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Regal Entertainments Ltd, which is run by the hugely successful mother and daughter team, took over the tenancy of the town’s popular playhouse in 1999. Since then it has presented a programme of top quality and star-studded drama, comedy and panto productions to St Helens audiences and has helped turn the Corporation Street venue in to a theatrical success story.
Regal Entertainments is also celebrating a second landmark this season with 2019 marking 25 years since Jane produced her first pantomime – Aladdin at the Neptune Theatre in Liverpool.
It was her work in theatres across Liverpool with her then company Crown Productions which led to her being offered the tenancy of the Theatre Royal. The first show at the St Helens venue was Peter Pan starring Eunice Huthart, champion of 90’s ITV show Gladiators, over Easter 1999.
Pantos have remained an audience favourite at the theatre, while Vienna Festival Ballet and Pilkington Musical Theatre Society are two companies which have returned to the venue regularly since 1999.
Under Regal Entertainments the theatre has also welcomed a host of major household names, and in 2014, Bill Kenwright brought the touring production of the multi award-winning Blood Brothers to St Helens. It returned last year. Meanwhile Regal Entertainments itself has built up a strong brand over recent years and its productions continue to break box office records.
Jane, who is Company Director, and theatre General Manager Chantelle produce all the venue’s in-house productions which each year include three seasonal pantos – directed by Chantelle, and a stage play.
This year St Helens Theatre Royal audiences are set to enjoy The Wizard of Oz, which returns from 6-22 April, Sleeping Beauty from 19-29 October, and Aladdin at Christmas, while June sees the premiere of Achy Breaky Bride, a new Country-inspired jukebox musical from writers Emma Culshaw and David Paul, the team behind the outrageous Ruby Slippers.
Previous productions include: Rita, Sue and Bob Too!, The Ale House, The Salon, Last of the Red Hot Lovers, plus a myriad of panto favourites such as The Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, Cinderella, and Snow White.
Regal Entertainments’ shows are renowned for their high production values and have included some of the UK’s biggest star names including actor and comedian Johnny Vegas, TOWIE’s Amy Childs and Harry Derbidge, The Nolans’ singing sensation Linda Nolan, West End star Darren Day, Steps pop star Lee Latchford Evans, X-Factor and West End star Ray Quinn, Coronation Street’s Louis Emerick, Hollyoaks star Lucy Jo Hudson, Strictly Come Dancing’s Kristina Rihanoff and Bad Girls favourite Deborah Stevenson.
Company Director Jane Joseph said: “Regal Entertainments took over the theatre in 1999, and it’s been quite a 20 years. We’ve faced some challenges over the years but have also had many wonderful moments – the first time Blood Brothers came to us is a particular highlight, along with David Gest visiting with his Motown legends, and the wonderful Jane McDonald.
“I remember Peter Kay booking us as a venue for Tony Christie, and soon after the date was announced Is This the Way to Amarillo was released and the next thing we knew, there were ‘access all areas’ backstage passes being issued and catering vans turning up!
“On another occasion Bond Girl Honor Blackman was coming to us but her tour bus got lost in St Helens’ one-way system and we had to send out a lighting assistant on a bicycle to find her and lead her safely to the stage door!
Theatre Manager Chantelle Nolan added: “We want to thank the people of St Helens for continuing to support us. We don’t receive any funding or grants to help with its running, so projects like the ticket restoration levy allow us to continue to reinvest any money we receive back in to the theatre.
“We’re committed to delivering good quality shows for our audiences at reasonable prices. And it’s also important for us to continue casting locally and give work to actors within the North West region.
“Looking to the future, we’re hoping to stage more in-house productions and carry on with the successful work we’ve been doing over the past five or six years.”
St Helens Theatre Royal was designed by celebrated theatre architect Frank Matcham and opened its doors in 1901, replacing the Theatre Royal and Opera House which had stood on the same site until it was destroyed by fire in 1899.
In 1964 the current theatre was gutted and extensively remodelled and modernised, with the addition of a glass façade. The Theatre Royal is owned by the Theatre Royal (St Helens) Trust which retains responsibility for its external maintenance.
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