The Leeds Grand Theatre and Opera House was built in 1878 in a backlash to the music hall tradition which was thought by ‘polite society’ to lower the tone of entertainment via the sort of humour presented in these pub-based establishments.
The theatre was built on a site of approximately three quarters of an acre with a frontage on New Briggate of 56 yards, including the Assembly Rooms.
he Dress Circle and Boxes were furnished with free standing chairs, and all other parts of the house had benches. They ranged from upholstered, in the Upper Circle, to plain wooden and back-less in the Gallery which cost a shilling admission. ‘Packers’ were employed to maximise the number of people sitting on these wooden benches making the experience all the more cramped…and hot!
The Grand Theatre celebrated the 125th anniversary of its opening in 2003. It is widely regarded as a major milestone in Victorian theatre building. The scene dock has one of the most complete Victorian scenic paint shops left in Great Britain. This is extremely rare and still in use.
The first performance at the theatre was Much Ado About Nothing on 18 November 1878 and stars that have trodden the boards over the years have included Sarah Bernhardt, Ellen Terry, Julie Andrews, Felicity Kendal, Morecambe and Wise and Laurence Olivier.
Seating 1550 at full capacity, the auditorium provides a home for performances of all types.
An enormous range of notable dance, drama, comedy and music productions have been seen at the Grand.