Blackpool’s Opera House is the third on its site – a lavish art-deco design by Charles MacKeith, with two balconies and a total seating-capacity of 2,920. The full stage-width is 110 feet, with a proscenium opening of 45 feet.
The opening-ceremony on July 14th 1939 was performed by Jessie Matthews, who was appearing in I can take it at the Grand Theatre just down the road, with an organ-recital including a duet by Horace Finch, the Winter Gardens’ resident organist, and Reginald Dixon.
The stage show included a train-wreck scene incorporating a full-size replica of the Royal Scot locomotive.
The first variety bill at the reopened Opera House starred George Formby Jnr (who was paid £1,000 a week) in a review entitled Turned out nice again.
The Opera House was the venue for the first Royal Variety Performance to take place outside London, in April 1955.
When Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II remarked what a fine building the Opera House was, the company chairman Douglas Bickerstaffe commented, “Ay, I suppose so, although it’s nobbut an annexe to t’Tower.”
For details of Mike Higginbottom’s lecture Fun Palaces: the history and architecture of the entertainment industry please click here.
The 80-page, A4 handbook for the 2013 Lancashire’s Seaside Heritage tour, with text, photographs, maps and a reading list, is available for purchase, price £15.00 including postage and packing. To view sample pages click here. Please send a cheque, payable to Mike Higginbottom, to 63 Vivian Road, Sheffield, S5 6WJ.