THE EARLY DAYS
The theatre was built in 1883 by a group of businessmen and was known as the Alexandra Hall. It was enlarged in 1904 and sold to the New Plymouth Theatre Company and renamed the Theatre Royal. It became part of the Australian touring circuit and also eventually showed moving pictures (films).
FIRE AND RESURRECTION
On 21 July 1916, after the showing of a silent war film, The Martrdom of Nurse Cavell, it was destroyed by fire. The site stood empty for several years.
In 1923, the town’s two cinema companies pooled their resources together to establish the New Plymouth Opera House, as even though cinema was a popular pastime with the people of New Plymouth there was a deeply felt need for live theatre as well. T.H. Bates who had been involved in the building of the nearby Mayfair Theatre designed the Opera House and it was rebuilt and opened on 25 November 1925.
During the 1930s the theatre was buffeted by three international shocks: the Depression, World War II, and the advent of talking pictures. As a result during the 1930s the venue was primarily used as a motion picture theatre (films) as well as hosting live shows.
LIVE THEATRE POPULAR
The celebratory mood of the 1940s and 50s saw a revival of interest in live theatre and the revitalisation of flagging local companies. As a result many pantomimes and musicals were presented during the 50s. In 1952, Erika Lagora produced the first musical in the Opera House - a revue called December Song.
By 1969 the venue had once again fallen into disuse. In 1970 it was offered for sale, with the greatest interest from an Auckland man who planned to bulldoze the site and build a supermarket. The New Plymouth Operatic Society - a voluntary community organisation under the presidency of John Murphy then stepped in to raise funds to purchase the building and created the New Plymouth Opera House Trust and once again it was revived as a performing arts venue.
In 1976, the New Plymouth Borough Council (NPBC) offered $100,000 to a community project to commemorate the Centenary of NPBC. By an overwhelming public vote the Opera House was awarded the grant. The campaign committee under the chairmanship of Mayor D. V. Sutherland managed to raise an additional $114,000 from private individuals, businesses, local groups and the Arts Council. This kick started the biggest project ever undertaken on the venue. On 11 August 1976, the gala opening of South Pacific produced by Dorne Arthur for the New Plymouth Operatic Society was presented to a crowded house with the Prime Minister R.D. Muldoon and his wife as guests of honour.
In 1997, struggling to sustain the venue as well as produce high quality shows the New Plymouth Opera House Trust handed management of the theatre to the New Plymouth District Council (NPDC). With support from the NPDC and TSB Bank a refurbished and expanded theatre complex re-opened on 6 February 1999 with the addition of a new smaller black box theatre known as the Theatre Royal and function room (The Alexandra Room).
Now the TSB Showplace is a category A heritage building which continues to host numerous events from theatrical productions to weddings, conferences and expo’s and has become an iconic landmark within the Taranaki district known both locally and internationally.
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