The Music Hall (Sydney theatre)

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The Music Hall Theatre Restaurant was a popular entertainment venue located in Neutral Bay, Sydney, New South Wales, which operated from 1961 to 1980. Built in 1921, the building was formerly known as the Hoyts Southern Cross cinema, and also spent a short period of time in the late 1950s operating as a skating rink.

Melbourne impresario George Miller, and his wife Lorna, opened the converted cinema at 154 Military Rd, Neutral Bay, in 1961. The stalls were replaced with dining tables and the venue had a seating capacity of 500 patrons.

In her book Longterm Memoir, actress Noeline Brown recalled that the Miller's converted the venue into:

"... a mock Victorian palace, with velvet drapes and tassels and over-decorated tables and chairs. Everyone wore Victorian costume, even the waiters and the box office staff. It was dinner with a comic take on melodrama and the audience warmed to the 'cheer the hero, hiss the villain' style of production. The format was an immediate success and quickly became a Sydney institution. The owners were closely involved in the running of the Music Hall and were present every night, warming up the audience as they dined by wandering around the theatre in frock coats or bustles and serenading the customers at their tables. George was a gifted violinist and his wife Lorna was also a talented musician."[1]

The Music Hall presented light-hearted melodramatic productions which recalled the days of Victorian music hall and vaudeville. Audience participation was a major feature, and the original poster for its debut production encouraged patrons to: "Hiss the villain, Weep with the Heroine and All join in the choruses."[2]

The Music Hall's first production, which starred Barry Creyton, was a revival of one of the many stage adaptations of the famous 19th century sensation novel East Lynne by Ellen Wood. Subsequent productions included The Face at the Window, Lady Audley's Secret (another revived Victorian melodrama) and How the West was Lost, which was written by Creyton.[3] Creyton created characters for the Music Hall's regular actors such as Sheila Kennelly, Barry Lovett, Alan Dearth, Des Rolfe, which were retained and expanded by John Faassen who wrote and directed there for many years. Peter Pinne's "The Magic of George Miller's Music Hall" covers the history of this theatre.

In 1964, expatriate British actress-singer Carol Raye was working for TV station ATN-7 in Sydney, developing a pilot show for a new TV topical satire series which became The Mavis Bramston Show, the series that elevated Raye, Creyton and Gordon Chater to national stardom in Australia. Raye was taken to see the Music Hall's current show, The Evil That Men Do which co-starred Creyton and Noeline Brown and she was so impressed with Creyton's performance that she offered him a role in the TV pilot. Soon after, Brown met the show's co-producer, Michael Plant, at a party, and she was offered the role of the eponymous Mavis, which she performed for the first six shows of the series. Creyton's hiring for the Bramston show and its immediate success necessitated his replacement in How the West was Lost.[4]

During 1963, Sydney actress Marcia Hathaway played the role of the second Mrs Carlisle in a revival of East Lynne. On Australia Day (26 January) that year, Ms Hathaway was fatally mauled by a shark while wading in shallow water at Sugarloaf Bay in Sydney's Middle Harbour.[5]

The Music Hall closed in 1980 due to fire safety issues and the building was demolished. The site is now occupied by a low-rise shop and office complex.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Noeline Brown, Longterm Memoir (Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2005, ISBN 1741146178), pp.78-79
  2. ^ Powerhouse Museum Sydney Collection Search -- 2005/25/10 Posters (3), theatre, The Music Hall Neutral Bay, paper, various makers, made and used in Australia, 1961-1974
  3. ^ P
  4. ^ Noeline Brown, Longterm Memoir (Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2005, ISBN 1741146178), pp.78-79
  5. ^ Stephen Hutcheon, "Death in Middle Harbour", The Sydney Morning Herald, 28 January 2004

Peter Pinne: "The Magic of George Miller's Music Hall" - Comprehensive fully illustrated five-part history piblished in :On Stage:, Volume 11 Number 3 - Volume 12 Number 3

External links[edit]