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Sydney's Theatre Royal Will Reopen in 2021 with a Globally Renowned Company at Its Helm

After four years of disuse, the historic Theatre Royal is making a comeback.
By Samantha Teague and Cordelia Williamson
May 07, 2020
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By Samantha Teague and Cordelia Williamson
May 07, 2020
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After closing its doors in 2016, the Theatre Royal is set to reopen from August 2021, with the NSW Government signing over a 55-year lease to global company Trafalgar Entertainment (TE).

The 1100-seat Theatre Royal is one of Australia's oldest theatres, dating back to the 1870s. But most of us will know it in its current form, reopened in the 1970s and designed by famed Australian architect Harry Seidler as a replacement for the old theatre that was demolished when the MLC Centre was built.

After four years of disuse, the NSW Government together with Dexus (owner of the MLC building) have handed over the keys to the space with hopes of encouraging more big-name musical productions to the harbour city. While Sydney nabbed the 2021 production of Hamilton, it lost Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to Melbourne, which one theatre producer put down to Sydney's "lack of a mid-to-large size venue".

Trafalgar Entertainment's 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show'.

Jointly run by famed British theatre impresarios Sir Howard Panter and Dame Rosemary Squire, TE is promising to change this with its "Sydney gets it first" approach to programming of "first-class productions". Known for producing award-winning musicals and shows, such as The King and I, The Rocky Horror Show and War House, which have performed at London's West End and Melbourne's National Theatre, the company will also transform Theatre Royal into a live-streaming content hub and home to its performing arts school Stagecoach.

In terms of physical changes, TE plans to renovate the theatre's interiors to "international standards", with the company telling the SMH these would involve "extensive renovations to the theatre's public areas, seating and amenities, as well as backstage".

The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on Australia's arts scene — with Carriageworks entering voluntary administration earlier this week — but TE's Panter and Squire hope the revival of the Theatre Royal will play a small part in helping the industry rebuild. "Like so many, our industry is enduring highly challenging circumstances as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic," the duo said in a statement. "However, looking to the future, we believe that live entertainment and the creative industries will have a crucial part to play in recovery and renewal."

The Theatre Royal is slated to reopen under Trafalgar Entertainment in August 2021.

Top image: An artist's impression of Theatre Royal.

Published on May 07, 2020 by Samantha Teague
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