By Neil Wilcock
WHAT do a legendary rock star, one of the top pop bands of the moment, a psychological illusionist, an MP and a bunch of grumpy old women have in common?
Answer - they’re all highlights of the summer 2006 season at the Victoria Theatre, Halifax, the most exciting line-up the venue has boasted for years.
Two of the events - concerts featuring Morrissey and Embrace - are already sold out. Embrace are the local boys made very, very good. They are enjoying a hugely successful year with a new album in the shops, the official England World Cup anthem in the offing and a tour of huge outdoor forest gigs coming up in the summer. Tickets for their April 17 Victoria gig sold out in just four hours.
Tickets for Morrissey - former lead singer of The Smiths and cult hero to an army of fans - were snapped up even faster.
The booking of big league acts and top shows is all part of an effort to revitalise the Victoria Theatre for customers and acts alike.
Chris Murgatroyd, marketing manager for the theatre, said: “We’ve been working very hard for a couple of years towards this goal. There has been an improvement in technical and backstage facilities making it possible for big acts to appear here.”
He said a more professional promotion of events and improvements to customer facilities, including refurbished toilets, have also been part of the theatre’s new lease of life.
And it won’t stop there - more big shows and top acts are planned for next season and beyond.
Mr Murgatroyd said: “We’re already looking at the autumn programme and into spring next year. We’re looking at another big musical next spring and top bands in autumn when the touring season begins.
“There’s no reason the calibre of bands we’ve got this spring can’t be repeated in the autumn.”
Until then, the Victoria has a host of shows set to continue to pull in the crowds.
Of the many highlights is April’s appearance of Elkie Brookes, a woman who has been described as having one of the great British voices.
Also in April comedienne Jo Brand brings her trademark, bone-dry humour to the theatre.
A brand new adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling classic The Jungle Book offers a treat of music, magic and adventure for the whole family in May, and the Chuckle Brothers also call in to entertain the kids with Doctor What and the Return of the Garlics.
Tickets are still available for mind-trickster Derren Brown’s show. He brings his Something Wicked This Way Comes tour to Halifax on Tuesday, May 16.
Showcasing music, song and dance from the hit shows will be the Halifax Symphony Orchestra with Broadway, andstill in May, comedy and HRT come in equal measure courtesy of Grumpy Old Women Live when Jenny Eclair, Linda Robson and Dillie Keane bring the popular television show to the stage.
Among June’s highlights are an appearance by Ken Dodd, complete with tickling stick, and the nation’s favourite firefighter in Fireman Sam to the Rescue.
Already famous as the maverick MP, George Galloway moved squarely into the public eye as a Celebrity Big Brother housemateearlier this year. In June he shares his views with the Halifax public in An Audience with George Galloway.
Autumn highlights at the Victoria include Opus One’s presentation of Il Trovatore in September, and Call All The Groups in October which sees The Barron Knights, the Tremelones and Fortunes and Marmalade grace the stage.
And then, in October, heartthrob David Essex makes a return to Halifax as part of a tour to celebrate the release of his Greatest Hits album.