A brand new show performed by Henry VIII’s six wives combines historical heartbreak with a pop soundtrack and heralds a new chapter in the life of Norwich Playhouse.
Fresh from a handful of sold-out previews in London’s theatre-land, SIX premieres at Norwich Playhouse on July 11-15 as the Playhouse launches a new chapter in its life. Since 2003, the Theatre Royal has run the venue on behalf of the Playhouse Trust but the Playhouse is now set to legally merge and formally become part of the Theatre Royal.
David Merrick, Chair of the Playhouse Trustees, said: “The two trusts have worked in close partnership since 2003 and the Playhouse Trustees are happy to hand over the Playhouse to the Theatre Royal, so that the future of the Playhouse is secured and the Theatre Royal can continue to deliver an exciting programme of shows and events in this much loved Norwich venue.”
Michael Newey, Chair of the Theatre Royal Trustees, commented: “We are delighted to have this opportunity to build on our successful partnership working over the last 15 years. The two Trusts have worked very closely over that time and bringing the two venues together is the logical next step.”
This will mean the opportunity for even more exciting work to be staged there. Stephen Crocker, Norwich Theatre Royal chief executive, said: “Whilst audiences at the Playhouse and Playhouse Bar will see no day-to-day differences and the building will continue to work the way it always has, this merger is an important moment not just for both venues but also for Norwich, Norfolk and the East of England.”
It will also herald an exciting range of shows, productions and events. Stephen Crocker said: “We are pursuing a new and ambitious artistic strategy which sees us join up programming across Stage Two, the Playhouse and the Theatre Royal with a particular focus on dance, classical music, drama, and work that we feel is extraordinary for Norwich like SIX.
“It will help us build on the phenomenal success of the Playhouse and increase the breadth and scale of work there which will, in turn, further develop the overall cultural offer in the city. SIX is an extraordinary show and a fantastic example of the kind of production we can bring to Norwich for its premiere. It will not only delight audiences but also help to build the city and region’s footprint on the national cultural map.
SIX will come to Norwich before heading to the Edinburgh Festival this summer and into the West End in the autumn. By catching it in July, Playhouse audiences will be the first to see this stunning new musical.
The six remarkable stories of Henry’s wives are revealed as a Beyonce meets Little Mix style pop concert joining contemporary music and sassy lyrics to a historical narrative.
Casting is still to be confirmed but it boasts a world-class creative team. The executive producer and musical supervisor is George Stiles, one-half of the writing duo Stiles and Drewe responsible for penning the likes of stage hits Mary Poppins, Half A Sixpence, and Betty Blue Eyes.
It is also being co-produced by Kenny Wax who is a great friend of the Theatre Royal and Playhouse and behind such theatrical hot-tickets as the West End and international touring hit Top Hat, global smash hit The Play That Goes Wrong, and the imaginative stage adaptation of Jacqueline Wilson’s novel Hetty Feather, and is known for championing innovative work. He said: “I have been producing theatre for 25 years and I am known for developing new talent having taken risks with young writers.
“Every now and then, this pays off and never more so than with the tremendous success we have enjoyed with Mischief Theatre and the ‘Goes Wrong Shows’ which you might have seen at the Theatre Royal, on TV or in the West End. I’m sent a lot of scripts and demo recordings for new musicals and I get invited to workshops, readings and development productions of shows all the time.
“I received a tip off last October about SIX and drove up to the ADC Theatre in Cambridge with my 16 year old daughter for an 11pm show. It was the action of an irresponsible parent, but it was a Friday night and she didn’t have school the next day. I turned to her tentatively at the end of the show hoping that she had loved it as much as I had. We shared a unique moment as father and daughter. We had unwrapped the golden ticket together. This was very special.
“In all my producing years, I had never come across a musical quite like SIX. Instantly loveable, cool, sassy, lyrically brilliant, musically fabulous and at 75 minutes long an absolute dream of a show. I invited Stephen to see a workshop performance in London and he was sold, just like I was. You have a treat in store.”
Another important development for the Playhouse stage will be the UK debut tour in 2019 by Rambert2, which brings together ten young dancers with outstanding ability, creativity and individuality to form a second Rambert ensemble.
It aims to increase the reach of the Rambert company bringing more distinctive, world-class dance to more people in more places. Stephen Crocker said: “We hope the company will become a regular feature at the Playhouse building on the main company’s long-standing annual visit to the Theatre Royal and accompanied by a programme of learning and participation work in Stage Two.”
The Playhouse also welcomes Border Tales which uses live music, dance and dialogue to reflect life in multi-cultural Britain through the eyes of the different communities who live here, and Skin, a piece of hip-hop theatre which follows a journey of gender transition.
Stephen Crocker said the changes ensure the venue will evolve. “Norwich Playhouse will absolutely remain the city’s home of comedy and a range of other middle-scale work but we will begin to explore some innovative productions, shows and work which have not been possible in the past, and grow the Playhouse’s role as a key player in the cultural life of the city, county, region and country.
“I think that SIX is destined to be one of the next smash-hit British musicals so there is absolutely no better way to mark this new chapter in the life of Norwich Playhouse than with this fantastic show.”