There have been many highlights over 2017/8. Here are just a few. 

City Hall Booming

Since we took over the management of Newcastle City Hall in April 2016 after it was threatened with closure, the venue has gone from strength to strength.  Over the past year, the iconic concert Hall in the heart of Newcastle’s Haymarket district has presented 83 public performances and 14 private events.  Particular highlights have included London Grammar, Bananarama, Robert Plant and Status Quo as well as comedy greats such as Jason Manford, Bill Bailey and Milton Jones. These have been attended by a staggering 80,000 people at an impressive 68% capacity. 

Our aim over the past year has been to continue building a top-class entertainment programme and to restore the Hall to its pride of place in the city. Central to this has been a major million pound refurbishment to renovate the existing infrastructure and dramatically improve the customer experience. More dressing rooms have been created to provide better accommodation for the artistes and we have completely redeveloped the basement, modernising and expanding the bar and more than doubling the provision of ladies toilets. The number of wheelchair spaces in the auditorium has been doubled. Plus, thanks to a generous donation from the Catherine Cookson Trust, the Hall now has a state of the art sound and lighting rig.

Recent customer feedback: “I just wanted to say how pleased I was to visit the City Hall last night and see the investment in the bar area and WCs. The other thing I particularly enjoyed was being able to take drinks into the auditorium, something long overdue. Well done on both counts!”


The Big Shows

This year our world-class entertainment programme has included the global premiere of Mel Brooks’ comedy musical Young Frankenstein in Autumn’17, in which the classic movie was brought to life in an all singing, all dancing musical collaboration with Broadway director Susan Stroman.  Co-produced by our very own Michael Harrison, the pre-West End season featured an all-star cast and was seen by a staggering 14,000 people over ten days.  Hot on its heels in November came another big hitter in the form of Beautiful – The Carole King Musical the Olivier award-winning West End show which was seen by nearly 9,000 people in only one week and brought £350,000 in Box Office revenue.  Mamma Mia! in April did similarly astounding business and filled two weeks of shows at an incredible 93.3% capacity.
Other notable shows have included the heart-warming Willy Russell comedy Shirley Valentine which ran in October and achieved £70k over its expected target, and the legendary Rambert who returned in February with probably their most popular work – Ghost Dances attracting a record audience and doubling anticipated Box Office income.   
In May, Matthew Bourne’s eagerly-awaited The Red Shoes dazzled audiences with its intoxicating drama, and star of stage and screen Sheridan Smith led the cast in the sell-out hit West End production Funny Girl. In the same month came a first for the Theatre Royal stage - a multi-media gig by the Mercury-nominated mavericks of British folk music The Unthanks. Equally innovative was the National Theatre’s critically acclaimed Jane Eyre in July - a bold re-imagining of Charlotte Bronte’s masterpiece. In June Alexandra Burke shone as Deloris Van Cartier in the critically acclaimed musical Sister Act which drew an audience of nearly 9,000 in a single week.
The City Hall boasted an equally impressive line-up studded with sell-out artistes including a spectacular set from the girl group that defined the 80s Bananarama in November, touring for the first time ever with the full original band, and in December iconic rockers Status Quo presented their ‘PLUGGED IN – Live and Rockin!’ tour. The legendary Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant sold out his incredible Carry Fire set in November, and masters of synthpop Erasure played to a packed house in February.  Other notable gigs included Bryan Ferry, London Grammar and Eric Burdon and comedians Joel Dommett, Jason Manford, Bill Bailey and Dara O’Brien to name but a few.


Our Pantomime Spectacular Continues to go from Strength to Strength!

Starring Newcastle Theatre Royal panto legends Danny Adams, Clive Webb and Chris Hayward, the high-flying adventure Peter Pan notched up record sales breaking through the £1million sales barrier whilst the previous year’s panto – Cinderella – was still on stage before going on to smash through £2million worth of sales for the first time making it our best-selling panto ever.

But it wasn’t just those that visited the theatre that got to enjoy all the fun and swashbuckling action; the cast filmed a special performance which was transmitted for free to bedside Hospedia screens in 180 NHS hospitals across the UK and Northern Ireland so children spending time in hospital over the festive season didn’t have to miss out. Launched four years ago, the screenings are the brainchild of local entrepreneur and Theatre Royal Trustee, Howard Tait (chief executive of Newcastle communications agency Martin Tait Redheads). The project is a unique collaboration between the NHS, Newcastle Theatre Royal and Hospedia – the national hospital broadcast network. Cast members also brought some cheer when they paid their annual visits to the Great North Children’s Hospital and Children’s Heart Unit at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital.

Audience favourite Danny triumphed at the Great British Pantomime Awards scooping Best Comic at a glittering ceremony which also saw our panto producers Qdos win a clutch of awards for their production of Dick Whittington at the London Palladium to follow up its success at the Olivier Awards where it was the winner in the Best Family & Entertainment category.

Congratulations to all!
Most Welcoming Theatre 2017

In September, the Theatre Royal beat off stiff local competition once again to win the UK Theatre Awards’ title of ‘North East’s Most Welcoming Theatre’. It was also shortlisted for ‘Most Welcoming Theatre in the UK’. The only national awards to honour achievement in regional theatre, and based solely upon public votes, UKTA brought together audiences, theatres, performers and producers to give everyone the opportunity to celebrate their local venue. This is third consecutive year Theatre Royal has won the coveted regional title.