Fancy an arts and culture reawakening? Well you’re in luck, because some of the biggest shows in the world are set to grace Manchester’s stages this spring – and that front row seat most definitely has our name on it. From reimagined Disney classics to some of the biggest stage shows of all time, here are some of the best theatre shows in Manchester this season.
1. Mog the Forgetful Cat (4th – 8th April)
The first ever stage adaptation of Judith Kerr’s bestselling Mog picture books will grace the Lowry stage this Easter half term, with a playful run from 4th – 8th April. Join Mog and the Thomas family on a journey through one year in the life of a really remarkable cat, as she catches a burglar, gatecrashes a cat show, goes to the V.E.T. and gets to eat lots and lots of eggs. Everyone’s favourite cat might be forgetful, but she certainly has a lot of adventures, and she loves her family very much. Find tickets here.
2. Mother Goose (5th – 9th April)
Hilarious panto Mother Goose starring Sir Ian McKellen and John Bishop is a farce full of fun coming to Salford this Easter. Written by Coronation Street writer Jonathan Harvey, the fun and whimsical production is great for all the family, and has garnered national acclaim for its top quality. Mother Goose (McKellen) and her husband Vic (Bishop) run an Animal Sanctuary for waifs and strays and live a wholesome life inside an abandoned Debenhams. But when a goose flies in, will fame and fortune get the better of them? Find your tickets here.
3. The Beekeeper of Aleppo (18th – 22nd April)
The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a compassionate and beautiful story of connection – between friends, families and strangers. The adaptation of the international number one bestseller by Christy Lefteri tells the story of Nuri, a beekeeper; and his wife, Afra, an artist. They live a simple life, rich in family and friends, in the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo – until the unthinkable happens. When all they care for is destroyed by war, they are forced to escape. On their terrifying journey, they must face the pain of their own unbearable loss alongside incredible danger. Above all, they must journey to find each other again. Find tickets for this heart-wrenching play here.
4. Waldo’s Circus of Magic & Terror (20th – 22nd April)
Travelling into Salford this April is the spectacular and emotional Waldo’s Circus of Magic & Terror. Set in 1933 Germany where Nazis are burning books and suspending civil rights, Waldo and his eclectic troupe of acrobats and clowns dedicate themselves to their craft. Concealed within the glamour of Waldo’s big top, stories of love, courage and resistance are revealed as the world outside this remarkable circus troupe becomes darker and more dangerous.
What sets this circus theatre musical apart from the crowd is that it’s put on by Extraordinary Bodies, a collaboration between Cirque Bijou and Diverse City, who have worked together for the last decade creating multi-disciplinary circus shows with D/deaf, disabled and non-disabled artists. With this particular show they have also said: “Extraordinary Bodies acknowledge the Holocaust and the millions of Jewish victims, and other groups including disabled people who were targeted for persecution and murder. In making this work, the company affirms its unwavering commitment to counter antisemitism, racism, and other forms of intolerance that may lead to group-targeted violence.” Grab your tickets here.
5. Drive Your Plow Over The Bones of the Dead (25th – 29th April)
Based on Nobel Prize-Winner Olga Tokarczuk’s genre-defying novel of the same name, Drive Your Plow Over The Bones of the Dead a rallying cry for nature and a love-letter to the poetry of Blake. At its heart it is a playful and profound work that asks us to consider what it means to live in harmony with the world around us, our place in the ecosystem, and the perilous consequences we all face if our connection to the natural world is lost.
Regarded as an eccentric outsider, the story unfolds through the eyes of Janina, a former engineer, environmentalist, devoted astrologer and enthusiastic translator of William Blake, veering between the comedic and macabre. Her actions question the patriarchal world which surrounds her, our deeper human intentions and the value placed on the lives of animals in contrast to our own. Tickets can be found here.
6. Sucker Punch (2nd – 6th May)
On its first major UK tour, Sucker Punch will be stopping at Salford with its tender emotion and incredible performances. Two best mates, Leon and Troy, have spent their youth growing up in a boxing gym, figuring out a place in the world, vying for the approval of Charlie, their trainer. Soon Leon and Becky, Charlie’s daughter, are trying to keep a big secret in a ruthless world. But there can only be one winner, and it’s time everyone stepped into the ring to face up to who they really are. Don’t miss out in May, grab your tickets here.
