Her Majesty's Theatre
The press release might state "J.C.Williamson's Theatre Company are pleased to announce the production of a new musical comedy at Her Majesty's Theatre" but the word in the street was much simpler - "The Firm are doing a new show at The Maj". For over a century 'The Maj' has been one of the most important theatres in Australia.
Built as the Alexandra Theatre (named after the then Princess of Wales) in 1886, the theatre was originally designed by the architect Nahum Barnet and built for the entrepreneur Jean Joubert. It had particular success with Australian based plays, including adaptations of works by local authors Marcus Clarke, Ralph Boldrewood and Fergus Hume. By the 1890s it had also gained a reputation for presenting blockbusters with spectacular effects to large audiences.
In 1900, the theatre was taken over by J.C.Williamson who renamed it Her Majesty's Theatre and used it as a venue for musical comedies. After a bad fire in 1929 the theatre it was substantially remodelled in 1934 in the 'style moderne' of the time and re-opened as His Majesty's Theatre. (The name reverted to 'Her' with the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953).
The theatre is particularly associated with Dame Nellie Melba. She had the stage and proscenium remodelled in 1909 to improve the acoustics, made her Melbourne grand opera debut there in 1911 and gave her final, final, final farewell performance there in 1928.
'The Firm' eventually sold the theatre in 1978 and it was sold again in 2000 to Mike Walsh who set about replacing the decaying infrastructure and bringing the theatre up to 21st Century requirements.
More information on the history of Her Majesty's Theatre can be found in our Melbourne Newsletter No.82.