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Big names celebrate Newcastle Theatre Royal's birthday

PARTY plans are under way as the Theatre Royal announces its gala line-up ahead of next month’s big birthday bash.

Opera singer Graeme Danby

PARTY plans are under way as the Theatre Royal announces its gala line-up ahead of next month’s big birthday bash.

The theatre – whose £5m, six-month restoration combining old-style glamour with modern-day comfort was unveiled at September’s reopening – is certainly looking good as it prepares to turn 175 in February and it is celebrating with Birthday Gala night.

TV actors and husband and wife Tim Healy and Denise Welch will play host on Sunday, February 19, and joining them on stage, alongside a host of other performers who have a past association with the historic theatre, will be panto favourites Clive Webb and Danny Adams.

The pair, who first trod the boards there in 2004’s Cinderella and are now the slapstick crowd-puller of current panto Sleeping Beauty, top the bill while a special guest from the other end of the country will be panto star Christopher Biggins.

Also on the bill to help celebrate the landmark birthday will be The Krankies, the veteran duo who have been in the business 40 years, and Allan Stewart, star of the West End production of Jolson, who’ll be singing songs from the show.

More West End magic, this time with a local flavour, is being brought by young members of the cast of North East success story Billy Elliot, and there’ll be a dance sequence from New Adventures, the company of award-winning choreographer and Theatre Royal audience favourite Matthew Bourne.

Another favourite is set to be a performance by Graeme Danby, the Consett-born opera star who has appeared at the world’s leading opera houses, including the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and English National Opera.

The night – when there’ll be free cake for the audience – will also feature the Theatre Royal Orchestra and dancers and rounding off the bill will be Australian-born singer Daniel Koek, star of the musical Chess which premiered at the Theatre Royal in summer 2010, as well as Saturday Night Fever and the 50th anniversary tour of West Side Story.

The artistes are giving their services for free and more names are yet to be announced. Profits from the night will go to children’s charities.

Also taking place that night, as well as the night before, will be free outdoor festival Birthday Blaze, a flames and firework masquerade featuring characters from the theatre’s history, and there’ll also be fringe exhibitions and performances as part of the birthday celebrations.

The Theatre Royal, the old lady of Grey Street, was built in 1837 as the centrepiece of builder Richard Grainger and architect John Dobson’s famous city plan and over the years it has hosted such big names as Sir Laurence Olivier, Orson Welles, Charlton Heston and Jack Lemmon.

One of today’s leading actors Sir Ian McKellen has called it his favourite theatre. Its restoration last year saw it restored to its original Victorian glory, as envisaged by the great theatre architect Frank Matcham.

For more information on the upcoming celebrations visit www.theatreroyal.co.uk/175-birthday and for tickets (£25-£47.50) to the 175th Birthday Gala, which starts at 7.30pm on February 19, visit www.theatreroyal.co.uk or call 08448 112121.


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