One of Manchester’s greatest theatres: The Palace Theatre, was originally known as the Manchester Palace of Varieties and opened in 1891. Designed by the architect Alfred Darbyshire, it had an initial capacity of 3,675. However, over the years the seating size has been reduced to accommodate an extended stage and dressing room facilities.
Following its opening on 18 May 1891, The Palace focused on classical works – a spectacular ballet of Cleopatra was the first production to grace the stage. However, the theatre soon found its niche in inviting more popular performers to its stage. Judy Garland, Gracie Fields, Noël Coward and Laurel and Hardy were among the names who played The Palace from the 1930s onwards.
Steeped in history, The Palace took a direct hit from a German bomb during the Manchester Blitz in 1940. Presenting an Italian Renaissance architectural style, the original features – including the impressive façade and round-arch windows – managed to survive. The building then underwent a full refurbishment in the late 1970s and reopened in 1981 with Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar.
Many touring productions have opened at The Palace, including the hit Broadway and West End musical, The Producers in 2007 starring Peter Kay. Other notable regional premieres have included Les Miserables, Miss Saigon, Mamma Mia! and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Paying homage to its classical roots, the theatre staged the world première of Rufus Wainwright’s opera Prima Donna, in association with Opera North, during the Manchester International Festival of 2009.
With a particular focus on touring productions, musicals, opera and ballet, The Palace Theatre remains one of Manchester‘s major venues and is one of the best-equipped and popular theatres outside London.