Victorian theatre with a past as colourful as its events programme. A good place to catch major musicals and classical performances
The history of the Palace Theatre is as impressive as some of the performances that happen on its stage. Known as The Grand Old Lady of Oxford Street, it was built in 1891 and it took a direct hit during the Manchester Blitz. Since then, its fortunes have been mixed, with the likes of Judy Garland, Laurel and Hardy and Noel Coward providing the ups and the depressing slump in audiences across the country in the 1970s providing the downs.
With major internal refurbishment giving it a much needed facelift and better stage facilities, the theatre is now owned by Ambassador's Theatre Group, who also own the sister theatre down the road, Manchester Opera House.
The programme is very much at the popular end of the entertainment spectrum. Big West End musicals such as 'The Producers', 'Mary Poppins' and 'Mamma Mia!' are the staple, but there are also plenty of classical events, with the likes of English National Ballet performing regularly. The theatre also stages some of Manchester International Festival's shows, and in the past has hosted world premieres of Damon Albarn's 'Monkey – Journey to the West' in 2007, the Rufus Wainwright opera 'Prima Donna' in 2009 and 'The Old Woman' in 2013, starring Willem Dafoe and Mikhail Baryshnikov.
What makes the Old Lady grand, though, is the beautiful traditional interior, all cosy reds and golds, with ushers in their dicky bows showing you to your seat. As with so many Victorian theatres, there are problems with sightlines if you're at the back of the stalls, the heavy overhang of the circle impinging on the view.