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$35m upgrade to lure blockbusters to Her Maj

Arts & Culture

A $35.2 million redevelopment of the historic Her Majesty’s Theatre will enable Adelaide to attract blockbuster musicals that have previously bypassed the city, says Adelaide Festival Centre CEO Douglas Gautier.

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The State Government announced yesterday that the three-year investment – which includes about $3 million from the Festival Centre Trust – would see a new entrance and foyer built on adjoining land.

An extra 570 seats will be added to the theatre, increasing total capacity to around 1500, with an additional balcony of seating, plus improvements to the orchestral pit and technical facilities.

“Over recent years, a number of blockbuster musicals and other theatrical, comedy and music products have been bypassing Adelaide,” Gautier said.

“We know the audience demand exists for these shows but there is nowhere for them to play because the 2000-seat Festival Theatre is Adelaide’s only large-scale commercially viable theatre in South Australia and it is full to capacity.

“An expanded HMT will transform the performing arts landscape in Adelaide.  Shows like The Lion King, Mary Poppins, Les Miserables and Once will now have a venue to perform in.”

An artist's impression of the new theatre foyer.

An artist’s impression of the new theatre foyer.

The State Government said the extension of Her Majesty’s was expected to enable the theatre to host at least 50 more performances a year.

Gautier and Arts Minister Jack Snelling said the redevelopment would also result in greater access to the Adelaide Festival Centre’s 2000-seat Festival Theatre for SA arts organisations such as the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and State Opera SA.

ASO managing director Vincent Ciccarello, who has long lamented the lack of a permanent home for the city’s orchestra, said that only time would tell how it might benefit from the upgrade of Her Maj.

“In theory, it should boost the availability or capacity of the Festival Theatre to accommodate the ASO once [the revamped] Her Majesty’s is open … at the end of the day, it all comes down to programming.”

The stage dimensions of Her Majesty’s make it unsuitable for full-scale orchestra performances, and even post-revamp it is unlikely this will change.

“I want to make it very, very clear that I absolutely applaud this and congratulate Douglas and his team and the State Government for the initiative,” Ciccarello said.

“It’s sorely needed.

“But what it still doesn’t address is the continuing need for a dedicated, fit-for-purpose music performance venue … like a concert hall.

“I’m still hoping that down the track there will be a concerted effort to build a dedicated live music performance venue.”

The State Government also announced on the weekend that it will return $7.7 million to the arts budget, following the foreshadowed cuts of around $8.5 million.

“The funding will include $700,000 for the Adelaide Festival of Arts, $3 million for Arts South Australia and $4 million each year to drive economic activity and job opportunities in the arts,” it said in a statement.

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