AS a sixth-former in Bolton he produced the school play — now Neil Eckersley is bringing the sell-out hit musical Wonderland to the UK.

The Bolton School old boy who grew up in Kearsley, is producing the Broadway hit musical — which sold out in Florida, Texas and Tokoyo — to these shores.

The award-winning producer said: “I’m really pleased to be producing the UK and European première of Wonderland.

"It’s a wonderful show with a huge heart and fantastic songs.

“We’ve been working on the British production for the past 18 months and are delighted that the first half of the tour is now on sale.

“We're looking forward to playing to audiences around the country next year.

“In particular, Manchester will always be a special audience for me. I saw my first ever musical at the Palace Theatre in 1994 — the touring production of the West End hit, Me and My Girl — and so it’s always a joy to do a show there.

“I’ve visited theatres all over the country and all over the world and the Palace Theatre in Manchester is by far one of the best.

“Wonderland is a brand new production of a show that has never been performed in the UK.

“I’m incredibly pleased to be able to share it with British audiences."

While developing the show for the UK, he saw it in Tokyo, entirely in Japanese.

He said: "The audience loved it and gave it a standing ovation, which just goes to show what a universally popular story Alice in Wonderland is.

"There are a couple of twists on the traditional tale, but all of the familiar characters will be in the show.”

He added: “I think it’s really important to produce new high quality touring work so that audiences get to see something new and exciting as well as the regular production of Blood Brothers, Cats, Chicago and Joseph.

“Of course, persuading theatregoers to take a risk on something new is always going to be harder than selling tickets to 'Mamma Mia!' but I honestly believe that if something is good, people will support it by buying tickets.

“Wonderland is good. People are buying tickets.

“It’s a magical journey and one that we can’t wait to share."

The production opens in Edinburgh in January and comes to Manchester in April where a Sunday matinee performance has been added due to popular.

Mr Eckersley and the team at Neil Eckersley Productions Ltd are also bringing Broadway legend Bernadette Peters, to the UK concerts for the first time in over 15 years.

She will play at The Opera House in Manchester.

Mr Eckersley described the performance as a "once in-a-lifetime opportunity" as it is rare for such artists to play outside of London.

He said: “If you enjoy musical theatre, you’ll want to be there.”

Mr Eckersley said that his school days played a crucial part in what he is doing now.

He said: “Bolton School was such a large part of my life. I can safely say that I would not be doing what I do for a living if it wasn’t for the vibrant arts scene at the school and the encouragement that I was given to get involved in drama and music and a whole host of things beyond our timetabled lessons.

"I produced my first ever production at school when I was in the sixth form — a production of Our Day Out by Willy Russell.

"I’d been involved in lots of shows directed by the teaching staff and wanted to do something different. I asked the Head of English, who had a word with the Headmaster, who possibly had a word with himself and thought I was slightly nuts.

"For some reason, they agreed, it happened and I learned some of the best lessons whilst producing that show which still come in useful to this day. I also met my best friend working on that show, so I have a lot to thank it for really.”

Mr Eckersley said that at Bolton School drama and music were a part of daily life along with sports, which 'keeps me sane after a slightly stressful day in the office'.

He said: “The only person who perhaps did get a little annoyed with it at times was my A-level biology teacher when I didn’t have time to revise for my mock exam.

"I revised for the real thing though. People often say to me, 'If you weren’t a theatre producer, what would you be?' Most likely a biochemist. Or a novelist. Or a publicist, which I used to be before I moved into producing.

"All of which Bolton School gave me the foundation to achieve.

"I have my parents to thank for finding a way to send me there — which wasn’t easy.

"After one of my primary school teachers Mrs Greenhalgh said that she thought I’d enjoy it. I went to the open day and the rest, as they say, is history.”

Broadway star Bernadette Peters is at the Opera House on Sunday June 5, 2016.

Wonderland is at the Palace Theatre from Monday April 24 to Sunday April 30, 2017.