If you visited the new theatre at Storyhouse in Chester during the summer, you might not recognise the place if you pop back there this autumn.
For its opening season, the main Storyhouse theatre had a thrust stage and an intimate 500 capacity for its homegrown productions such as The Beggar’s Opera.
But on Tuesday (September 5) the venue welcomed its first major visiting show as part of its inaugural touring season - Footloose The Musical - when audiences will have seen it transformed into a stunning 800-seater auditorium.
The changes have been implemented to accommodate the season of big-budget musicals, innovative dance, thought-provoking theatre and household comedy names.
Hit show Footloose, based on the 1984 film, stars Maureen Nolan as Vi Moore and features a string of singalong hits including Let’s Hear It For the Boy, Holding Out for A Hero and the title song and can be seen until Saturday (September 9).
Comedy fans have snapped up tickets for Jon Richardson with the 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown regular’s new touring show, Old Man, due to play to a sell-out audience on September 19.
He will be followed by Joel Dommett on September 26 with an evening that promises confetti cannons and a musical number and on October 3 by comedy giant Stewart Lee, whose show Content Provider is also a sell-out.
And later in the season the comedy continues, with grumpy old woman – and Splash survivor - Jenny Eclair giving some tips on How to be a Middle-Aged Woman (Without Going Insane) on October 19, while laconic American funnyman Rich Hall and friends present a gratuitous mash-up of the very best of comedy and music in Hoedown (October 21).
Comic opera company Opera della Luna pays its first visit to Storyhouse on September 22-23 with Tales From Offenbach, while musical All or Nothing, which charts the story of the influential 60s mod group Small Faces, known best for hit songs like Itchycoo Park and Tin Soldier, runs from September 27-30.
Willy Russell’s iconic and moving story of nurture v nature, Blood Brothers, makes a welcome visit from October 9-14, starring Lyn Paul as Mrs Johnstone.
October also heralds a trio of shows to delight dance and physical theatre enthusiasts, from Cockfight on October 7, which is described as a cross between The Office and an Australian-style cage fight, to Tangomotion, which brings the passion of Buenos Aires to Chester on October 18, and the brilliant all-male dance company BalletBoyz, presenting its new show on October 30.
Singer-songwriter and folk music star Kate Rusby makes an appearance on October 20 to mark 25 years in the music business.
There’s a Pythonesque turn of events from October 31-November 4 with the arrival of the hilarious award-winning musical Spamalot, packed with bold – and not so bold - knights, ladies of the lake, fish slapping, flying cows, a killer rabbit and ferocious Frenchmen.
And the autumn touring season concludes with the powerful and thought-provoking physical family drama Things I Know to be True, at Storyhouse from November 7-11.
The season of touring productions is followed by a world premiere, as Storyhouse presents the first ever stage adaptation of Enid Blyton’s beloved The Secret Seven. The magical Christmas show is penned by Glyn Maxwell and runs from December 1 to January 15, with the theatre returned to a 500-seater venue for the run.
And looking ahead further, to spring 2018, Storyhouse welcomes the hilarious The Play That Goes Wrong (January 29-February 3), Sarah Millican (February 22), David Baddiel’s Olivier Award nominated My Family: Not The Sitcom (February 23), and Cilla The Musical (March 5-10).
Artistic director of Storyhouse Alex Clifton said: “We could not have asked for a better start to Storyhouse – audiences have loved the venue and our actors have had a wonderful time performing on the intimate thrust stage.
“Now it’s a chance to show the people of Chester just how versatile Storyhouse is, as we open up the space to become a full 800-seat auditorium and welcome what is a wonderfully varied and brilliantly entertaining season of shows to take us towards our first Christmas here.
“This autumn it’s all about having fun. And if you want to be amazed, uplifted and above all entertained, Storyhouse is the place to be.”
Storyhouse opened its doors for the first-time on May 11 with the inaugural home-produced season including a new version of The Beggar’s Opera, Alice in Wonderland, and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Julius Caesar.
Tickets for the touring season are on sale now - visit storyhouse.com or call 01244 409 113 to find out more.