Arthur Lloyd.co.uk
The Music Hall and Theatre History Site
Dedicated to Arthur Lloyd, 1839 - 1904.

 

The Alhambra Theatre and Majestic Cinema, Morley Street, Bradford, West Yorkshire

Bradford Index

The Bradford Alhambra Theatre in October 2018 - Courtesy Philip Paine.

Above - The Bradford Alhambra Theatre in October 2018 - Courtesy Philip Paine.

The Bradford Alhambra Theatre in October 2018 - Courtesy Philip Paine.The Grade II Listed Bradford Alhambra Theatre is situated on Morley Street and was designed by Chadwick and Watson, opening on Wednesday the 18th of March 1914.

Right - The Bradford Alhambra Theatre in October 2018 - Courtesy Philip Paine.

The ERA reported briefly on the building on the day of the Theatre's opening saying:- 'The Alhambra, Bradford, which opens to-day, stands in a commanding position in the very heart of the city, immediately facing the town hall, and at the junction of four most important roads, viz., Morton-road, Manchester-road, Leeds-road, and Wakefield-road. In close proximity is the Prince's Theatre, of which Mr. Laidler is the proprietor, and across the road is the Empire, under the Moss regime.

The new house is in a striking contrast to any other pace of entertainment in the city, and the dome, which is supported by Corinthian pillars, when illuminated at night, is very effective. Around the entrance is a continuous protective stained-glass awning; the entrance hall, cloakrooms, refreshment bars, and offices are commodious; the staircases are wide and the gradients easy.

The decorations are in white, red, and gold, and thick carpeting covers the floors everywhere. The seating is tip-up, upholstered in blue plush, the stalls being commodious and comfortable chairs. The rake gives an uninterrupted view of the performance on the stage. There are four large private boxes. The orchestra is sunken in the fashion instituted by Wagner, and the proscenium frames the stage opening with tasteful architectural detail and artistic decoration, the curtains being elegantly designed. There is seating accommodation in the auditorium for 1,800 persons. Advance booking for any part of the house is to be a feature of the business policy of Mr. Francis Laidler, the managing director of the house, and the "early door" system is to be abolished.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 18th March 1914.

An early photograph of the Alhambra Theatre, Bradford

Above - An early photograph of the Alhambra Theatre, Bradford

The Alhambra Theatre opened on Wednesday the 18th of March 1914 with a Wylie and Tate review followed by a variety bill, and variety would hold sway at the Theatre for many decades, always with a Pantomime at Christmas.

Early Postcard of the Alhambra Bradford.The Theatre was restored to its former grandeur in 1986 after a period of uncertainty when it looked as if it might be demolished in favour of a car park.

Right - An Early Postcard of the Alhambra Bradford.

The auditorium, which was built on three levels, is now fully restored, consisting of Stalls, two Balconies, and two boxes on each side with a current capacity overall of 1,464.

The stage, now twice the depth of the original, and an extended grid of 70 foot, is capable of staging the largest of productions.

In 1986 the Majestic Cinema next door was bought so that the Alhambra could be extended and back stage areas could be improved, and a new auditorium was built into the space for smaller productions and rehearsals, seating up to 400 people.

You may like to visit the Bradford Theatres website here.

The Alhambra Theatre / Music Hall, Bradford - From a Postcard.

Above - The Alhambra Theatre / Music Hall, Bradford - From a Postcard.

Pantomime at the Bradford Alhambra in the 1940s & 1950s by Donald Auty

Victoria Square, Bradford from a Postcard. To the right is the Prince's Theatre, below which was the Palace Theatre. And to the left is the Alhambra Theatre.

Above - Victoria Square, Bradford from a Postcard. To the right is the Prince's Theatre, below which was the Palace Theatre. And to the left is the Alhambra Theatre.

The Alhambra theatre has been the home of pantomime for many years and still is. It Opened in 1914 and was the brain child of Francis Laidler, he later became known as the King of Pantomime and he made the theatre famous throughout the country. On his death in 1955 control passed to his widow, Gladys Stanley; she was a famous principle boy in her time, and produced herself for a couple of years and had an outstanding success with the "Queen of Hearts". She remarried and lost interest in the theatre and it started to go through a bad time. Rowland Hill who had been the company secretary for a number of years and had started to work there when the theatre opened selling chocolates took over. His first job was to find a new pantomime producer.

Emile Littler was approached but was unable to oblige because of his commitment To the Leeds Empire to produce pantomimes there. He introduced Same Newsome The owner of the Coventry Theatre and took two and a half percent of the gross Takings for his trouble all the years that Sam produced at the Theatre.

Alhambra And New Victoria Theatres Bradford - From a postcardThe quality was good with Ken Dodd topping the bill in "Dick Whittington" and Box office records were broken. Times were getting better at the Alhambra. The following year 1960, I worked in my first pantomime there "Robin Hood".

Left - The Alhambra and New Victoria Theatres, Bradford - From a Postcard.

The cast was star studded with John Hanson as Robin Hood, Jimmy Wheeler was Mayor of Nottingham, Freddie Frinton Nurse Glucose, and Joe Baker and Jack Douglas were the robbers. The orchestra numbered 13, the ballet 16 plus six singers and a large supporting cast completed the bill. The pantomime was very spectacular with two big transformation scenes; one a toy ballet and the second a woodland dream scene where the stage was transformed from Sherwood Forest to the realms of the universe.

Freddie Frinton was unforgettable when he sang "Nobody Loves a Fairy When She's Forty" and a very drunken forty year old fairy he appeared to be. Jimmy Wheeler Was a cockney comedian and did not go down very well with some of the Northern Audience. One matinee he was dying and got very near the knuckle. George Baines the theatre manager rushed through the pass door with his cigar still in his mouth went into his dressing room to give Jimmy a good telling off. "Don't you come into my dressing room smoking your four penny cigars" retorted the comic. The pantomime however was an overall success.

The following year I returned with "Puss in Boots" starring Tommy Cooper who appeared in one scene as a rather eccentric principle boy. It was an extremely good pantomime but was stricken with bad luck. One of the Kims an acrobatic snapped his Achilles tendon on stage so that was them out of the show and we had numerous cast members off with flu. The director was fired because he could not get on with Tommy and the choreographer was taken ill during rehearsals. The worst was yet to come.

This was the year of the small pox epidemic in Bradford and people would not Come into the city. The performances were two thirds empty and parties cancelled by the dozen, sometimes we played to less than a hundred people. The entire cast Orchestra and theatre staff were vaccinated by a visiting doctor. On top of this one of the front of house staff was run over and killed by a bus as he crossed Morley Street.

The pantomime had to come off after five weeks of the planned ten weeks season It was the shortest run in the long history of pantomime at the Alhambra.

The above article is from Pantomime In the 1940s & 1950s by Donald Auty - Also see Pantomime economics of fifty years ago by Donald Auty.

Other Pages that may be of Interest