This citation was issued by the National Trust in 1986, the one hundredth anniversary of the original Alexandra Theatre.
Her Majesty’s Theatre
199 – 219 Exhibition Street
Municipality Melbourne City
Region Inner Melbourne
File No. B5110
Place Type Theatre
Classified 20 February 1986
Citation Type Trust
This Moderne styled theatre, housed in an altered 19th century shell designed by Nahum Barnet, is the second known large-scale use of this European style surviving as an Australian interior and the earliest surviving example to utilise most of the style’s eventual palette of finishes and forms.
As such, it heralded the countless Moderne styled cinemas which proliferated in the late 1930s. Complementary to the new cherubless decor, were the technological innovations announced at its 1934 opening. It was the first theatre to employ an acoustic consultant (H. Vivian Taylor) and reflected this in its good acoustics and through the extensive use of veneered ply wall cladding. It appears to be the first to provide air conditioning (heating, cooling and humidity control) for a large interior in Victoria and the first in the state to achieve magical lighting effects on a cyclorama from a new compact control board (now dismantled), which was made by Siemens but developed by J. C. Williamson’s engineer.
The architects were C.N. Hollinshead and Albion Walkley, leading Australian theatre specialists. This was the J.C. Williamson national flagship for nearly 40 years. Within three years of the 1934 opening, the theatre had successfully staged musical comedy, grand opera, Gilbert & Sullivan opera and ballet. It was to become the Melbourne home of the Borovansky Company for 17 years and was also used for the early seasons of the Australian Ballet and the Elizabethan Trust Opera Company (now The Australian Opera). It is, however, as a musical comedy venue that Her Majesty’s has been most successful: more than 100 musicals have played there since 1934, from White Horse Inn to Song and Dance via Oklahoma!, My Fair Lady, Camelot and A Chorus Line – a lineup probably unequalled in any other theatre in the world.