A green witch, the Fonz, musical miners, poignant soldiers and a dishwashing David Essex are just some of the theatrical highlights of 2014.

Midland audiences have much to look forward to, as acclaimed musicals and plays are staged in theatres across the region.

We can look forward to premieres from Alan Ayckbourn and Matthew Bourne, a host of dramas to mark the centenary of the First World War, and the Midlands’ first look at West End hits.

Buy your tickets now for the National Theatre production of One Man, Two Guvnors, as it was a sell-out when it played the Alexandra Theatre on its last visit to Birmingham. Now it’s at the Hippodrome for a week in May.

The West End hit Singin’ In the Rain arrives at the Hippodrome in March, as does Fiddler on the Roof starring Starsky and Hutch’s Paul Michael Glaser.

April sees Evita with Marti Pellow plus the new musical Happy Days, with Ben Freeman as the Fonz plus Heidi Range and Cheryl Baker. That also plays Wolverhampton in June.

There are one-off comedy nights at the Hippodrome in April with Russell Brand’s Messiah Complex and the Radio 4 show I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, with Jack Dee, Barry Cryer and Graeme Garden.

Also returning to the Hippodrome next autumn are old favourites Cats and Blood Brothers, which also plays Malvern’s Festival Theatre and Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre.

Wicked is the big summer show at the Hippodrome, a magical and witty re-imagining of the characters in The Wizard of Oz, featuring stunning costumes and show-stopping songs. Plus a green-skinned witch.

Then in November, Wagner’s epic Ring Cycle is conducted by Valery Gergiev with his Mariinsky Opera.

Denise Van Outen brings her new musical Some Girl I Used To Know to Birmingham’s New Alexandra Theatre in February followed by the Grand in Wolverhampton.

Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre comes to the Warwick Arts Centre with three Alan Ayckbourn plays in February – the world premiere of Farcicals, as well as the new (and 77th) play Arrivals and Departures and the revived classic Time of My Life. Ayckbourn himself will talk about his life and work in an event on February 11.

Time of My Life by Alan Ayckbourn
Time of My Life by Alan Ayckbourn
 

Ayckbourn fans can also enjoy a Birmingham Rep production of Woman In Mind, about a woman slowly unravelling, in June.

The year starts at Birmingham Rep with a 20th anniversary production of The Snowman, followed by a new play about the zen of dishwashing. David Essex plays a man who’s been happily scrubbing away in a restaurant kitchen for 30 years in The Dishwashers.

Frozen is a powerful, award-winning play about a missing child which was first performed at the Rep in 1998. In February it returns to its home theatre for a new production.

The Rep joins together with several other theatre companies to produce Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s Threepenny Opera. Staged in March and April, it features the rogueish Macheath and songs including Mack the Knife.

The tour of the classic whodunnit Dial M For Murder, starring Christopher Timothy, includes the Rep in May.

There are several productions dealing with war in 2014, to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

Birdsong, the stage show based on Sebastian Faulks’ bestselling novel, arrives at the Rep in March.

Then in May comes Private Peaceful by War Horse author Michael Morpurgo. It relives the life of Private Tommo Peaceful, a young First World War soldier awaiting the firing squad at dawn.

That is followed immediately by the first ever UK production of Joseph Heller’s dramatisation of his novel Catch-22, set in the closing months of the Second World War.

The Two Worlds of Charlie F is a thought-provoking piece about the effects of conflict and injury. The darkly comic and moving tale follows a soldier who lost a limb fighting in Afghanistan and is performed by serving and veteran soldiers. It plays Wolverhampton’s Grand Theatre in March followed by Malvern Festival Theatre.

Sam Attwater and Helena Blackwater star in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at Birmingham’s New Alexandra Theatre in February and Wolverhampton’s Grand in April, a theatre which also plays host to Dirty Dancing in September.

Among the highlights at the New Alexandra Theatre are Let It Be, the hit West End show celebrating the Beatles which arrives in March, plus West Side Story and 20th Century Boy, a new musical about the life of T-Rex singer Marc Bolan, both in April.

A new production of Ben Johnson’s The Alchemist comes to the Belgrade in February, while the laughs continue with The Comedy of Errors and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Alistair McGowan, Rula Lenska and Jamie Foreman star in a centenary year production of Shaw’s masterpiece Pygmalion. It arrives at the Belgrade and Malvern in May.

It’s the 30th anniversary of the miners’ strike, so a fitting time for the play Brassed Off to go on tour. Featuring rousing live music, it’s a heartwarming drama about a miners’ brass band and their fight for survival, which plays the Belgrade and the Grand in April.

 

Matthew Bourne returns to the Hippodrome in February with his powerful, modern and all-male interpretation of the ballet Swan Lake.

And he’s back in May with the new production Lord of the Flies, using young Midland talent.

It’s part of the International Dance Festival Birmingham, one of Europe’s biggest dance events. It happens every two years and returns for the fourth time in April.

For four weeks the theatres, streets and squares of Birmingham and beyond will be bursting with performers from all about the world including Egypt, Lebanon, South Africa, Canada and Switzerland. There will even be the chance to learn how to perform the traditional Maori war dance of the Haka, thanks to New Zealand choreographer Corey Baker.

Also as part of Birmingham’s rich dance scene, Birmingham Royal Ballet presents David Bintley’s new production of The Prince of the Pagodas in February, complete with spectacular costumes from War Horse designer Rae Smith.

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s summer season includes Antony Sher in the historical drama Henry IV Parts I and II, plus The Two Gentlemen of Verona.

The White Devil is a Jacobean tragedy, while The Roaring Girl, last performed by the RSC in 1983 with Helen Mirren, returns to the Swan Theatre.

An Audience With Doreen is really taking off. A YouTube sketch which went viral first introduced us to self-confessed ‘lazy cow’ Doreen, who lives off benefits and shoplifting in the Black Country.

Her play has completed a sell-out tour of the Black Country and Birmingham and next year spreads its wings even further, playing venues like Lichfield’s Garrick Theatre and the Swan Theatre in Worcester.

Finally, before this panto season is over, you can already buy tickets for next year’s. The Hippodrome is staging Jack and the Beanstalk while the Grand in Wolverhampton has Cinderella and the Belgrade has Aladdin.

Oh yes they do!