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Her Majesty’s Theatre

Melbourne is undoubtedly Australia’s ‘theatre’ capital, and on more than one level. Maybe it is the climate, maybe it is just tradition but Melbournites are true lovers of live theatre, whether it be ballet, opera, contemporary drama or comedy. Attending the theatre is as much part of Melbourne’s fabric as ‘attending the beach’ is in Sydney. It is also because the best theatrical productions happen in Melbourne – and that happens because the producers know that there are discerning audiences wanting to see them. And then there are the actual theatres – the architecturally stunning structures that are steeped in atmosphere and history that add another special dimension to any evening or matinee performance. One theatre steeped in history and atmosphere is the wonderful Her Majesty’s Theatre. It is located on the corner of Exhibition and Little Bourke Streets, just across the road from Rydges Melbourne.

Her Majesty’s Theatre is often described as “the most important theatre still standing in terms of its contribution to Australian theatre”. Architecturally, it is an amalgam of English and French influences. It opened in 1886 as the Alexandra Theatre, in honour of the Princess of Wales. The name changed to Her Majesty’s in 1900 when taken over by theatre group, JC Williamson’s. A fire in 1929 destroyed the auditorium, but the theatre reopened in 1934 as a modern, technologically advanced theatre. An acoustic consultant was even engaged – a first in Australia.

Over its life, Her Majesty’s stage has been graced with internationally renowned performers like Dame Nellie Melba (1911), Anna Pavlova (1926) and Dame Joan Sutherland (1965) but it is a theatre that defies genre. Over the years the stage has been a comfortable home for opera, ballet, drama, musicals, comedy, pop, rock and cabaret.  A look back over the last 12 years shows the variety of performances with shows/acts like Cabaret, Hair, The Nutcracker, Marcel Marceau, Tina Arena, Madama Butterfly, Bananas in Pyjamas, Carl Barron, Talking Heads, La Boheme, Lenny Henry, Queen, Mamma Mia, Ten Tenors, Russian National Ballet, Oklahoma!, Pam Ayers, Billy Elliot, Chicago, Mary Poppins, A Chorus Line, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Strictly Ballroom.

There’s also a little icon within the icon – The Maj Café. Over the years the theatre has commissioned caricatures of performers who have taken to the stage and the framed artworks adorn the walls. It creates a great atmosphere as well as a place of interest. Caricatures include Marlene Dietrich, Katherine Hepburn, Sir Noel Coward, Vivien Leigh and Luciano Pavarotti.

Here is a link to the official Her Majesty’s Theatre website for more info including what’s on. Because Her Majesty’s dates so far back, there are no lifts in the building for wheelchair access but the two doors closest to Little Bourke Street are level with the footpath, so there are no steps to make wheelchair or walker access difficult. There is a special needs hotline where patrons with a disability can call and get individual attention. The number is +61 3 9662 9571.

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