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The New Alexandra Theatre, Suffolk Street Queensway, Birmingham

Formerly - The Lyceum Theatre, John Bright Street

Birmingham Index

A Google StreetView Image of the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham today - Click to Interact

Above - A Google StreetView Image of the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham today - Click to Interact

The Lyceum Theatre, Birmingham - From an illustration in the Playgoer of 1901 / 1902 - Courtesy Iain Wotherspoon.The Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham's Suffolk Street Queensway originally opened as the Lyceum Theatre on the 27th of May 1901.

Right - A sketch of the Lyceum Theatre, John Bright Street, Birmingham - From an illustration in the Playgoer of 1901 / 1902 - Courtesy Iain Wotherspoon.

The Theatre was originally designed by the architects Owen and Ward and built at a cost of £10,000 with its original entrance situated on John Bright Street.

Grace Housley - Courtesy Dave Smith.One of the early performers at the Lyceum was Grace Anne (Gracie) Housley (shown left) who died on stage at the Theatre on the 5th of February 1902, at the age of 22. Newspaper reports of the time said that she collapsed during the rendition of the song 'Goodbye Dolly Grey'.

The Lyceum Theatre was not very successful and was sold only a year after being built to Lester Collingwood for £4,450 and then renamed the Alexandra Theatre, reopening on the 22nd of December 1902 with a performance of 'The Fatal Wedding.'

 

The Alexandra Theatre

An early postcard showing John Bright Street and the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham - Courtesy Maurice Friedman, British Music hall Society.

Above - An early postcard showing John Bright Street and the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham - Courtesy Maurice Friedman, British Music hall Society.

The Lyceum Theatre was not very successful and was sold only a year after being built to Lester Collingwood for £4,450 and then renamed the Alexandra Theatre, reopening on the 22nd of December 1902 with a performance of 'The Fatal Wedding.'

The following Christmas the first Pantomime was put on at the Theatre and the Stage Newspaper reported on the event in their 31st of December 1903 edition saying:- 'Mr. Collingwood has every reason to feel satisfied with the grateful reception of his first Christmas annual, though, after a cursory glance at the list of principals engaged, it needed little perspicacity to predict an extremely popular success. Although fun and catchy melody are - wisely enough - salient features in Aladdin, the enterprising management has by no means neglected the spectacular aspect of the show. In view of the fitting opportunity the subject affords for the display of Oriental magnificence, it is only natural that the scenic, artist, costumier, and electrician should vie with the comedians and fair artiste in contributing to the brilliance of the ensemble. Let us at once say that in all the above respects Aladdin will be worthily remembered...' - The Stage Newspaper, 31st December 1903.

An advertisement in the Stage Newspaper for 'Guilty Gold' at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham in June 1907.The following month the Stage was still enthusing over the production in their January 14th 1904 edition saying:- 'Aladdin continues to fill this popular house with crowded and enthusiastic audiences. The pantomime is as full of fun as an egg is of meat. There is not a dull moment from start to finish, thanks to the energetic manner in which the hardworking and capable Co. set to work. Miss Minnie Jeffs is the bright particular star in the artistic firmament at the John Bright Street house, and her position is worthily maintained. Her song, "Yellow Bird," is one of the most noticeable successes in Birmingham this season, while "Cosy Corner" and "Somebody's Sweetheart" are also very much liked. Miss Renee Raybourne has a good song on the inevitable Fiscal question; while others who contribute largely to the success of the pantomime in vocal or other departments are Miss Trixie Toole, Miss Kittie Brewster, Mr. Arthur Aiston, Mr. Oliver J. Round, etc. The clever speciality acts of the Brewester troupe in their lance and sword exercise, also a taking vocal and terpsichorean pas de cinq, are popular features in Mr. Collingwood's merry show.' - The Stage Newspaper, 14th January 1904.

Right - An advertisement in the Stage Newspaper for 'Guilty Gold' at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham in June 1907.

 

A programme, printed on silk, for Lester Collingwood's 'First Annual Benefit' at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham on December 22nd 1903 - Courtesy Brian Yates.

Above - A programme, printed on silk, for Lester Collingwood's 'First Annual Benefit' at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham on December 22nd 1903 - Courtesy Brian Yates whose Grandfather Ernie Hall, comedian, is mentioned on the programme. Many of the performers in the Benefit were also in the production of Aladdin at the Alexandra Theatre that year.


Poster for the Leon Salberg Pantomime 'Bo-Peep' at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham on Boxing Day, Dec 26th. Bo-Peep. - Courtesy Stephen Wischhusen.Sadly Lester Collingwood was killed in one of the earliest motor-car accidents in September 1910. He had been on his way to visit the Theatre Royal Sheffield at the time, and was traveling with Tom H. Taylor, a theatrical manager, and Mr. Wooley, the manager of the Criterion Hotel, Birmingham. They were being driven by Collingwood's chauffeur in a 4 seater car and had almost completed their journey when they were in a collision with a telegraph pole on Chesterfield Road, Greenhill, after swerving to avoid a Milk Float pulled by a pony and driven by a 13 year old girl who had lost control of her vehicle. The children escaped injury but the car's passengers were less fortunate. Mr. Wooley was concussed and Lester Collinwood died on the way to hospital. It seems that he was hit by the cart's shaft or mudguard before they hit the telegraph pole.

After the death of Lester Collinwood Leon Salberg took over the Alexandra Theatre, and in 1927 he started his own Alexandra Repertory Company at the Theatre which performed twice nightly performances for many years.

Left - A Poster for the Leon Salberg Pantomime 'Bo-Peep' at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham on Boxing Day, Dec 26th. Undated but probably 1925 as the previous year the same production with a similar cast was performing at the Nottingham Hippodrome. - Courtesy Stephen Wischhusen.

In 1935 the Theatre was rebuilt by Roland Satchwell and Ernst Roberts, who would also rebuild the Huddersfield Palace the following year. The Alexandra was rebuilt at a cost of £40,000 and had a new Art Deco auditorium.

In 1938 Leon Salberg died at the Theatre during a performance of 'Devonshire Cream,' and his son Derek Salberg took over and remained there until he retired in 1977.

In 1968 the main entrance, which was originally situated on John Bright Street, was changed when a new entrance was built to the designs of the John Madin Design Group.

Still in operation today the Theatre was bought by The Ambassador Theatre Group in November 2009 and after some refurbishment they renamed the Theatre the New Alexandra Theatre. You may like to visit their own website for the Theatre here.

 

The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham decked out in flowers and bunting to celebrate the Coronation of George V in June the 1911 - Courtesy William Neale

Above - The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham decked out in flowers and bunting to celebrate the Coronation of George V in June the 1911 - Courtesy William Neale

The cast of 'Mother Goose' on stage at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham in 1911 - Courtesy William Neale

Above - The cast of 'Mother Goose' on stage at the Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham in 1911 - Courtesy William Neale

If you have any more information or images for this Theatre that you are willing to share, please Contact me.

 

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