From The Lion King to Chicago - here are some of the big touring shows heading to Yorkshire in 2022

Every year (when we’re not in the throes of a pandemic) I wonder if I might be able to contain my round up of theatrical highlights to a single article.

Every year I fail. The brochures of Yorkshire’s theatres are essentially a highlight reel on every page.

Last week, having looked at the two theatres celebrating their half centuries this year in our region, Sheffield Crucible and Hull Truck, alongside York Theatre Royal and Leeds Playhouse, I turn my attention this week to the receiving houses – theatres that rely on touring shows – and some of the touring companies we have in the region.

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The casual theatre-goer might not necessarily notice the distinction, but it is an important one: the likes of Hull Truck and Sheffield Theatres create work here in the region, hiring creatives in Yorkshire and often that work then travels elsewhere, taking with it the badge ‘made in Yorkshire’. Theatres like Leeds Grand, Sheffield Lyceum, Bradford’s Alhambra all rely on work made elsewhere and bringing it here to present to audiences. Both ‘types’ of theatre are equally important to the ecology that exists in Yorkshire.

Chicago is coming to Leeds Grand Theatre. (©Tristram Kenton).Chicago is coming to Leeds Grand Theatre. (©Tristram Kenton).
Chicago is coming to Leeds Grand Theatre. (©Tristram Kenton).

It means there are some big, bold shows heading to the region over the coming months and none perhaps bigger or bolder than The Lion King. Late last year I wrote in the magazine about the spectacular achievement that show is and I wouldn’t go so far as to say if you’re going to book just one thing this year, it should be this, but it is one of the most impressive pieces of stagecraft I’ve ever seen.

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The Disney story with songs you’ll remember forever is at the Alhambra from March 24 to May 28. I’d also highly recommend not missing out on Singin’ In the Rain, directed by Jonathan Church, it’s a production that received impressive notices when it transferred to the West End and is at the theatre from July 11 to 16.

Also, there is a production that will have a little special something attached to it when it arrives in February; Julian Clary and Matthew Kelly will be appearing in Ronald Harwood’s The Dresser, a play considered a genuine classic of modern theatre. Based on Harwood’s time working for Sir Donald Wolfitt as the actor-manager’s dresser, it transferred to the West End following its premiere in 1980.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time heads to Leeds and Sheffield this spring. (Credit: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg).The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time heads to Leeds and Sheffield this spring. (Credit: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg).
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time heads to Leeds and Sheffield this spring. (Credit: Brinkhoff-Moegenburg).
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The reason it’s extra special to see this production at the Alhambra is because some scenes were filmed at the theatre when Albert Finney played the dresser of the title and Tom Courtenay the Sir whom he dressed in the 1983 movie based on the play.

A lovely footnote that’s bound to lend a frisson to the production’s visit.

At Leeds Grand Theatre, before the visiting shows arrive, the theatre will, as ever, play host to a short season of Opera North including Rigoletto starring Sir Willard White and directed by Femi Elufowoju Jr which should not be missed.

The theatre has a seriously strong run of form starting at the end of March with West End hit Six, which tells the story of the wives of Henry VIII via the medium of pop songs, followed in quick succession by School of Rock, the National Theatre’s exceptional production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Book of Mormon and perennial favourite Chicago.

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Those shows, running from March 29 to May 14, mark an impressive piece of programming, all of them guaranteed audience pleasers. Watch out later this year for Les Miserables, coming to the region for the first time in years.

Sheffield’s Lyceum is a slightly odd one in that it does in the main take touring shows, but occasionally is also used by Sheffield Theatres to stage productions.

A couple of the touring shows I’d pick out are Noel Coward’s Private Lives, starring Nigel Havers and Patricia Hodge and the brilliant The Play What I Wrote, heading back out on tour this year and coming to Sheffield at the end of February. Watch out also for the homecoming of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, back in Sheffield April 11 to 16.

Theatre Royal Wakefield saw its pantomime hit with Covid cancellations which was a huge shame. All theatres have had a terrible time over the past couple of years, clearly, but it feels like some theatres have been hit harder than others. Fortunately for Wakefield it can look forward to another new production from its resident company, the John Godber Company.

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The Yorkshire playwright powerhouse teams up with daughter Elizabeth on the script and wife Jane as director for Ruby and the Vinyl, a story set in a pop-up record and vintage clothes shop where magical things happen. It’s at the theatre February 3 to 12.

Halifax’s Square Chapel has been living through interesting times of late, a full explanation of which would take too long to go into here. It’s good to be able to say that the organisation is in good hands and has some really interesting programming including theatre, comedy and music heading to the stage.

This month’s offerings include An Evening with Yorkshire Vet Julian Norton on January 28, next month sees comedian Shapark Khorsandi presenting her new show It Was the 90s! and in March the powerful play Black is the Colour of My Voice, inspired by the life of jazz singer and civil rights activist Nina Simone, will be coming to the venue.

As ever, this scratches the surface. We’re blessed to have the theatres we have and after the last couple of years, they need our support more than ever. See you there.

Three shows not to miss

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The Dresser: Ronald Harwood with one of the great modern plays, starring Matthew Kelly, becoming one of our great stage actors. Bradford Alhambra, February 8 to 12.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time: Adapted by Simon Stephens and directed by Marianne Elliot, this is seriously impressive theatre. Sheffield Lyceum, February 15-19, Leeds Grand Theatre, April 12-16.

Nigel Ng – The Haiyaa Tour: he became famous via his viral videos but he’s no vacuous ‘influencer’. He’s been doing stand up since 2015. Leeds City Varieties, February 19.