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Curve Leicester to stage The Color Purple, Sunset Boulevard and Memoirs of an Asian Football Casual in socially distanced season

Three shows will run in the venue's upcoming winter season, featuring a reconfigured auditorium

The Curve in Leicester
© Ellie Kurttz

Exclusive: Curve Leicester has unveiled a socially distanced season of shows commencing next month, featuring revivals of The Color Purple, Sunset Boulevard and Memoirs of an Asian Football Casual.

The season will see the venue radically transform its auditorium, combining its main stage and studio spaces to form one major in-the-round configuration capable of housing 553 socially distanced attendees. In addition, Cameron Mackintosh has donated a triple-revolve which will be utilised across the season to cater for the new venue lay-out.

Curve Leicester's chief executive Chris Stafford told WhatsOnStage: "We get to play with the space in a way we've never done before. An epic, almost arena that can make sure we adhere safely to social distancing restrictions."

The season will officially launch on 12 November with an exclusive event which will be live-streamed from the theatre, followed by a family and community day on the 14 November to celebrate all things Leicester in a socially distanced fashion.

From 23 November to 5 December, Tinuke Craig will once more direct a specially adapted concert version of The Color Purple, alongside musical director Alex Parker and choreographer Mark Smith. The trio previously oversaw the WhatsOnStage Award-winning production of Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, Stephen Bray and Marsha Norman's piece which ran at Curve and Birmingham Hippodrome last summer.

While billed as a concert production, Stafford has told WhatsOnStage that audiences should expect a show that is "fully rehearsed, fully executed and making maximum use of that revolve". T'Shan Williams and Danielle Fiamanya will return to the production in the roles of Celie and Nettie respectively, in the hit stage adaptation of Alice Walker's seminal novel.

Stafford added: "For us at Curve, it felt like there was more life that we wanted to give the show. Obviously in-the-round it won't be the same as what we did last time...but it feels really fitting to re-open with the musical that, just before lockdown, had won a WhatsOnStage Award".

Tinuke Craig, T'Shan Williams and Danielle Fiamanya at the 2020 WhatsOnStage Awards – the trio will return to The Color Purple next month with cast to be announced
© Dan Wooller for WhatsOnStage

Following on from this, Ria Jones and Danny Mac will once more take on the roles of Norma Desmond and Joe Gillis in a three-week concert revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black's musical Sunset Boulevard. The show previously won a WhatsOnStage Award for Best Regional Production, and is directed by the venue's artistic director Nikolai Foster.

Playing from 14 December to 3 January, the full cast is to be revealed, though the show will feature a 16-piece orchestra. Again Stafford told WhatsOnStage that attendees should not expect a static concert – "with these shows, we say concert, but it isn't script-in-hand, there will be costumes and it will be spectacular...We wanted to make sure we honour the scale of the music with this orchestra".

The orchestra will be housed in one of the rehearsal spaces, then fed live down into the auditorium.

Ria Jones as Norma Desmond
© Manuel Harlan

Thirdly, Foster will once more present his award-winning production of Memoirs of an Asian Football Casual. Following the life of former football hooligan Riaz Khan, the new in-the-round configuration at Curve Leicester will "bring a stadium feel" – with Stafford telling WhatsOnStage "We never felt that we saw the show for long enough" when it first ran in 2018. The show now plays from 25 January to 6 February 2021. Full casts and creative teams for the three shows are to be revealed in due course.

Safety measures will be implemented across the venue to help mitigate risks, such as one-way systems, hand sanitizer stations, apps for hospitality and temperature checks.

The productions are made possible thanks to support from both Leicester City Council and Arts Council England, as well as music licensing company PPL PRS Ltd. According to Stafford, PPL PRS will help provide free tickets for those in the Leicester community to help them see the socially distanced productions.

The season got the green light after the venue received a grant from the Cultural Recovery Fund earlier this week, which, according to Stafford, isn't there to make sure the productions break-even, but will allow the venue to bring staff back from next month, alongside hundreds of freelancers.

He notes that "Leicester has been in over 100 days of extended lockdown. It's interesting that now it's affecting the whole country it's on the front pages. But we've been living this since June... so it's a fantastic way to bring people back into the city safely."

The theatre will re-launch its Curve young company and artists programmes from next month as well.

Tickets go on sale to the venue's Friends from tomorrow, Supporters from Friday, Members from Monday 19 October with a general on-sale from 21 October.

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