Palace Theatre

Entertainment & Arts

Europe, United Kingdom, England

The Palace Theatre, Manchester, is one of the main theatres in Manchester, England. It is situated on Oxford Street, on the north-east corner of the intersection with Whitworth Street. The Palace and its 'sister' theatre the Manchester Opera House on Quay Street are operated by the same parent company, Ambassador Theatre Group. The original capacity of 3,675 has since been reduced to its current 1,955. The theatre, originally known as 'The Grand Old Lady of Oxford Street', opened on 18 May 1891, having been built at a cost of £40,500. The opening presentation, to a capacity audience, was the ballet Cleopatra; however its initial presentations failed to gain popular support and for several years it struggled to make a profit. Only when it broadened its scope to include more popular performers was it a resounding success. During the early part of the 20th century it came into its own, with artists such as Danny Kaye, Gracie Fields, Charles Laughton, Judy Garland, Noel Coward and Laurel and Hardy making appearances. In September 1940 the theatre took a direct hit from a German bomb. In the 1970s, audience numbers declined as they did in many live venues, and it was threatened with closure. The Arts Council supported it in the 1980s, and after major internal refurbishment and an enlarged stage facility, it was run by a charitable trust, Norwest Holdings. It is now one of the best equipped and popular theatres outside London. In its repertoire it hosts major touring musicals often with major celebrities and performances of opera and ballet along with various other comedy acts and one night concerts. The Palace Theatre Ticket Centre is situated to the right of the building and sells tickets for the Palace and the Opera House, plus a range of Live Nation theatres and other selected venues across the UK. Continuing a long tradition of tour openings in Manchester, the hit Broadway and West End musical the Producers opened at the theatre in February 2007 for a run until May when it continued on tour around the UK. Peter Kay starred as Roger Debris for the Manchester dates. Other notable shows to have played successful seasons at the Palace Theatre include, amongst others, the regional premiere of Les Misérables which ran for 13 months from 1992–1993, regional premiere of Miss Saigon in 2001, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in 2006 and Mamma Mia! over the 2006/2007 Christmas season. Broadway musical The Wedding Singer had its UK premiere at the theatre in 2008 and in December 2008 to March 2009 the theatre hosted a season of the UK tour of Mary Poppins, one of only 6 theatres in the country to accommodate the tour, both events further cementing the theatre's reputation as the flagship venue of the North of England. In July 2009, during the Manchester International Festival, the theatre, in association with Opera North, staged the world première of Rufus Wainwright's opera Prima Donna.