the fight to own Sydney’s theatrical scene


“It was the theater of theaters,” she recalls. “I left home, I left my family, it was my first show, eight shows a week. It was a great show to start with because it was very athletic and it required you to really stay at your best. I learned professionalism on this stage. In Cats people used to tear a tendon and go on. When you work in these great theaters you feel the majesty, you feel a part of the theater community. “

Actor and TV presenter David Campbell came to his first big opening night at the Theater Royal. “It was so chic, a real big theater,” he recalls.

The bronze sculpture of Charles Perry and the ceiling designed by the Italian consultant architect Professor Pier Luigi Nervi, the original design of Harry Seidler, have been restored.Credit:James brickwood

He later played Marius in Beck’s Fantine in the 10th anniversary production of Wretched in 1997, for which he was widely acclaimed.

Campbell, who will soon star in an Australian adaptation of the classic Alfred Hitchcock film, from north to north-west, attributes to the role of Marius the beginning of his career in musical theater.

“If the government and the city had not saved [the Theatre Royal] that, I think it would have been a real tragedy.

A theater has existed on the site of the Theater Royal almost continuously since 1872. When the old theater was demolished in 1971, a public campaign pushed for it to be rebuilt and incorporated into the MLC Center designed by Harry Seidler.

In 2018, Arts Minister Don Harwin stepped in to secure his future when it looked like he had been turned into a food court.

The government leased the building to Dexus for 55 years, with an initial capital contribution and annual rent. He then sublet the venue to Trafalgar Entertainment Asia-Pacific from Panter for a contribution to exterior renovations, rent, and a ticketing bonus. The contract contains penal clauses.

Sir Howard said government pressure to develop a theater district in Sydney’s central business district was “viable”, especially as the city emerged from lockdown.

“One of the things I’ll do when I’m there is talk to various people, check out various sites, see what the practicalities are and hope that without the dreaded COVID-19, we will be able to cope with some of the diets. We are extremely enthusiastic, optimistic.


“You look at Toronto – there are 14 theaters, depending on how you count it, it’s about the same size, slightly smaller now than Sydney, but it doesn’t have the potential to grow. And you think, “Why isn’t Sydney up there?” “”

A new 1,550-seat theater was a “necessary and ideal addition to the Sydney and New South Wales theatrical scene”.

“But I also think that something around 900 to 1000 seats, to do plays as well as mid-range musicals, is fine,” Sir Howard said. “I also know from my work on Broadway and London that actually 1,250 seats, if they’re all good seats, is about the ideal number.”

Sir Howard’s confidence in the strength of Sydney’s theatrical scene comes as Foundation Theaters offers Broadway-style theater and a multi-purpose Live Room by 2023 at the Star Casino.

“The competition is great, the competition has made London and Broadway thrive,” says Sir Howard. “If the [Foundation] proposal is put forward, I will be the first to send them a magnum of champagne at the opening.

At the Royal Theater, floor-to-ceiling windows have been installed to bring light into the original ‘drum’ entrance.

In the foyer, the bronze sculpture of Charles Perry and a ceiling designed by the Italian consultant architect, Professor Pier Luigi Nervi, who originally designed Harry Seidler, have been restored.

Downstairs, the auditorium was dressed in red and gold velvet like the cast of Small jagged pill say again. Shredded will be followed by Girl from the north of the country, with music by Bob Dylan, and An American in Paris. All are imported shows.


The contract between the government and Trafalgar does not specify the staging of Australian productions, its performance indicators ensuring profitable theatrical operations.

Sir Howard has said a few Australian productions are “on the way” but have been delayed by complications from COVID-19, and he has scheduled meetings with various creators in the coming weeks.

“Sydney’s time has come and I hope the Royal is the new wave of banner for this time.”

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