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 autumn – and that front row seat most definitely has our name on it. From reimagined classics to some of the biggest stage shows of all time, with some new material sprinkled in, here are some of the best theatre shows in Manchester this season.
1. 14% – October 14 – 28, Contact Theatre
Tackling football culture, identity and parenthood, 14% – created in partnership with the National Football Museum – is an immersive new play, written by Keisha Thompson and directed by Nathan Powell. Set against the frenzy of the Lionesses’ success, this multi-sensory play invites you on a journey inside the confines of a post-match train carriage. Follow British footballer Nadia and her unnamed, unborn Baby. Prepare for a layered audio-visual experience where internal and external pressures rise.
Lean in close and eavesdrop on the clashing voices and beliefs of other passengers. 14% is a claustrophobic snapshot of the common and clashing identities that define and confine us. With meticulous attention to detail, this thought-provoking production challenges us to reflect on what we use to feel British.
2. 42nd Street – October 16 – 21, Manchester Opera House
The iconic song-and-dance spectacular 42nd Street featuring a hit parade of toe-tapping songs including “42nd Street,” “We’re In The Money”, “Lullaby of Broadway,” “Shuffle Off To Buffalo” and “I Only Have Eyes For You” is coming to Manchester this autumn. Choreographed and designed by Olivier Award winners Bill Deamer and Rob Jones, 42nd Street is a timeless and inspiring showbiz fairy tale that combines breathtaking tap dance routines, backstage intrigue, classic romance and delightful comedy to dazzling effect.
Fresh off the bus from small-town America, young and beautiful Peggy Sawyer arrives in New York City dreaming of her name in lights. She quickly catches the eye of a big-time director and lands a spot in the chorus line of Broadway’s newest show… and when the leading lady gets injured, Peggy gets her shot at stardom.
3. 2:22 A Ghost Story – October 31 – November 4, The Lowry
Fancy a play to make you jump out of your seat? The new stage phenomenon that has taken the West End by storm, 2:22 A Ghost Story, is now coming to Salford. This edge of your seat, supernatural thriller is a brilliantly funny and adrenaline filled night where secrets emerge and ghosts may or may not appear…
Jenny believes her new home is haunted, but her husband Sam isn’t having any of it. They argue with their first dinner guests, old friend Lauren and new partner Ben. Can the dead really walk again? Belief and scepticism clash, but something feels strange and frightening, and that something is getting closer, so they’re going to stay until 2:22 and then they’ll know…
4. Beautiful Thing, October 31 – November 11, HOME
Teenage boys Ste and Jamie are neighbours on a South London estate. Jamie is more knowledgeable about The Sound of Music than football, while classmate Ste never misses a sports day. Both are being bullied, Jamie at school and Ste at home by his violent father and brother.
One night, when things get too much, Ste seeks refuge in Jamie’s flat and, sharing a bed, the boys strike up a new relationship. Together they come to terms with their sexuality and explore their feelings alongside their Mama Cass loving, rebellious friend Leah and with the much-needed emotional support of Jamie’s lioness mother, Sandra. This 30th anniversary revival of Jonathan Harvey’s iconic, coming-out and coming-of-age story set in the nineties, is about community, friendship, rites of passage and what it is to be 16 and in love.
5. I Should Be So Lucky – November 2 – 25, Manchester Opera House
The world premiere of the official Stock Aitken Waterman musical will open at the Manchester Opera House this November before embarking on a UK tour. The musical follows the story of a young couple, Ella and Nathan, who are hopelessly in love and about to take the biggest step of their lives – marriage. Until it doesn’t go quite to plan. Will they be together forever, or will he make her cry and say goodbye?
I Should Be So Lucky: The Stock Aitken Waterman Musical will see Kylie Minogue digitally appear as a specially created character unique to the musical. Plus, the musical features the soundtrack of a generation with music from pop royalty including Rick Astley (Never Gonna Give You Up), Jason Donovan (Too Many Broken Hearts) and Bananarama (Love In The First Degree). The musical also features no less than 10 Number 1 singles and over 25 songs from the Hit Factory whose music defined an era.
6. Hamilton – November 11 – February 24, 2024, Palace Theatre
The Olivier, Tony and Grammy and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, Hamilton, is the story of America then, told by America now. Featuring a score that blends hip-hop, jazz, R&B and Broadway, Hamilton has taken the story of American founding father Alexander Hamilton and created a revolutionary moment in theatre—a musical that has had a profound impact on culture, politics, and education.
With book, music, and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton is based on Ron Chernow’s acclaimed biography. The creative team behind Hamilton has also previously collaborated on the Tony Award-Winning Best Musical In the Heights.
7. Masque of Vengeance – November 12, The Stoller Hall
The Music Troupe presents Masque of Vengeance, the first performances of a new opera adapted from The Revenger’s Tragedy (1606), The opera depicts the violent lust for sex and power in a dystopian, criminal regime but does so with a witty and sardonic irony.
Political manoeuvres in Jacobean times were tumultuous (e.g. the Gunpowder plot of 1605) and Thomas Middleton’s play casts a cynical eye over the amorality of powerful dynasties coupled with the politics of gender. This 80-minute chamber opera for a cast of nine singers accompanied by piano duet was specially written to give the impression of a ‘grand’ opera in a small theatre.
8. The Merchant of Venice (1936) – November 28 – December 2, HOME
Following a sell-out run in March 2023 The Merchant of Venice (1936) returns to Manchester in November 2023, direct from the Royal Shakespeare Company. Starring Tracy-Ann Oberman as Shylock. Shakespeare’s classic is transported to 1930s Britain in this new production from acclaimed director Brigid Larmour.
There is also a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the action and be on the front line at the Battle of Cable Street. HOME has a special on-stage seating comprised of three seats per table and offers a brand-new perspective on The Merchant of Venice. Whether you’re a Shakespeare buff or dipping your toe into the playwriter’s works for the first time, this is one play worth seeing.
9. The Good Enough Mums Club, November 30 – December 2, The Lowry
Toddle through the highs, lows and sleep deprivation of motherhood with the Good Enough Mums Club, a poignant and hilarious musical produced, written, directed and performed by mums. They share the love and dispel the myths with enough wipes to mop the tears and clean away the snotty laughter.
When the Council threatens to close their local playgroup, five women thrown together by motherhood, overcome their isolation, loneliness, judgment and perfectionism to discover that they’re stronger as a group than as individuals, and that sometimes, being good enough is best.