The Liverpool Empire Theatre will welcome a royal guest to lead a celebration of 150 years of live performance later this year.
Prince Edward will be the guest of honour at a special Royal Gala performance of Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers on Thursday September 29.
The Royal Gala will commemorate the 150-year anniversary of the original theatre built on the site that now houses the Empire.
The Alexandra Theatre, as it was known, was built in 1866 and was the predecessor to the Liverpool Empire Theatre, beginning 150 years of theatrical entertainment on Lime Street.
In February 1924, the Alexandra Theatre was closed and, shortly after, demolished. It was replaced by the present Empire Theatre in 1925.
When the Alexandra Theatre was knocked down, the grand proscenium arch was rescued and incorporated into the new theatre building, becoming what is now one of the Empire’s most striking features.
Written by Willy Russell and produced by Bill Kenwright, Blood Brothers – which will run at the Empire from September 19 to October 1 – is one of the most popular shows to play the theatre.
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Apart from its impressive run of 24 years in the West End, the show has been presented in scores of other venues around the world.
The West End production won several awards including Olivier Awards for Best New Musical, Best Actor and Best Actress.
Terry Smith, chairman of the Empire Trust Board, said: “It is just a case of a whole series of things coming together – our 150-year celebration, a local writer, a local producer, a locally-based storyline. Now that we have had official confirmation of the Royal patronage we are guaranteed to have an absolutely fantastic Royal Gala.”
Buckingham Palace has confirmed that HRH Prince Edward the Earl of Wessex will attend the celebrations together with the Earl and Countess of Derby, the Lord Lieutenant of Merseyside, Dame Lorna Muirhead and the High Sheriff Mr James Davis.
It is expected that a large number of celebrities will also be attending.
Mr Smith added: “The celebration itself comes at a very happy time for the theatre with record attendances, an impressive programme of upcoming shows and all the newly-refurbished entertainment facilities like a luxury Ambassador Lounge, the new Lime Street Bistro and fabulous piano bar all proving extremely popular.”
The net proceeds of the Gala will go to a special fund managed by the Theatre Trust to support smaller dance, theatre, music and other arts groups based in Merseyside.
Tickets for the performance, from £12 (£13 online/phone), are on sale now from the venue’s box office, online at atgtickets.com/Liverpool or by calling 0844 871 3017.