Northampton’s Royal and Derngate reopened last night (24 October 2006) - following an 18-month, £14 million redevelopment – with a revival of Stephen Sondheim’s 1971 Broadway musical Follies, which also marks the first production under new artistic director Laurie Sansom (See News, 13 Jan 2006).

Follies - which has a book by James Goldman, music and lyrics by Sondheim - is set in the once lavish, but now crumbling, Weissman Theatre, where memories from the stage's glorious past return when the showgirls from decades ago reunite to reminisce, just one last time. The score features several now classic numbers including "Broadway Baby", "I'm Still Here" and "Losing My Mind".

At Northampton’s complex, with its adjacent theatres, the Royal has been restored to its Victorian glory, and a new creative centre for young people, the Underground, has been added to the modern Derngate next door. Both have had air-conditioning installed. In the redesigned foyer, there’s also a new café bar.

The Royal and Derngate will be officially reopened on 11-12 November 2006, with a weekend of free activities including live bands, DJs, stand-up comedy, performance poetry and break-dancing, as well as children’s events, talks and backstage tours.

Follies (previews from 20 October) runs at the Royal until 18 November 2006. Sansom’s production performed by a 30-strong cast of professionals and locals amateurs. The Royal’s in-house season continues with children’s Christmas show Pinocchio (5 December 2006 to 13 January 2007), directed by Lu Kemp; and in the New Year, the thematically linked Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (26 January to 17 February 2007) and Sarah Woods’ new play Soap (2 to 24 March 2007), both directed by Sansom and performed by the same company of actors.

The Christmas pantomime in the Derngate will be Dick Whittington, starring comedian Julian Clary as the Spirit of the Bells. It runs from 8 December 2006 to 14 January 2007.

- by Terri Paddock