Blackpool Grand theatre is an important National institution. It is a Grade 11 listed building with seating for 1100 people in a four tiered auditorium and was designed in 1894 by Frank Matcham who is generally recognized as the finest theatrical architect of his generation. It cost £20,000 to build and was completed in nine months. From its opening Thomas Sergenson the theatrical manager referred to the building as ‘Matcham’s Masterpiece’. The theatre has a dressed brick and stone exterior with a corner entrance in baroque style with an elaborate fishscaled copper covered dome over the attic roof, which is topped by a lantern structure. Inside it has glorious curving baroque balconies.
The Grand has hosted numerous great performances over the years, ranging from the classics of English literature such as Hamlet with Herbert Beerbohm Tree, American musicals, and British comedies. For forty years West End producers chose it as the stage for British premier performances of their musicals and plays. Many great stars have performed there. From 1940, summer holiday season shows were held at the theatre and in the following two decades farces were presented there with comedians such as Arthur Askey , Hilda Baker and Jack Douglas.
Blackpool Grand Theatre was faced with closure at one point in its history. The increasing popularity of television during the 1960’s meant that fewer people were going to theatres in the UK and there was also a dearth of quality shows. The Grand began to close during the winter from 1963 onwards, and in 1972 the Tower Company who owned the building at that time applied to demolish the theatre and replace it with a department store. But because the Grand was a Grade 11 listed building there was a public enquiry in which these plans were successfully opposed. For three years however it was used as a bingo hall. After major refurbishment The Grand reopened as a theatre again in March 1981 and presented the Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare. Later that year it staged a Royal Variety performance attended by Prince Charles, Prince of Wales. In 2006 equity recognized the significance of the building by naming it National Theatre of Variety for the UK.
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