Alexandra Theatre
The New Alexandra Theatre, commonly known as The Alex, is a theatre
Theatre is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place. The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music or dance...

 on Station Street in Birmingham
Birmingham is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England. It is the most populous British city outside the capital London, with a population of 1,036,900 , and lies at the heart of the West Midlands conurbation, the second most populous urban area in the United Kingdom with a...

, England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...


Construction of the theatre commenced in 1900 and was completed in 1901. The architects were Owen & Ward. The theatre was opened on 27 May 1901 as the Lyceum Theatre on John Bright Street; however, it was met with few theatre goers. It was decided to bring in a star, and for ten weeks from the middle of June 1901 H. A. Saintsbury
Harry Arthur Saintsbury
Harry Arthur Saintsbury, usually called H. A. Saintsbury was an English actor and playwright. A leading man, he became well known for his stage interpretation of Sherlock Holmes, was an early mentor of Charlie Chaplin and is considered an authority on the work of Sir Henry Irving.Called Arthur by...

 trod the boards as the theatre's leading man, playing in costume drama
Costume drama
A costume drama or period drama is a period piece in which elaborate costumes, sets and properties are featured in order to capture the ambiance of a particular era.The term is usually used in the context of film and television...

s. However, as a result of disappointingly low returns the new theatre was sold to Lester Collingwood for £4,000, who renamed it the Alexandra on 22 December 1902. Collingwood was killed in a road traffic accident in 1910 and was succeeded by Leon Salberg, who died in his office at the theatre in 1938. His ghost is said to inhabit the theatre. Other ghostly sightings include that by a cleaner of a woman dressed in grey in 1987. It was rebuilt with a fine Art Deco
Art Deco
Art deco , or deco, is an eclectic artistic and design style that began in Paris in the 1920s and flourished internationally throughout the 1930s, into the World War II era. The style influenced all areas of design, including architecture and interior design, industrial design, fashion and...

 auditorium in 1935 to a design by Roland Satchwell. Upon Leon Salberg's death, Derek Salberg took over the running of the theatre. The Salberg family ran the theatre from 1911 to 1977. Following World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the theatre became very popular with the local population. By 1950, 85% of season ticket holders lived within the boundaries of Birmingham.

Although the main entrance was originally situated on John Bright Street, a new main entrance block was built on Suffolk Street between 1967-1969 to a design by the John Madin Design Group
John Madin
John Hardcastle Dalton Madin is an English architect. He was born in Moseley, Birmingham on 23 March 1924. His company, known as John H D Madin & Partners from 1962 and the John Madin Design Group from 1968, were active in Birmingham for over 30 years. Some of the buildings his company designed...

, with a wide bridge linking the two - from the inside, the appearance is that of a single building. Satchwell's interior was refurbished in 1992 by the Seymour Harris Partnership
Seymour Harris Partnership
Seymour Harris Partnership is an architectural partnership based in Birmingham, England. Buildings designed by the practice include Colmore Gate in Birmingham, Queensgate Market in Huddersfield and St David's Hall in Cardiff....

. The Alex was sold to Apollo Leisure in the 1990s. Derek Salberg's autobiography "Much Ado About Theatre" had its foreword written by Laurence Olivier
Laurence Olivier
Laurence Kerr Olivier, Baron Olivier, OM was an English actor, director, and producer. He was one of the most famous and revered actors of the 20th century. He married three times, to fellow actors Jill Esmond, Vivien Leigh, and Joan Plowright...

. Under Leon Salberg, the Alex was famous for its pantomime
Pantomime — not to be confused with a mime artist, a theatrical performer of mime—is a musical-comedy theatrical production traditionally found in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Jamaica, South Africa, India, Ireland, Gibraltar and Malta, and is mostly performed during the...

s such as "Mother Goose
Mother Goose
The familiar figure of Mother Goose is an imaginary author of a collection of fairy tales and nursery rhymes which are often published as Mother Goose Rhymes. As a character, she appears in one "nursery rhyme". A Christmas pantomime called Mother Goose is often performed in the United Kingdom...


The theatre currently seats 1,371 and hosts a busy programme of touring drama
Drama is the specific mode of fiction represented in performance. The term comes from a Greek word meaning "action" , which is derived from "to do","to act" . The enactment of drama in theatre, performed by actors on a stage before an audience, presupposes collaborative modes of production and a...

, West End shows
West End theatre
West End theatre is a popular term for mainstream professional theatre staged in the large theatres of London's 'Theatreland', the West End. Along with New York's Broadway theatre, West End theatre is usually considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English speaking...

 and stand-up comedy. It was the home of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company
D'Oyly Carte Opera Company
The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company was a professional light opera company that staged Gilbert and Sullivan's Savoy operas. The company performed nearly year-round in the UK and sometimes toured in Europe, North America and elsewhere, from the 1870s until it closed in 1982. It was revived in 1988 and...

 between 1990 and 1997.

Neville Chamberlain
Neville Chamberlain
Arthur Neville Chamberlain FRS was a British Conservative politician who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from May 1937 to May 1940. Chamberlain is best known for his appeasement foreign policy, and in particular for his signing of the Munich Agreement in 1938, conceding the...

 delivered a speech at the theatre on 13 October 1918.

