There have been many highlights over 2016/17. Here are just a few. 
 

The City Hall

On 1 April 2016 we took over the management of another of the city’s historic and much-loved entertainment venues, Newcastle City Hall, after region-wide austerity cuts saw it threatened with closure. The City Hall was opened in 1927 and became Newcastle’s first dedicated concert hall.  For almost 40 years it was primarily an orchestral venue but in the 60′s began playing host to ‘package tours’ featuring The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, as well as Newcastle’s own Animals. The City Hall has continued to host almost every rock and pop ‘great’ since then and maintained its position as one of the best and most used 2000 seat venues in the country and one of many artists’ favourite gigs.  It also has a tremendous reputation for comedy and has seen multiple sell-out shows by the likes of Billy Connolly, Little Britain, Jimmy Carr, Al Murray and many more.
 
Under the management of Newcastle Theatre Royal Trust, the City Hall will continue to put on a wide and wonderful array of top shows.  Our aim is to build the programme and audiences and restore the Hall to its pride of place in the city.  To date the integration has been a success, and both venues are trading well and ahead of budget.  Newcastle City Hall presented 72 performances this year and audiences topped 115,000. 
 
What’s more, after a long period of neglect, the infrastructure of the City Hall is in dire need of updating and significant improvements are scheduled.  We are carrying out a full evaluation of the work needed to ensure the facilities continue to attract the performers and audiences that have been the hall-mark of the past and the venue will have received nearly a million pounds in investment by September 2017.  Improvements include more dressing rooms, a complete redevelopment of the basement and bar, more ladies toilets and wheelchair spaces, better facilities for disabled people and a state of the art sound and lighting rig. 
 
There is considerably more to come and we are currently looking at the feasibility of a major fundraising campaign for a multi-million pound refurbishment of the venue. Such investment is likely to be in the range of £3 to £4 million with a time scale of three years or more.


 

The Big Hits

Disney and Cameron Mackintosh’s star-studded and multi award-winning musical Mary Poppins had a spectacular run at the Theatre Royal between 9 Sep and 29 Oct 2016.  Marking the return of Mackintosh to the Theatre Royal after the success of Barnum and Oliver!, the show told the magical story of the world’s favourite Nanny in truly triumphant fashion with dazzling choreography, incredible effects and unforgettable songs. It was seen by nearly 70,000 people and brought nearly £3million to the Box Office. 

Other notable productions included Rona Munro’s The James Plays which visited the first weekend in May, and offered the unique prospect of on-stage seating. An exhilarating trio of plays, the productions brought to life three generations of Stewart kings who ruled Scotland from 1406 -1488. A complex and compelling narrative on Scottish culture and nationhood, the show was very well received by Theatre Royal audiences and critics alike. The Scottish connection was further reinforced with Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour, National Theatre of Scotland and Live Theatre’s raucous hit show penned by Lee Hall, which visited in July.  The show, which was already critically acclaimed, later went on to win ‘Best New Comedy’ at the 2017 Olivier Awards.   
 
Following their sell-out appearances in Waiting for Godot in 2009, Hollywood heavyweights and masters of British theatre Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Patrick Stewart returned in August to star in Sean Mathias’ acclaimed production of No Man’s Land.  A Box Office sell out, a momentous 10,000 people saw the show over a six day run.

A special locally-made production Hadaway Harry visited in February and received a very warm welcome. Written by North East playwright Ed Waugh, the show was a funny and poignant tribute to the life and times of Harry Clasper, one of the greatest ever North East sportsmen.

Of further note was December’s Wor Stories, a production created by members of Newcastle’s Armed Forces community.  The culmination of a 13 week theatre project run by The Royal British Legion's Recovery Through The Arts programme ‘Bravo 22’, Wor Stories was based on the real life experiences of the 30 men and women who took part, and was delivered in partnership with Newcastle Theatre Royal and The Drive Project. 
 

Alfie Lowes snaps up one millionth ticket for pantomime starring Danny Adams and Clive Webb

Fairy tale dreams came true for one lucky theatre fan who scooped a show stopping prize after being revealed as the holder of the one millionth ticket for the hugely popular Theatre Royal pantomime. 

Panto favourite Danny Adams revealed that delighted six year old Alfie Lowes from Rowlands Gill was to receive a lifetime ticket for the much-loved Theatre Royal pantomime - he and a guest will be able to come along and enjoy the spectacular festive event each and every year.

Alfie won the prize having sat in the lucky millionth ticket seat for a panto starring the duo - who first came to the Theatre Royal in 2004 - after his mum Jane snapped up tickets to come and see Cinderella.  She said:  “Alfie has been coming to see the pantomime every year since he was 3 years old – he absolutely loves everything about the theatre and has always wanted to get up on the stage.  We decided to book tickets to see Cinderella as a treat so for Alfie to be named as the millionth ticket holder made it extra special.”
 
Chief Executive Philip Bernays said:  “Danny and Clive have been pulling the crowds in for our tremendous pantomime for the last 12 years and are real favourites with the audience.  To hit the landmark of selling our one millionth pantomime ticket since they began is a fantastic achievement and we are looking forward to welcoming Alfie to come and enjoy all the fun of our festive spectacular with us for many more years to come.”


 

Most Welcoming Theatre 2016

Staff at Newcastle Theatre Royal celebrated after being named as the North East’s Most Welcoming Theatre for the second year in succession.
 
Over 241 theatres of all sizes from across the UK entered the award, which is voted for entirely by the public with Newcastle Theatre Royal joining 11 other regional venues at the national finals where the overall winner – The Mill at Sonning - was announced.
 
Philip Bernays, chief executive said:  “To be named the UK’s Most Welcoming Theatre last year was a fantastic achievement and whilst we narrowly missed out on repeating that success we are delighted to have been recognised yet again as the North East regional winner.
 
“Each and every member of our team has continued to work hard with passion and enthusiasm and they always aim to go the extra mile.  To have our efforts recognised by the public - from customers to visiting productions, crew to technical support – who have taken the time to vote for us as the North East winner makes this success even more special.
 
“The word ‘Welcome’ is fundamental to us; our aim is to always not just live up to but exceed the expectation that this creates and we strive to ensure all who come to our theatre receive the warmest welcome possible.”