23 shows to catch in Liverpool in 2023
Liverpool is lucky to have such a wide range of theatres and performance spaces, all presenting exciting and thought-provoking theatre – and there’s certainly plenty to entertain in the 2023 season.
Big budget musicals, Shakespearean tragedy, fascinating Liverpool stories, panto silliness, whimsical characters and even a spot of prize-winning bingo are all on the cards over the next 12 months.
And that’s before we talk about theatrical celebrations for Eurovision.
Whether it’s returning favourites or first-time visitors, all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza or intimate studio performances, world premieres or anniversary productions, the breadth and depth of shows on offer means there should be something on stage to tickle ever city theatregoers’ fancy.
Here is my pick of just some shows to catch in Liverpool theatres during the forthcoming year.
Girl From the North Country – Liverpool Empire
Conor McPherson’s acclaimed musical, which is packed with reimagined versions of Bob Dylan songs, opens 2023 at the Liverpool Empire.
It’s 1934 in the heart of America, and we meet a group of wayward souls who cross paths in an old guesthouse. Standing at a turning point in their lives they realise nothing is as it seems.
But as they search for a future, and hide from the past, they find themselves facing unspoken truths about the present.
Bugsy Malone – Liverpool Empire
Everybody who is anybody will want to walk through the door of the Empire in February when the irresistible Bugsy Malone brings custard pies and splurge guns to town.
It’s Prohibition era New York, a world of mobsters, showgirls and dreamers. Enters the penniless Bugsy who little realises he’s about to get caught up in a deadly row between rival gang bosses Fat Sam and Dandy Dan.
Add in Bugsy’s tangled love life and some memorable show tunes and you’ve got a grand slam of an evening out.
Mother Goose – Liverpool Empire
February 28-March 4
The first of two new Jonathan Harvey plays on Liverpool stages during 2023, Mother Goose stars Sir Ian McKellen as the title character and John Bishop as her husband Vic.
Running an Animal Sanctuary for waifs and strays, they live a wholesome life inside an abandoned Debenhams. But when a magical goose comes a-knocking, will fame & fortune get the better of them?
Get ready for fairies with hefty vocal chords, puppets with tap dance qualifications and ‘impeckably’ constructed mayhem that will quack up the whole family.
The Beekeeper of Aleppo – Liverpool Playhouse
Christy Lefteri’s award-winning novel receives transfers from page to stage in this world premiere production presented by Nottingham Playhouse in association with the Everyman and Playhouse and UK Productions Ltd.
Nuri is a beekeeper; his wife, Afra, an artist. They live a simple life, rich in family and friends, in the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo - until the unthinkable happens. When all they care for is destroyed by war, they are forced to escape.
On their terrifying journey, they must face the pain of their own unbearable loss alongside incredible danger. Above all - they must journey to find each other again. This compassionate and beautiful play is a story of connection- between friends, families and strangers.
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Hope Street Theatre
March 2 and 4
In this faithful adaptation of the 1886 novella, adapted and performed by Mark Stratford, the gripping tale is brought to life through powerful storytelling and character creation.
Gabriel John Utterson is Henry Jekyll’s lawyer and most trusted friend. Deeply concerned by a strange clause in his friend’s will, Utterson feels compelled to investigate the sinister Edward Hyde – Jekyll’s unlikely protégé.
Set in Victorian London, in a large meeting room at Scotland Yard, Utterson and Inspector Newcomen recount the climactic events that unfolded at Jekyll’s house the night before and, in so doing, explain the strange case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde…
Top Girls – Liverpool Everyman
The 40th anniversary of Caryl Churchill’s seminal play is being celebrated with a new production at the Everyman, reimagined by the author, directed by the theatre’s creative director Suba Das and relocated to Liverpool.
Set in the 1980s, Top Girls puts women and their stories centre stage and asks questions of a culture that drives some to the top but that leaves many more wondering what happened to their dreams.
Bingo Star – Royal Court
March 10-April 8
It’s eyes down at the Royal Court this spring with a new comedy penned by the theatre’s Iain Christie that includes a real bingo game for the audience with prizes to be won.
Arthur has been running Bingo Star for the last fifty years. People might talk about change but he likes things just as they are thank you very much. They perfected bingo in the fifties and music in the eighties so there is nothing more to be done.
