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The year starts on a high note and keeps going

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 04, 2013

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Take a look at the shows that stay in the West End, the theatre heartland of the UK, and you'll find plenty of musicals.

With an audience augmented by lots of visitors, the musical provides a universal language. Who doesn't like a bit of singing and dancing?

Westcountry audiences are in for a treat this year with several popular shows continuing to do the rounds. But there are also huge hits making their first foray into the regions including Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Dolly Parton's 9 to 5 The Musical.

This show was based on the film which starred Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin as three office workers who turn the tables on their sexist boss.

The score includes original Dolly Parton songs Backwoods Barbie, Shine Like the Sun and the original hit song 9 to 5.

9 to 5 The Musical will be at the Princess Theatre, Torquay, in February and the Hall for Cornwall, Truro, the following month.

Another movie-inspired musical is Priscilla Queen of the Desert which closed in the West End in 2011 after more than 1,000 performances over three years.

It's the heart-warming, uplifting adventure of three friends who hop aboard a battered old bus searching for love and friendship and end up finding more than they could ever have dreamed of.

With a dazzling array of outrageous costumes and a hit parade of dancefloor favourites, the show stars Jason Donovan reprising his role as Tick.

It's at the Princess Theatre for a week at the end of April.

Another film-to-stage transition is Dirty Dancing – the cult 1987 movie that starred Patrick Swayze as a guy from the wrong side of the tracks... but boy can he dance!

Written by Eleanor Bergstein, the scriptwriter and creator of the film, Dirty Dancing features all the much-loved characters and original dialogue from the iconic movie and all the hits including Do You Love Me?, Hungry Eyes and the Academy Award winning (I've Had) The Time Of My Life.

American actress Jill Winternitz will star as idealistic Baby Houseman, and Paul-Michael Jones plays Johnny Castle when the show hits Plymouth's Theatre Royal for nearly three weeks from January 22.

One musical which started its life on stage is Jim Cartwright's The Rise and Fall of Little Voice – the story of a shy girl who has an extraordinary ability to sing like the great divas, Shirley Bassey, Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand.

It will star Beverley Callard (Coronation Street), Ray Quinn (Dirty Dancing, Grease, Legally Blonde) and new talent Jess Robinson as Little Voice.

It is at the Princess Theatre in February and returns to the Westcountry for a week at The Lighthouse, Poole, in April.

An old favourite which can be seen at the Theatre Royal, Plymouth, in February, is Cole Porter's sparkling musical High Society which will star Michael Praed as Dexter Haven, Daniel Boys as Mike Connor and Sophie Bould as Tracy Lord – the roles played by Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra in the 1956 film. The show has plenty of hits – the romantic True Love and You're Sensational, plus Well, Did You Evah! and High Society.

As well as musicals, dance features in the spring programme at several Westcountry theatres.

In Plymouth, the Theatre Royal's membership of Dance Consortium brings top international companies to the Westcountry and in April Plymouth is one of only seven venues (including Sadler's Wells in London) to host Sutra, a thrilling collaboration between one of Europe's most exciting dancer-choreographers Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Turner Prize-winning sculptor Antony Gormley and 17 practicing Buddhist monks from the Shaolin Temple in China.

Aged between ten and 26 years, the monks performing in Sutra follow a strict Buddhist doctrine, with kung fu and tai chi martial arts forming a part of their daily ritual. They perform such spectacular, daredevil moves that you see them quite literally as leaps of faith.

Also returning to the Theatre Royal is Hofesh Shechter, with their incredibly athletic dance performances, and Birmingham Royal Ballet with Aladdin – both in March. BRB also visits the Hall for Cornwall in May with a double bill – the ever-popular Pineapple Poll and Lyric Pieces.

Audiences in Exeter can enjoy an evening with the Richard Alston Dance Company in February consisting of Madcap, a startling new work by Martin Lawrance, Buzzing Round the Hunnisuccle and The Devil in the Detail inspired by the ragtime music of Scott Joplin.

Also at the Northcott are JV2 – Tomorrow, a group of performers hand-picked by award-winning choreographer Jasmin Vardimon (April) and Ballet Black (May), making their third visit to the venue.

But it's not all song and dance in Westcountry theatres this spring. I'm looking forward to the return of Edward Hall's all-male Propeller company with their unique take on Shakespeare. Next month they perform both Twelfth Night and The Taming of the Shrew. And the stage version of Sebastian Faulks' wartime epic Birdsong can be seen in Plymouth (March) and Truro (May).

Box office numbers: Princess Theatre, Torquay – 0844 8713023; Hall for Cornwall, Truro – 01872 262466; Theatre Royal, Plymouth – 01752 267222; Lighthouse Theatre, Poole – 0844 4068666; Northcott Theatre, Exeter – 01392 493493.

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