New Alexandra Theatre

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New Alexandra Theatre
Lyceum Theatre
Alexandra Theatre Birmingham.jpg
Address Station Street
Birmingham
England
Coordinates 52°28′35″N 1°54′02″W / 52.476264°N 1.900683°W / 52.476264; -1.900683
Owner Ambassador Theatre Group
Capacity 1,347
Construction
Opened 27 May 1901
Years active 1901-present
Architect Owen & Ward (1900), Roland Satchwell (1935), John Madin Design Group (1967), Seymour Harris Partnership (1992)

The New Alexandra Theatre, commonly known as the Alex, is a theatre on Station Street in Birmingham, England.

Construction of the theatre commenced in 1900 and was completed in 1901. The architects were Owen & Ward[1] and the theatre was opened on 27 May 1901 as the Lyceum Theatre[2] on John Bright Street. Initially it attracted few theatre goers and it was decided to bring in a star. For ten weeks from the middle of June 1901 H. A. Saintsbury trod the boards as the theatre's leading man, playing in costume dramas.[3]

As a result of disappointingly low returns the new theatre was sold to Lester Collingwood for £4,000, who renamed it the Alexandra on 22 December 1902.[4] Collingwood was killed in a road traffic accident in 1910 and was succeeded by Leon Salberg, who died in his office at the theatre in 1938. His ghost is said to inhabit the theatre.[4] Other ghostly sightings include that by a cleaner of a woman dressed in grey in 1987.[4]

The theatre was rebuilt with a fine Art Deco auditorium in 1935 to a design by Roland Satchwell.[1] Upon Leon Salberg's death, Derek Salberg took over the running of the theatre. The Salberg family ran the theatre from 1911 to 1977.[5] Following World War II, the theatre became well patronised by the local population - in 1950 85% of season ticket holders lived within the boundaries of Birmingham.[6]

Although the main entrance was originally situated on John Bright Street, a new main entrance block was built on Suffolk Street between 1967-1969 to a design by the John Madin Design Group, with a wide bridge linking the two - from the inside, the appearance is that of a single building.[1] Satchwell's interior was refurbished in 1992 by the Seymour Harris Partnership.[1] The Alex was sold to Apollo Leisure in the 1990s. Derek Salberg's autobiography "Much Ado About Theatre" had its foreword written by Laurence Olivier. Under Leon Salberg, the Alex was famous for its pantomimes such as "Mother Goose".

The theatre currently seats 1,371 and hosts a busy programme of touring drama, West End shows and stand-up comedy.[7] It was the home of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company between 1990 and 1997.

Neville Chamberlain delivered a speech at the theatre on 13 October 1918.[8]

Dad's Army star Arthur Lowe collapsed because of a stroke in his dressing room in the theatre before a performance of Home at Seven, and later died in hospital on 15 April 1982 aged 66.

Recent history[edit]

On 7 August 1995, the then Alexandra Theatre was taken over by the multi-national organisation the Apollo Leisure Group. The new owners who ran many West End theatres brought many large scale West End productions to the Alex including Copacabana, Great Expectations, Grease and Summer Holiday starring Darren Day. A critically acclaimed production of West Side Story transferred to the West End for a successful run.

Under the ownership of Apollo Leisure, the Alex saw major investment including improvements to the stage area and front of house areas, this then enabled the theatre to stage first-rate productions including two productions from Cameron Mackintosh, Oliver! starring Gary Wilmot, and Les Misérables - the first productions to try out the new facilities.

In 1999 the Apollo Leisure Group was bought by American entertainment company SFX Entertainment for around £160 million. Under SFX management the theatre saw increased entertainment value, still welcoming West End productions such as Doctor Dolittle, and in Christmas 2000 saw the return of pantomime to the theatre, with a sell out season of Peter Pan starring Leslie Grantham and Joe Pasquale. In 2001, SFX merged with Clear Channel Entertainment, making them the largest UK theatre operator, including three West End theatres. Under the ownership of Clear Channel the theatre continued to provide and attract a range of entertainment, including musicals, comedy, plays, opera and concerts.

Comedians including Stewart Lee, Seann Walsh, Jack Dee and Micky Flanagan have all performed at the theatre in recent years.

In January 2006 the Alexandra Theatre changed management once again, to be managed by Live Nation, a company that specialised in concert promotion and large venue operations. It is now owned by the Ambassador Theatre Group, and after a minor refurbishment the group renamed the theatre the New Alexandra Theatre.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Foster, Andy (2007) [2005]. Birmingham. Pevsner Architectural Guides. Yale University Press. p. 200. ISBN 978-0-300-10731-9. 
  2. ^ "Chronology of Birmingham 1883 - 1950". Birmingham City Council. Archived from the original on 2008-03-11. Retrieved 2008-04-05. 
  3. ^ Mickie F.K. Fraser, Alexandra Theatre: the story of a popular playhouse (Cornish Brothers, 1948), pp. 2-3
  4. ^ a b c Kemp, David (1996). The Pleasures and Treasures of Britain. Dundurn Press Ltd. p. 231. ISBN 1-55002-159-1. 
  5. ^ Barker, Clive; Simon Trussler (2000). New Theatre Quarterly 62. Cambridge University Press. p. 147. ISBN 0-521-78902-8. 
  6. ^ Kinvig, R.H. (1950). Birmingham and Its Regional Setting: A Scientific Survey. British Association for the Advancement of Science. Local Executive Committee. p. 333. 
  7. ^ "The Alexandra Theatre". BBC Birmingham. Retrieved 2008-04-05. 
  8. ^ Rifkind, Simon Hirsch (1977). The Basic Equities of the Palestine Problem. Ayer Publishing. p. 23. ISBN 0-405-10279-8. 
  9. ^ http://www.alexandratheatre.org.uk/content_venue.asp?CategoryID=4004&VenueID=87

External links[edit]