Arthur’s family and friends know that the club is in trouble but, as if in answer to their prayers, a man from the council arrives with plans for a brand new shopping centre to be built right outside. The future is looking bright, what could possibly go wrong?
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – Liverpool Playhouse
It was a hit film with a starry cast, based on Deborah Moggach’s Sunday Times bestseller, and now The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel comes to the stage in a new production visiting the Playhouse as part of a UK tour.
Take a journey to India with an eclectic cast of British retirees as they embark on a new life. While the hotel is far from the opulent luxury they were promised, as their lives begin to intertwine, they find themselves charmed in unexpected and life-changing ways.
Stone on Stone – Epstein Theatre
Written by Liverpool author Frank Kenny, Stone on Stone is a based on a true event that took place at New York’s notorious Sing Sing prison in 1922.
Liverpool Irish socialist James Larkin, founder of the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, was arrested while on a fund raising and speaking tour of the USA on behalf of his Union.
His arrest in 1920 led to him being unjustly charged with criminal anarchy and eventually sentenced to five to 10 years hard labour. A campaign to win his release was started which include prominent Irish American politicians and organisations – and Charlie Chaplin.
In 1923 the campaign was successful, and Larkin was pardoned but prior to his release Chaplin was allowed to visit him at the Sing Sing.
Richard III – Liverpool Playhouse
Bridgerton’s Adjoa Andoh will take on the role of the ‘hunchback’ king in this co-production of Shakespeare’s Richard III at the Playhouse in April.
This original staging strips the text back to question: is Richard as wicked as Shakespeare portrays him, or is his villainy born out of exclusion?
It will shift its lens to race and be based on Andoh’s own experiences of growing up in the Cotswolds, asking what it means to be born into a society where you do not belong, and the human soul’s capacity to withstand a hostile environment.
The Commitments – Liverpool Empire
The Commitments, the hardest working band in Dublin, return to the Liverpool stage in 2023.
Roddy Doyle’s brilliant literary creations were turned into a hit film in 1991, and the stage musical followed in 2013.
Follow the story of Jimmy Rabbitte, a young working-class music fan, who shapes an unlikely bunch of amateur musicians and friends into the finest soul band Dublin has ever produced – until creative and personal differences threaten to derail it just as fame calls.
Expect all those big Commitments favourites including Mustang Sally, Try a Little Tenderness, Think, I Can’t Turn You Loose and Land of 1000 Dances.
Whatever Happened to Billy Kenny? - Royal Court Studio
Writer lan Salmon returns to the Royal Court with a new one-man show being premiered in the downstairs Studio and which shines a spotlight on a real-life Liverpudlian - and lost chances.
Whatever Happened to Billy Kenny? uses the actual words and life story of the Evertonian footballer whose star shone briefly and brightly before his career came crashing down at the age of just 21.
Nicknamed ‘the Goodison Gazza’, Kenny (played on stage by Nowhere Boy’s Jay Johnson) was the Blues’ bright new hope until injury and addiction took their toll.
A Thong for Europe – Royal Court Liverpool
April 21-May 27
In Jonathan Harvey’s new comedy Lulu, proud owner of Litherland’s largest lingerie fabricator, is the biggest Eurovision nut that you will ever meet. Conceived to the beat of ABBA’s tambourine, she only drinks Bucks Fizz, while Sonia had to take out a restraining order against her in 2002.
When Liverpool won the right to host the competition, she knew that this was her big chance to make her dream come true and be there on the night itself. She offered up her house to anybody who needed a place to stay (for a small fee) and has been rewarded with a visit from Beryl, the singing star of the newly discovered nation of Balkania.
What Beryl lacks in grace and talent, she makes up for in wildly misplaced confidence. But can Lulu help her defeat the odds and get to the final at the arena?
With a little help from Lulu’s son Terry, her late mother Debbie and a choreographer who rather be anywhere else but here, she is going to give it her best shot.
Macbeth – Liverpool Playhouse
Fi, my lord, fi – imitating the dog returns to the Liverpool Playhouse for 2023 with a singular interpretation of Shakespeare’s bloody Scottish Play.
Fair is foul, and foul is fair in this timeless tragedy of greed, ambition, paranoia, brutality and betrayal, here given the theatre company’s trademark inventive treatment which includes fusing live action with innovative video technology in what is being billed as a ‘neon noir thriller’.
The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Liverpool Empire
EastEnders’ Charlie Brooks stars in this acclaimed National Theatre production of the Neil Gaiman novel.
