From soaring smash hits on international tours to intimate coming-of-age comedies, Manchester’s 2023 theatre programme delivers another diverse slate of acclaimed productions to suit thespian connoisseurs and first-time audiences alike.

An Evening of Burlesque | The Lowry | Wed 2 Aug | 7.30pm | From £33.50

Arriving at The Lowry on Wed 2 Aug, An Evening of Burlesque gathers the world’s best performers alongside stars of the stage and screen for the ultimate variety show spanning cabaret, comedy, music, circus and burlesque. Featuring fun, flamboyance and an endless whirl of feathers, the UK’s longest-running burlesque show promises an unparalleled sensory feast and by far the best night out in town.

Pier 8, The Quays, Salford M50 3AZ, Tel: 0161 876 2000
Heathers: The Musical | Palace Theatre | Tue 8 Aug - Sat 12 Aug | 2.30pm, 7.30pm | From £13

Winner of Best New Musical at the WhatsOnStage Awards, the stiletto-sharp rock adaptation of the eponymous 1988 dark high school comedy brings the blood-spattered story of unremarkable wallflower Victoria to the Palace Theatre, as she joins the ‘beautiful and impossibly cruel’ Heathers and quickly realises that while it might kill to be a nobody, it’s murder being a somebody.

97 Oxford St, Manchester, M1 6FT, Tel: 0333 009 6690
Ireland: The Show! | Stockport Plaza | Sat 19 Aug | 7.30pm | £27.50

Featuring an all-star cast of the country’s most talented performers alongside the beloved ‘folk ‘n’ roll’ band Keltic Storm and world champion dancers Gael Force, Ireland transports audiences on a rollicking odyssey through the Emerald Isle with stand-up comedy, virtuosic fiddling and bombastic renditions of classic sing-a-long tunes from The Pogues, The Dubliners, The Fureys and more.

Mersey Square, Stockport, Cheshire, SK1 1SP, Tel: 0161 477 7779
Theatre M21: Rope | The Edge | Thu 7 Sep - Sat 9 Sep | 7.30pm | £8/£6

Bringing the original stage play behind Hitchcock’s pensive thriller to Chorlton’s intimate theatre, M21’s inventive adaptation of Rope tells the story of two men who, after strangling an ‘inferior’ associate, host a perverse dinner party with family and friends to challenge the apparent perfection of their crime. This time, however, the drama unfolds in the cutthroat corporate landscape of 1983.

The Edge Theatre, Manchester Rd, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester, M21 9JG, Tel: 0161 282 9776
The Unknown Soldier | Waterside Arts | Fri 8 Sep | 7.30pm | £19

Billed as a ‘story of comradeship, betrayal and promises both broken and kept’ amidst the tormenting silence settling upon the First World War’s final battle sites, The Unknown Soldier follows Jack, a dutiful combatant who survived the chaos yet finds himself unable to return home, instead resolving to search the fields for the unaccounted dead.

Among the gnarled wire and unexploded bombs, Jack searches for someone in particular to repay a debt, before a strange request arrives from the generals.

Poignant, compelling and often humorous, the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe sellout show revisits the worst conflict in modern history with a fresh perspective, offering a powerful exploration of honour, oaths and survivor’s guilt.

1 Waterside Plaza, Sale, Trafford, M33 7ZF, UK, Tel: 0161 912 5616
Jesus Christ Superstar | Palace Theatre | Mon 11 Sep - Sat 23 Sep | 2.30pm, 7.30pm | From £13

Set to Andrew Lloyd Weber’s revolutionary score, Timothy Sheader’s mesmerising reinterpretation of Jesus Christ Superstar comes to Manchester for two weeks from Mon 11 Sep, with spellbinding new choreography from Drew McOnie (King KongStrictly Ballroom) and gorgeous design, as the extraordinary final weeks of Jesus’ life are told through the eyes of Judas Iscariot.

97 Oxford St, Manchester, M1 6FT, Tel: 0333 009 6690
Annie | Manchester Opera House | Mon 18 Sep - Sat 30 Sep | 2.30pm, 7.30pm | From £13

Starring Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood as a deliciously menacing Miss Hannigan, the smash-hit West End production of Annie brings ‘feel-good escapist joy’ (Radio Times) to Manchester Opera House with a joyous, inspiring adaptation of ‘the world’s favourite family musical’ set to the Tony Award-winning score, featuring Tomorrow, Easy Street and It’s The Hard-Knock Life.

