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Iconic theatre reopens

Welcome back to the theatre, Sydney

The Theatre Royal is throwing open its doors in December, once again welcoming patrons back after a gorgeous refurbishment.

The finishing touches are being put on the Theatre Royal. Photo: David Boon
The finishing touches are being put on the Theatre Royal. Photo: David Boon

The Theatre Royal has been an icon of Sydney since 1976, but really, it dates back to 1833. The most recent version of the theatre was designed by Harry Seidler and hosted a mix of entertainment including drama, musicals and comedies including The King and I, Cats, Les Misérables and The Phantom of the Opera.

When the MLC Centre closed for development there was outrage, not just from the arts community but from theatregoers who loved the smaller, more intimate feeling of the Theatre Royal.

“It was home in the ’80s and ’90s to the first wave of big blockbuster musicals that came to Australia,” Theatre Royal CEO Torben Brookman told The AJN.

“And from then onwards, it remained a really important place in the arts ecology of Sydney. When it closed, the loss was really felt very strongly across the theatrical landscape.”

Now, the Theatre Royal is ready to open its doors again, welcoming patrons back with open arms. It’s especially poignant that the opening is happening as the city emerges from lockdown.

Described by Brookman as the perfect Broadway house, the new Theatre Royal pays tribute to the original Seidler architecture, especially its iconic concrete drum.

Theatre Royal CEO Torben Brookman in the bright new foyer. Photo: Pierre Toussain

“The intention around reopening was really to restore it to some of the original glory that Seidler created when he first envisaged the theatre, which over the past 14 years, much of that has been covered up or removed,” Brookman explained.

“It’s reinstating some of the original features, but at the same time, doing so in a contemporary, modern, sophisticated way.”

For Seidler, the curves and shapes added to the drama that was the Theatre Royal, and many would fondly remember the circular entrance that was unique to the theatre. Now, the concrete has been replaced by glass, bringing beautiful natural light into the foyer and down into the level below.

The Theatre Royal plays a major role in the Sydney theatrical space, especially when you consider that without it, there are only two other commercial theatres, both of which seat around 2000 people, compared to the more intimate setting of the Theatre Royal at around 1200 seats.

“The Theatre Royal is now basically booked until the second half of 2023,” said Brookman. “It has been such a challenging 18 months for the live entertainment industry. It’s a very resilient community who are desperately keen to get back to work and entertain audiences. Whether it’s the Theatre Royal or any other theatre in Sydney, please come back and support the live entertainment sector.”

The Theatre Royal opens with Jagged Little Pill on December 2, followed next year by Girl from the North Country and An American in Paris. Bookings: theatreroyalsydney.com

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