Neptune Theatre

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This article is about the Neptune Theatre in Liverpool, UK. There is also a Neptune Theatre in Halifax, Canada; see Neptune Theatre (Halifax).

The Neptune Theatre, built in 1913, is one of Liverpool's many theatres. It has been threatened with closure several times, but as of 2003 remains the city centre civic theatre. The theatre seats 445 on its two levels.

History

The theatre originally opened in 1913 as Crane's Music Hall. The Crane Brothers' music store had been trading for several years when they opened the music hall above their store on Hanover Street in central Liverpool. Over the first few years, many amateur drama groups staged productions there, thus leading to its renaming as the Crane Theatre in 1938.

Little changed over the next twenty years, until in 1960 a bar was opened in the theatre's box office area. However, the theatre was threatened with closure in 1966. In 1967 the theatre was brought from the Cranes by Liverpool Corporation, who decided that the theatre should be run by local people for local people. To reflect the city's maritime history the name of the theatre was changed again, this time to the Neptune Theatre, after Neptune, the Roman god of the seas.

However, the future of the Neptune was not as secure as first seemed. A fall in the number of amateur drama groups led to a drop in shows. The corporation, by now named Liverpool City Council, suggested closure again in 1993. This caused a huge outcry around the city and many performers, including Dame Judi Dench, were part of the campaign to keep the theatre open. In order to attract audiences, a pantomime Snow White was staged in the theatre. This proved to be a huge success, with a pantomime now being held every year in the theatre.

Although he had nothing to do with the Neptune, the theatre was dedicated to the memory of Beatles manager Brian Epstein by the city council in 1997, for his contributions to the city's cultural and musical scene. Local artist Tony Brown offered a portrait of Epstein on permanent loan to the theatre in 1999 and this now hangs in the bar.

Today, the theatre is still open on Hanover street and sees a wide range of shows being performed, from its roots in music and amateur drama to pantomime and comedy. The theatre was chosen for a special BBC filming of Steve Coogan's Paul & Pauline Calf's Cheese and Ham Sandwich programme and many a comedian has moved on from the Neptune to the Edinburgh Fringe comedy festival.

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