The Palace Theatre in Westcliff has a new touring production from the innovative Middle Ground Theatre Company to launch its early spring season. Starring Kelly McGillis and Rolf Saxon, Frankie & Johnny in the Clair-de-Lune is set in 1960s New York. Terence McNally’s romantic comedy has also been filmed with Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer; the two leading actors for this staging directed by Michael Lunney are also well-known to film audiences. You can see it from 25 to 29 January – that’s a Monday to Friday run, by the way.

A Bruce James Production presentation follows between 4 and 6 February. It’s a revival of Robin Hawdon’s The Mating Game with Damian Williams leading the farcical goings-on in the story of chat-show host Draycott Harris in pursuit of true love. There’s a new production based on the Dad’s Army television scripts by Jimmy Perry and David Croft as Leslie Grantham and Timothy Kightley take the stage for Dad’s Army Marches On from 15 to 20 March.

Peter Egan and Philip Franks play Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson in Jeremy Paul’s variation on the Conan Doyle stories The Secret of Sherlock Holmes. This is an Ian Fricker co-production with Colchester’s Mercury Theatre and premiers there in February; it comes to the Palace Theatre from 12 to 17 April. More thrills follow between 24 and 29 May with the Bill Kenwright tour in association with the Agatha Christie Theatre Company of Witness for the Prosecution; you may recall the film version which starred Charles Laughton and Marlene Dietrich. The Woman in Black, the Stephen Mallatratt adaptation of the Susan Hill novel, makes a chilling end to June – 28 Jun to 3 July are the dates.

The larger Southend Cliff Pavilion hosts Disney’s High School Musical 2 with Les Dennis and Liam Doyle heading the cast from 16 to 20 February. Those intrepid Women’s Institute members The Calendar Girls reach the Essex coast from 1 to 6 March with a revised cast including Gemma Atkinson[, [Judith Barker, Lynda Bellingham, Debbie Chazen, Letitia Dean and Jan Harvey. The farewell tour of Riverdance is the attraction between 22 and 27 March and another Kenwright touring production, this time of Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers, scales the Cliffs from 31 May until 5 June.