The new season in Sunderland

Peter Lathan

Sunderland Empire has announced its new season from January to May 2018.

After the panto Jack and the Beanstalk finishes on Sunday 7 January, the theatre presents a series of one-night music, dance and comedy performances from Thursday 11, culminating in Opera and Ballet International presenting Ellen Kent’s production of La Traviata on 26 January and Madama Butterfly on 27.

Then from 31 January to 11 February Shrek the Musical returns after its last visit to the theatre in November 2015. It is followed by Faulty Towers: The Dining Experience, now twenty years old, in the theatre’s new Bistro—a 3-course meal and 2-hour interactive (and 70% improvised) show, which the BTG’s Robin Strapp saw—and loved!—at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe.

From 15 to 17 January, Thriller Live returns to the Empire, following its last visit in 2016.

From 20 to 24 February, Tanguera arrives, the story of Giselle, an immigrant to Buenos Aires, who is forced to become a tanguera tango dancer, a woman who seduces men with her dance and sells her body.

More one-nighters follow until, from 6 to 10 March, Beautiful – The Carole King Musical arrives on its first national tour, featuring hits such as “(You Make Me Feel) Like a Natural Woman”, “Take Good Care of my Baby”, “You’ve Got a Friend”, “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” and “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place”.

Jersey Boys, working its way back to Sunderland (I saw it in November 2014), returns from 20 to 31 March.

April is a busy month at the Empire, beginning with Birmingham Royal Ballet’s visit from 5 to 7 with Coppélia, one of the best loved ballets from the classical repertoire.

Then four musicals follow in quick succession.

First up is Thoroughly Modern Millie (10 to 14 April) with Hayley Tamaddon, then Legally Blonde the Musical (16 to 21) starring Rita Simons, Lucie Jones and Bill Ward, who returns to the Empire after playing the villainous Fleshcreep in the panto, and, the following week, Crazy for You (24 to 28), starring Tom Chambers and Charlotte Wakefield, a celebration of the great Broadway musicals.

Finally this season we have almost a month (8 May to 2 June) of the RSC’s Matilda the Musical, based on Roald Dahl’s novel with book by Dennis Kelly and original songs by Tim Minchin.