3 Quay St, Manchester, M3 3HP
Eun-Me Ahn: Dragons | The Lowry | Tue 26 Sep - Wed 27 Sep | 7.30pm | From £13

Promising a ‘joyful riot’ of dance, music and movement, avant-garde South Korean choreographer Eun-Me Ahn unites various dance styles from across Asia while embracing the hyper-connected adaptability of Gen-Z with her dynamic new production, Dragons.

While dragons in the Western imagination traditionally represent darkness, danger and immeasurable malicious power, in Eastern Asia they occupy a broader spectrum of life, including joy, defiance, good luck and elemental control. In this ‘kaleidoscopic’ new show, five young guest performers from across the continent – all born in 2000 – appear as holograms, sharing their fresh perspectives and resolute ideals about coexistence between past and future, while Eun–Me Ahn and seven talented dancers blaze across the stage in a vibrant inferno of colour and energy as projections bring magical landscapes to life.

Pier 8, Salford Quays, Manchester, M50 3AZ, Tel: 0161 876 2000
Brown Boys Swim | Contact | Wed 25 Oct - Sat 28 Oct | 7.30pm | £20

Hailed as ‘a fine piece of authentic storytelling’ (The Guardian), Karim Khan’s Brown Boys Swim examines the underappreciated social pressures faced by young Muslim men in a fierce, funny new play about ‘fitting in and striking out’.

After navigating a classically turbulent pubescence, best friends Mohsen and Kash are preparing for the most significant night of their lives, and their potential coronation as members of the in-crowd – Jess Denver’s pool party. Unfortunately, the only obstacle lying between the boys and social triumph is that neither can swim.

Fuelled by halal Haribo and chicken wings, they launch themselves into the figurative and literal deep end, contending with cold showers and cramped cubicles as they attempt to master their biggest challenge yet.

Oxford Rd, Manchester M15 6JA, Tel: 0161 274 0600
2.22 A Ghost Story | The Lowry | Tue 31 Oct - Sat 4 Nov | 2pm, 7.30pm | From £15.50

Winner of Best New Play at the WhatsOnStage Awards, the captivating supernatural thriller follows Jenny, a new homeowner who – to the disdain of her husband – believes the house is haunted. Over the course of an argument regarding belief and scepticism between themselves and their dinner guests, an unsettling atmosphere fills the room, and they eventually agree to stay up until 2:22am in order to discover the conclusive truth.

Billed as ‘a brilliantly funny and fun-filled night’, 2.22 A Ghost Story arrives in Salford fresh from record-breaking seasons at four West End theatres and a slate of star performances from Lily Allen, James Buckley, Tom Felton and more.

Pier 8, The Quays, Salford, M50 3AZ, Tel: 0161 876 2000
Hamilton | Palace Theatre | Sat 11 Nov - Sat 24 Feb | 2.30pm, 9.30pm | From £13

Running in Manchester for 15 straight weeks as part of its first ever UK tour, Lin Manuel-Miranda’s multi-award-winning cultural phenomenon arrives at the Palace Theatre on Sat 11 Nov. Charting the life of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, the production recounts ‘the story of America then, as told by America now’ with inimitable genre-bending verve and endlessly inventive lyricism.

While Hamilton is widely anticipated to be Manchester’s theatre event of the year, the incredible length of its City Centre run means plenty of good tickets are still available to book.

97 Oxford St, Manchester M1 6FT, Tel: 0844 871 7627
Wicked | Palace Theatre | Tue 3 Dec - Sun 12 Jan | 2pm, 2.30pm, 7.30pm | From £20

Winner of over a hundred major international awards and seen by over eleven million people in the West End, the global smash hit reimagination of L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz conjures a gleeful, bewitching backstory of two unlikely friends and the twists of fate which led to them becoming Glinda the Good and the Wicked Witch of the West.

With original songs by multi-Oscar, Golden Globe and Grammy Award-winner Stephen Schwartz (Godspell, Pippin, The Prince of Egypt, The Hunchback of Notre Dame) including The Wizard and I, Popular and Defying Gravity, the production is the 12th longest-running show in West End history, recently celebrating sixteen years at the Apollo Victoria Theatre.

97 Oxford St, Manchester M1 6FT
Wolf McFarlane
Published on:
Wed 12 Jul 2023