duke is all powerful and brute strength is championed over basic human decency, high-spirited Rosalind and devoted cousin Celia are no longer welcome.
When they escape into the forest in disguise, they bump into the recent object of Rosalind’s affection, Orlando, leading to an elaborate game of fluid identity where all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players.
Offered Up – Royal Court Studio
June 22-July 9
The year is 1645 in Joe Matthew-Morris’ stage thriller, and the English Civil War still rages.
Willmas runs an inn just outside Chester with the help of his daughter Rosamund, struggling to stay afloat by serving both sides.
But their lives are about to become a lot more complicated as Reverend Thomas arrives, a man of the cloth whose robes don’t sit right. Then Jennet, a gun-slinging outlaw bursts in, trailing intrigue and danger behind her.
Is there enough room at the inn for the problems they bring?
School of Rock – Liverpool Empire
Another postponed show from 2021 finally makes its Empire debut in summer 2022.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage version of the Jack Black hit film sticks it to the man big time as slacker musician Dewey Finn accidently becomes a locum teacher at a prestigious prep school and, instead of teaching classics, he teaches chords and turns his class into a crack rock ensemble in the process.
In the process he falls for the school’s uptight headteacher Miss Mullins. Can he win her AND the battle of the bands with his pint-sized prodigies?
The Book of Mormon – Liverpool Empire
July 19-August 13
First it was due at the Lime Street landmark in summer 2020, then in summer 2021.
So it’s third time lucky for fans of The Book of Mormon which now has rearranged dates for a three-and-a-half week stay at the Empire in summer 2022.
The outrageous, multi award-winning comedy, from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, together with Robert Lopez, 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.
Strictly Ballroom – Liverpool Empire
Strictly pro Kevin Clifton appears in this stage version of Baz Luhrmann’s hit movie about a rebellious young ballroom dancer called Scott Hastings.
When his radical dance style sees him fall out of favour with the Australian Federation, Scott must dance with a new partner, Fran. And together they go on to defy tradition.
The production brings together a cast of 20 world-class professionals and directed by Craig Revel Horwood.
The Da Vinci Code – Liverpool Playhouse
Dan Brown’s blockbuster book became a blockbuster movie starring Tom Hanks.
Now it’s being turned into a stage play and it’s heading for Liverpool this autumn.
The curator of the Louvre has been brutally murdered, and alongside his body are a series of baffling codes.
Follow the pulse-racing journey as Professor Robert Langdon, and fellow cryptologist Sophie Neveu, attempt to solve the riddles, leading to the works of Leonardo Da Vinci and beyond, deep into the vault of history.
Nigel Harman plays Langdon and Hannah Rose Caton is Neveu in the production directed by Luke Sheppard.
Twopence to Cross the Mersey – Epstein Theatre
Liverpool favourite Twopence to Cross the Mersey returns in a new stage version for 2022.
The play is written by Rob Fennah from Helen Forrester’s best-selling autobiographical book, and directed by Gareth Tudor Price.
It’s 1931 and Helen’s spendthrift father is declared bankrupt, forcing the family of nine to leave behind the nannies, servants, and beautiful middle-class home in the south of England.
With nothing more than the clothes they stand up in, the Forresters take the train to Liverpool where they hope to rebuild their shattered lives.