A thrilling adventure of fantasy, myth and friendship, it promises to take audiences on an epic journey to a childhood once forgotten and the darkness that lurks on the very edge of it.
Returning to his childhood home, a man finds himself standing beside the pond of the old Sussex farmhouse where he used to play. He's transported to his 12th birthday when his remarkable friend Lettie claimed it wasn't a pond, but an ocean–a place where everything is possible...
Vernons Girls – Royal Court
June 9-July 8
In the 1950s, more than 6,000 women worked for Vernons pools in Liverpool, checking the coupons and enjoying singing in the choir.
In this new show by Karen Brown, it’s 1956 and Rock n Roll has just changed the world. Suddenly these ordinary young scouse girls are performing for audiences in their hundreds and thousands all around the country and in the new and exciting world of TV.
Join 16-year-old Peggy in a show which celebrates the sheer joy of being a teenager at such an exciting time.
Greatest Days – Liverpool Empire
Previously titled The Band, Tim Firth’s Take That-infused musical returns to the Empire for summer 2023.
Love, loss and laughter combine in a tale set which follows five boy band-obsessed friends from the 1990s as they reunite two decades later to see their heartthrobs one last time.
The new tour celebrates the 30th anniversary (eek) of Take That’s first number one Pray and also coincides with the release of a film version of the musical.
Titanic The Musical – Liverpool Empire
Titanic the ship never visited Liverpool, but the musical based on the White Star liner’s tragic story is back for 2023 in a 10th anniversary tour.
Based on real people aboard the most legendary ship in the world, the story focuses on the hopes, dreams and aspirations of her passengers who each boarded with stories and personal ambitions of their own.
42nd Street – Liverpool Empire
The showstopping musical spectacular packed with glorious toe-tapping tunes arrives at the Empire to (high) kick off the theatre’s autumn programme in fantastic fashion.
Jonathan Church directs the timeless story celebrating the bright lights of Broadway, centred around fresh-faced Peggy Sawyer who arrives in New York with stars in her eyes.
The production, choreographed and designed by Olivier award winners Bill Deamer and Rob Jones respectively, includes classic songs like We’re In the Money, I Only Have Eyes For You, Lullaby of Broadway and the title track.
By The Waters of Liverpool – Epstein Theatre
The second part of the Helen Forrester popular true-life family saga returns to the stage for 2023, with this visit to the Epstein Theatre being part of a wider tour.
The period drama, set in the late 1930s and which acts as a sequel to Twopence to Cross the Mersey, is written by Rob Fennah and produced by Liverpool producers Pulse Records Limited in association with Bill Elms.
It follows the story of Helen - born June Bhatia in Hoylake in 1919 - as she grows into a young woman and finds love, and heartache, as the clouds of war gather over Liverpool.
Boys From the Blackstuff – Royal Court
September 15-October 28
Alan Bleasdale’s seminal drama Boys From the Blackstuff receives its world premiere at the Royal Court in a production written by Sherwood’s James Graham.
It's 80s Liverpool and Chrissie, Loggo, George, Dixie and Yosser are used to hard work and providing for their families. But there is no work and there is no money. What are they supposed to do? Work harder, work longer, buy cheaper, spend less? They just need a chance.
Life is tough but the lads can play the game. Find the jobs, avoid the ‘sniffers' and see if you can have a laugh along the way.
Metamorphosis - Liverpool Playhouse
Physical theatre favourites Frantic Assembly return to the Playhouse this autumn with a new version of Franz Kafka’s visceral tale of cruelty and kindness, Metamorphosis, in a new adaptation by Lemn Sissay.
One morning, Gregor Samsa awakes to find himself changed. To those around him he is dangerous, untouchable vermin. Worse than that, he’s a burden.
A word said, an action out of place, the opening of old wounds, none of which can be undone. Book HERE
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Liverpool Empire
This musical version of the devilishly delicious tale of young golden ticket winner Charlie Bucket and the mysterious confectionary wizard Willy Wonka comes to the Empire as part of an inaugural UK tour.
When Charlie wins a golden ticket to the weird and wonderful Wonka Chocolate Factory, it’s a chance of a lifetime to feast on the sweets they’ve always dreamed of.
But beyond the gates, astonishment awaits, as down the sugary corridors and amongst the incredible and edible delights, the five lucky winners discover not everything is as sweet as it seems.