The Grand Theatre, Corporation Street, Birmingham.
The Grand Theatre, Corporation Street.
The New Theatre, as it was originally intended to be called, opened on November 14th 1883. The theatre was located on Corporation Street overlooking the Old Square, very close to the present day Oasis Market.
The theatre described as the 'Drury Lane of the Midlands' was designed by W.H.Ward and built by a local firm Bradney & Co, it was the largest theatre in the city and had seating for 2,200 people. It was intended to be called the 'New' theatre, but the word 'Grand' had been added by the opening date and use of the 'New' was dropped soon afterwards. The outside of the theatre was decorated with amazing metal statues and other features in a popular French style. The interior was decorated in elegant crimson and gold fashion. It had an excellent stage and an orchestra pit which could accommodate 40 musicians and had stage curtains made of Utrecht Velvet, a type of material which Originated in Utrecht, Holland where it was made of silk. It was pressed and crimped to produce a raised effect. The curtain was a special feature of the theatre.
The Grand Theatre was owned by Andrew Melville, of the famous family which owned a number of other theatres such as the Lyceum in London. The theatre opened its first four days with a special programme comprised of 'Ici on parle Francais', 'Good as Gold' and a musical show 'At the Seaside'. Although normally a house of melodrama, the Grand frequently acted as host to J.W.Turner's Opera company, who leased the theatre for ten years from 1893.
The Grand's first pantomime in 1883, 'St George and the Dragon' starring Lottie Collins (the original singer of Ta-Ra-Ra Boom-De-Ay) played to packed houses for ten weeks and was the forerunner of many future successes.
The interior of the theatre was redesigned in 1907 at a cost of 0,000 and it reopened as a music hall with prices ranging from threepence in the gallery to two shillings, and more for a box. This would buy you a ticket to see stars of the time, such as W.C. Fields, Marie Lloyd and Vesta Tilley.
By the 1920s, the paying customers were beginning to dwindle, in part due to the economic climate, in part due to the interest in 'Talkies'. The Grand showed movies too in the late 1920s and early 1930s, with stars of the silver screen like , Lillian Gish, Greta Garbo and Charlie Chaplin. The end came in 1933 when the theatre closed on the 13th May 1933 to a variety performance by 'Wang the Magician and his Sensational Mysteries'.
The building lay empty for a while before re-opening as the Grand Casino Dance Hall. It was closed again a few years later and was finally demolished in the 1960s when the area was redeveloped.