Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton, Thursday 8th September, 2016
Since it first opened its doors in 1894, the Grand Theatre has been the best reason to visit Wolverhampton. Now, 122 years later, the theatre is entering the next phase of its evolution with a massive and thorough refurbishment of the bars and front of house areas. The transformation is remarkable.
There is a new bar in the foyer, a long curving counter with mood under-lighting. This bar will be open from 11am Monday to Saturday, rather than only during show times. The former stalls bar is now the Encore Lounge – the most drastic refit of the lot, including a new performance space – as I nose around, a jazz trio tinkles away, their music broadcast through the building by the newly installed sound system. Here, more space is given over to seating. Booths have been installed and – a lovely touch – bowler and top hats form the lampshades over the tables.
The Dress Circle also has a new bar, Arthur’s of the Grand – so named because of sponsorship from cutlery manufacturers Arthur Price. New booths give the loggia a more intimate feel. It all looks rather splendid, I have to say. The décor is classy and elegant without being imposing.
Further up, on the Grand Circle level, the ‘bar that time forgot’ has not escaped the designers’ attention. It too is now invitingly swish. There is also The Spotlight Lounge, a function room and boardroom available for hire.
Bars and hospitality are important, to be sure, but the main business of the theatre remains unchanged. The plush auditorium has not been neglected. All 1200 seats have been replaced with new, ‘soft-closing’ seats for noise reduction and, I can testify, they are very comfortable, soft with firm back support and improved leg room, it seems.
I decide I might move in, Phantom of the Opera style. Just don’t tell the management. The casual opulence of the refit has rejuvenated this beautiful old building, giving it a lift and making it the place to be. I’m already looking forward to a return visit. You can check out details of the Grand’s new season here, and then go and check out the splendid upgrade for yourself.