Upgrade to Stage of State Theatre Sydney Planned

Upgrade to Stage of State Theatre Sydney Planned

Could Sydney’s historic State Theatre become the additional lyric theatre that theatrical producers have long advocated for the city?

While many of Sydney’s grand live theatres and picture palaces might well have filled the bill, only the State and Capitol Theatres escaped the jackhammer in a shameful period shortsighted development decisions in the 1960s and 1970s.

The National Trust of Australia classification describes the State as "a building of great historical significance and high architectural quality, the preservation of which is regarded as essential to our heritage”.

However, backstage limitations at the glorious 2,000 seat, 1929 cinema have ensured that the venue was unsuitable to any number of larger and more complex musical theatre and operatic productions.

Today (January 27, 2012), The Sydney Morning Herald reported a $32 million proposal to extend the State Theatre's stage and backstage facilities.

State Theatre owner, Amalgamated Holdings’, development application to extend the stage would involve demolition of the two-storey Mick Simmons building (purchased by AHL in 2005 for this purpose). The plans include both the stage extensions, loading dock improvements and a new 16-storey retail and commercial building on George Street.

AHL is also converting offices areas above the heritage listed theatre, initially designed as a Gothic styled 11 storey retail area, and the Gowings building next door into a 196-suite boutique hotel.

AHL’s development application, currently before City of Sydney council it states extensions to the theatre would ''accommodate a greater variety of productions and ensure the long-term viability of the historically significant State Theatre''.

''Currently, the State Theatre stage and back-of-house facilities are not sufficient to accommodate some large and/or international productions. As a result, the theatre (and the City of Sydney) are not able to attract certain entertainment productions to its stage and are losing these productions to other theatres and Australian states.”

The theatre producer John Frost told the Herald that audiences experienced a ''sense of awe'' when they entered the State Theatre and it would be fantastic if the extensions enabled major musical productions to be staged there.

''I think everything [AHL] are doing sounds spot-on, but I would like to think they would get the right advice on how to do it from a technical and theatrical point of view,'' he said.

Construction of the State Theatre began in 1927, with costs blowing out from £400,000 to in excess of £1million. Designed by Sydney architect Henry L White, after the style of John Eberson, it seated 2,775 patrons, and featured a 21 rank Wurlitzer organ, a four tonne crystal chandelier and painting by artists including William Dobell and Julian Ashton.

The State Theatre has hosted the Sydney Film Festival since 1974.