🗞️ November’s Best Shows To See
No sun, No light, No warmth, No trains, No vember! (Apologies to Thomas Hood).
What we do have, however, is a plethora of feel-good shows for the changeover to winter and the run up to Christmas.
Let’s begin at the Grand Theatre which kicks off the month with The King and I, which started on 31st October. No, it isn’t the Camilla episode of The Crown, but the story of an English governess who goes to work for the King of Siam in the 19th Century. It is full of well known songs and spectacular dance routines and runs until 4th November.
There then follows a couple of other musicals which are making a fairly speedy return to the venue.
Firstly, there is Calendar Girls the Musical, in which the ladies of the Rylstone Women’s Institute, get their kit off to produce a calendar to raise funds for Blood Cancer UK. It being Yorkshire in November I should imagine that the stage will be littered with discarded thermals and liberty bodices. The cast is made up of soap stars and singers, including Tanya Franks, Lyn Paul, Maureen Nolan, Amy Robbins, Paula Tappenden, Marti Webb and Honeysuckle Weeks. It runs from 7th to 11th November.
The second return trip, from 14th to 19th November, is Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, which is the exact opposite of Calendar Girls in that, rather than taking his dress off, Jamie insists on putting one on, to go to the school prom. It is also set in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, the other end of the civilised world from the North of God’s Own County. It stars Ivan Turco as Jamie, Hayley Tamaddon as Miss Hedge and Shobna Gulati as Ray.
21st to 25th November sees The Official Take That Musical, Greatest Days. According to the publicity, it features more than 15 record-breaking Take That songs, they were obviously so overcome by then that they stopped counting. I totally understand, I am still paying off the credit card I used to ring the helpline when they split up! Surprisingly enough it is the story of a boy band in the 1990s who reunite over 20 years later. It stars Kim Marsh and her daughter Emilie Cunliffe.
To end the month, from 29th November to 10th December we have The Northern Ballet performing The Nutcracker by David Nixon OBE to the music of Tchaikovsky. This is a Christmas staple with Clara being swept away by her Nutcracker Prince into an enchanting winter wonderland. The live music is performed by Northern Ballet Sinfonia. To accompany the ballet there is Northern Ballet’s The Nutcracker: Over 55s Workshop in which those of a qualifying age, no matter what their dancing experience, can learn steps from the ballet under the supervision of former Premier dancer Pippa Moore MBE, when available. I would enrol myself but I lent my tights to Jamie for the prom.
At Leeds Playhouse November starts with The Smeds and the Smoos, a show for 3 year-olds and upward, which is a joyful tale of star-crossed lovers. It seems that Smeds and Smoos are not allowed to be friends so they zoom off into space together. A sort of intergalactic Romeo and Juliet. It runs from 2nd to 4th November.
Should that be to your liking then you should make a return trip on 25th November for Glow, a charming, interactive family show about mental health tailored to ages 3-7. It is about glow worm Gwen who has lost her glow, but has her friends to shine a light. It has integrated access for visually impaired audience members.
9th to 11th November sees High Times and Dirty Monsters, a raucous, radical, celebratory and hard-hitting hip hop gig theatre show sharing the good, and not so good, times of being young and disabled in 2023. There will be creative captioning, integrated sign language and audio description.
Just when you think you have been to all the festivals, along comes another. This time it is the Furnace Festival from 21st to 26th November, of which the aforementioned Glow is part.
21st November is The Man in the Shadows, no, not Hank Marvin (one for the oldies there), but a case for Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, but not as we know them, as there are fight scenes and dance scenes. Makes a change from violin playing and opium taking.
22nd November it is Two Tribes, a tale of two rival football firms who descend on Leeds in 1987 to watch a match and fight. Like The Smeds and the Smoos, two of them from opposing factions fall in love which, as I am sure you will gather, causes problems.
23rd November provides a chance for the audience to participate in the development of work by local artists in Scratch, where you are asked as to how you think that their short presentations ought to progress.
Panic Stations is on 24th November which looks at the consequences of conspiracy theories in a post-truth era. Rachel feels that the world is against her when her life goes pear-shaped, but the deeper she digs the further she finds herself from reality.
To end the Furnace Festival, Amie Burns Walker and Rachael Halliwell, who have created opportunities to nurture the talent of women over 40, present Taking Up Space. From the initial applicants they have selected four actors, three directors and six dramaturgs to showcase their work in this inaugural All Points North Productions event.
OK, it’s that time. The Christmas show begins its run which goes on until 27th January, 2024. This year it is Oliver! Lionel Bart’s musical. These annual shows are always spectacular and superbly produced and I am sure that this will be no exception. I hope you won’t have to remind me that I wrote that. Age guidance is 8+ and there are loads of matinees.
Speaking of Christmas Shows, 24th November to 7th January, 2024 also sees Leeds City Varieties’ Rock’n’Roll Panto which this year is Robin Hood. It promises to be a night of great music and not so great jokes, just the thing. We might actually at last find out if Robin Hood made Marion, Oh no he didn’t!
Guess what is happening at The Carriageworks between 24th November and 7th January, you guessed, it is the pantomime, Snow White and if you have to ask what it’s about you must have been living with the Smeds and the Smoos. The age guidance is 5+ and times vary from 10.00am to 6.30pm depending on the date. There are also relaxed performances and ones which are BSL interpreted.
Before then, however, there is The Bubble Show on 3rd November at 2.00pm with Mr Bubbles and his creations in all shapes and sizes.
Charlotte’s Web, based on the book by E.B. White, plays from 8th to 11th November and is the tale of Wilbur the pig who is the runt of the litter but captures the heart of Fern. When he is sent to meet his fate at her uncle’s farm, a spider called Charlotte comes to his assistance.
Rope, the play which inspired Alfred Hitchcock to make his classic film, is running from 8th to 11th November. It is about two murderers who have committed their offence just for the thrill of it and to see if they can pull off the perfect crime.
That, as they say, is that then for November. Something tells me that my December offering will be quite a bit shorter than this one. You’re welcome, consider it my Christmas present to you.
For details of everything at Leeds Grand Theatre and City Varieties please go to https://leedsheritagetheatres.com/whats-on/
For Leeds Playhouse it’s https://leedsplayhouse.org.uk/whats-on/
Carriageworks is https://www.carriageworkstheatre.co.uk/whats-on/