Dad's Army
Dad's Army
Dad's Army is a British sitcom about the Home Guard during the Second World War. It was written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft and broadcast on BBC television between 1968 and 1977. The series ran for 9 series and 80 episodes in total, plus a radio series, a feature film and a stage show...

star Arthur Lowe
Arthur Lowe
Arthur Lowe was a BAFTA Award winning English actor. He was best known for playing Captain George Mainwaring in the popular British sitcom Dad's Army from 1968 until 1977.-Early life:...

 died of a stroke
A stroke, previously known medically as a cerebrovascular accident , is the rapidly developing loss of brain function due to disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. This can be due to ischemia caused by blockage , or a hemorrhage...

 in his dressing room in the theatre before a performance of Home at Seven on 15 April 1982 aged 66.

Recent History

On August 7, 1995, the then Alexandra Theatre was taken over by the multi-national organisation the Apollo Leisure Group. The new owners who ran many West End Theatre's bought many large scale West End productions to The Alex including; Copacabana
Copacabana is a borough located in the southern zone of the city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It's known for its 4 km beach, which is one of the most famous in the world.- History :...

, Great Expectations
Great Expectations
Great Expectations is a novel by Charles Dickens. It was first published in serial form in the publication All the Year Round from 1 December 1860 to August 1861. It has been adapted for stage and screen over 250 times....

 and Grease
Grease may refer to:* Grease , a type of industrial lubricant* Yellow grease, in rendering, used frying oils, or lower-quality grades of tallow...

. Summer Holiday
Summer Holiday
Summer Holiday is a British musical released in February 1963, featuring singer Cliff Richard in his best-known film. The musical was directed by Peter Yates and was produced by Kenneth Harper for the Associated British Studios at Elstree. The original screenplay was written by Peter Myers and...

, starring Darren Day. A Critically acclaimed production of West Side Story
West Side Story
West Side Story is an American musical with a script by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and choreographed by Jerome Robbins...

 transferred to the West End
West End theatre
West End theatre is a popular term for mainstream professional theatre staged in the large theatres of London's 'Theatreland', the West End. Along with New York's Broadway theatre, West End theatre is usually considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English speaking...

 for a successful run.

Over the years under the ownership of Apollo Leisure, The Alex saw major investment including improvements to the stage area and front of house areas, this then enabled the theatre to stage first-rate productions including two productions from Cameron Mackintosh Oliver!
Oliver! is a British musical, with script, music and lyrics by Lionel Bart. The musical is based upon the novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens....

 starring Garry Wilmot and Les Misėrables
Les Misérables
Les Misérables , translated variously from the French as The Miserable Ones, The Wretched, The Poor Ones, The Wretched Poor, or The Victims), is an 1862 French novel by author Victor Hugo and is widely considered one of the greatest novels of the nineteenth century...

 the first productions to try out the new facilities.

In 1999 the Apollo Leisure Group was bought by American entertainment company SFX Entertainment for around £160 million. After the acquisition of Apollo Leisure Group, the worlds largest presenter of Live entertainment SFX now ran 23 theatre's in UK including four in the West End.

Under SFX management the theatre saw increased entertainment value, still welcoming high-brow West End Producitons such as Doctor Dolittle
Doctor Dolittle
Doctor John Dolittle is the central character of a series of children's books by Hugh Lofting starting with the 1920 The Story of Doctor Dolittle. He is a doctor who shuns human patients in favour of animals, with whom he can speak in their own languages...

, and in Christmas 2000 saw the return of Pantomime
Pantomime — not to be confused with a mime artist, a theatrical performer of mime—is a musical-comedy theatrical production traditionally found in the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Jamaica, South Africa, India, Ireland, Gibraltar and Malta, and is mostly performed during the...

 to the theatre, with a sell out season of Peter Pan
Peter Pan
Peter Pan is a character created by Scottish novelist and playwright J. M. Barrie . A mischievous boy who can fly and magically refuses to grow up, Peter Pan spends his never-ending childhood adventuring on the small island of Neverland as the leader of his gang the Lost Boys, interacting with...

 staring Leslie Grantham and Joe Pasquale.
Then in 2001 SFX merged with Clear Channel Entertainment making them the largest UK theatre operator, including three West End theatre's. Under the ownership of Clear Channel the theatre continued to provide and attract high-brow entertainment, including Musicals, Comedy, Plays, Opera and Concerts.

In January 2006 The Alexandra Theatre changed management once again, to be managed by Live Nation
Live Nation
Live Nation is a live-events company based in Beverly Hills, California, focused on concert promotions. Live Nation formed in 2005 as a spin-off from Clear Channel Communications, which then merged with Ticketmaster in 2010 to become Live Nation Entertainment....

 a company that specialised in Concert promotion and large venue operations.

Today The Alex is owned by The Ambassador Theatre Group
Ambassador Theatre Group
The Ambassador Theatre Group is an independent operator of theatres in the United Kingdom. Formed in 1992, by Howard Panter and Rosemary Squire,OBE, it acquired the Live Nation theatre group in November 2009.-List of theatres:...

and after a minor refurbishment the group re-named the theatre, The New Alexandra Theatre. .

External links

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