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
Ralph Boldrewood and
Fergus Hume. By the 1890s it had also
gained a reputation for presenting blockbusters with spectacular effects to
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
Melbourne Newsletter No.82.
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