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Theatre Royal

Located on the north side of Bourke Street, the Theatre Royal, a large building able to hold more than 3000 people, opened in 1855 with The school for scandal. Some compared it to London's Drury Lane Theatre. The builder, carter John Black, went bankrupt with the expense of its construction. Early actor-managers included George Coppin and G.V. Brooke, while international stars such as Walter Montgomery, Edwin Booth and Lola Montes entertained the public with a wide range of drama. In 1861 W.S. Lyster's opera company commenced its career at the theatre. The building was destroyed by fire in March 1872, but Coppin was able to rebuild within six months. For the next 62 years the Royal was the venue for some of the city's most popular theatre. J.C. Williamson made his Australian debut in the perennial Struck oil in 1874. By the turn of the century, Bland Holt's realistic and sensational melodramas were 'packing them in'. In 1904 architect William Pitt redesigned George Browne's 1872 auditorium, reducing it to three levels. In 1921 The maid of the mountains, one of the most popular contemporary musicals, had its Australian premiere at the Royal. This production returned for the final performances at the Theatre Royal in late 1933. The theatre was demolished in 1934 and was replaced successively by Manton's department store and Coles and Target stores.

Mimi Colligan