7. Art Battle MCR (Friday 5th May)
Half theatre show, half art exhibition, Arts Battle MCR will bring together 10 artists go head-to-head to create a masterpiece in just 30 minutes. From painters and illustrators to street and tattoo artists, contenders take to the stage armed with nothing but brushes and their imaginations, as up to 1,000 spectators circulate the action and cast their votes round after round, leading to knockouts as the battle goes on. As it marks a first for Salford and MediaCity, it won’t go without a special appearance, with Gogglebox Star Helena Worthington confirmed to take part as well as more well known faces from MediaCity to be announced, with the audience ultimately deciding the winner. It’s a truly unique, one-night-only event so find tickets here to get involved.
8. The SpongeBob Musical (16th – 20th May)
Now, when we say this one took us by surprise, we’re not kidding. Yes, there is indeed a SpongeBob musical coming to Manchester’s Opera House! With TV star Tom Read Wilson taking on the role of Squidward, this musical is definitely one for all the family this spring. When the citizens of Bikini Bottom discover that a volcano will soon erupt and destroy their humble home, SpongeBob and his friends must come together to save the fate of their undersea world! Get your tickets to this bizarre adaptation here.
9. Greatest Days (16th – 27th May)
Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Take That’s first ever UK number one single Pray, Greatest Days features more than 15 record-breaking Take That songs alongside a heart-warming and hilarious story of love, loss and laughter from the award-winning writer Tim Firth (Calendar Girls, Kinky Boots). The musical follows a group of five best friends in the 1990’s who are obsessed with their favourite boy band. The girls then reunite more than 20 years later with a plan to see their heartthrobs one last time in what could be the Greatest Days of their lives. It has also just been announced that Coronation Street favourite Kym Marsh and her daughter Emilie Cunliffe will be joining the cast, so don’t miss out – get your tickets for the Palace Theatre dates here.
10. The Way Old Friends Do (22nd – 27th May)
One for the mums, and pretty much all other ABBA fans including us, The Way Old Friends Do is a wonderfully fun and emotional new show. In 1988, two Birmingham school friends tentatively come out to one another: one as gay, the other – more shockingly – as an ABBA fan. Nearly thirty years later, a chance meeting sets them on a brand-new path and they decide to form the world’s first ABBA tribute band – in drag! But can their friendship survive the tribulations of a life on the road which includes platform boots, fake beards and a distractingly attractive stranger?
The show is directed by Mark Gatiss, best known for his work as an actor, writer and producer on Sherlock, Dracula, and Doctor Who, and for being one quarter of comedy troupe The League of Gentlemen – so the quality is definitely there! Find your tickets here.
11. Peter James’ Wish You Were Dead (23rd – 27th May)
After the success of his dark ITV drama Grace, Peter James returns to stagecraft with the world premiere stage adaption of his eerie work Wish You Were Dead. When Detective Superintendent Roy Grace and Cleo Morey take their first holiday together, they hope for a few days away from their everyday worlds of murder and the mortuary. But their dream escape turns out to be the holiday from hell. The play boasts a fantastic cast, including award winning actress Katie McGlynn, star of Coronation Street, Waterloo Road and Strictly Come Dancing, so is not to be missed. Find tickets here.
12. Do You Believe in Ghosts? (30th May)
Brand new for 2023, Do You Believe In Ghosts? is truly an immersive experience, telling tales of the goings on at the theatre after dark. Information on the show is particularly sparse, so all we can reallly say is that it’ll be full of surprises and thrills for horror and ghost lovers, and promises to be a haunting night of theatre. Get tickets here to discover the secrets of the theatre.
13. Vardy v Rooney: The Wagatha Christie Trial (9th – 11th June)
The absolute peak of hun culture, there’s genuinely a Wagatha Christie theatre production coming to Manchester in June. I know, we can’t believe it either. The trial was a moment in history all over the nation, and following the TV adaptation of it, we now have a stage play detailing the trial. Adapted from seven days of High Court transcripts, Vardy v Rooney is a story stranger than fiction, with lurid one-liners and revelations blurring the boundaries of tabloid and court case, social media and soap opera. This unique moment in British media history captivated the country but while public debate raged, only a handful of people witnessed what happened in the trial. Find tickets here for what’s sure to be a proper bit of farcical fun.