Historic Theatre Royal Sydney Reopens

Rebecca Varidel
29th Nov 2021

“I have happy memories of the old ‘Royal’ where I attended many plays and operas: it was a Sydney icon. In 1976 I attended the opening of the new Theatre Royal designed by my husband. It had the beautiful Mercator and the grand winding staircase within the red and gold plush interior. I am so thrilled I will be at the opening of the Royal again in 2021 when Harry’s original design is renewed and will now be visible from King Street for the first time; the Mercator is back, the red and gold is back. I have no doubt it will become a Sydney icon once again and am sure it will enhance the life of Sydney for many more generations” ~ Penelope Seidler AM of Harry Seidler & Associates.

Theatre Royal Sydney is thrilled to be opening its doors to the public after a complete refurbishment that has transformed this iconic 1200 seat historical Australian theatre.

One of Australia’s oldest theatrical institutions, originating in 1832, the current Theatre Royal Sydney was built in 1976, designed by acclaimed architect Harry Seidler, offering a broad range of entertainment including dramas, comedy and musicals. Many leading Australian and international performers have graced the Theatre Royal Sydney stage. In 1980, Mel Gibson and Noni Hazlehurst took to the stage in “No Names…No Pack Drill”. The rich performance history also includes an interval bomb scare at the Australian Premiere of CATS in 1985, with audience members including Prime Minister Bob Hawke, Treasurer Paul Keating, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh and a three year season of Phantom of the Opera from 1993 seen by over one million people, the longest running musicals ever staged at Theatre Royal Sydney.

"I am so pleased that the Theatre Royal is now back to Harry's original design, including the beautiful hanging Perry sculpture" Penelope Seidler shared on instagram today following the cutting of the ribbon and preview of the historic refurbishment.

Harry Seidler’s original design concepts have been honoured in the renewal of the Theatre Royal with the re-establishment of key architectural features including the Charles O. Perry Mercator sculpture and the thematic feature the colours of red and gold. As original architects of the Theatre Royal Sydney (1976) and 25 Martin Place, Harry Seidler & Associates were engaged together with Woods Bagot to complete designs as part of the Conservation Management Plan for Theatre Royal and 25 Martin Place. In collaboration with Woods Bagot, Harry Seidler & Associates has also delivered the architectural design for the retail podium, public spaces and the office tower lobby at 25 Martin Place.

After assisting Trafalgar Entertainment by coordinating their successful bid for the operation of the Theatre Royal Sydney, Scott Carver were engaged to provide Interior Design Services for the refurbishment. The design paid homage to the rich past of Theatre Royal whilst meeting the patron and production expectations of modern theatres. Their scope of works included the refurbishment of patron experience areas encompassing the provision of three new bars, two VIP lounges, new seating and interior design to the auditorium, alongside compliance and technical upgrade coordination and the extension of the balcony to provide a new front row to the circle.  The Interior Design approach was to honour and enhance the modernist design of the auditorium, restoring the iconic ribbed ceiling structure, whilst modernising the lighting design, seating and proscenium. The series of hospitality offers integrated into the iconic multi-storied foyer, including bars, merchandise counters and VIP areas all addressed the evolution of hospitality in today’s theatre experience while providing additional revenue streams.

"It’s been an honour to work on an icon of both Sydney theatrical history and also its outstanding architectural heritage. The legacy of Harry Seidler is felt around the theatre, and we ensured that the design tied the existing features with the requirements of a modern theatre and visionary new MLC Centre. We look forward to seeing the stage and auditorium come to life again and hearing chatter and joy in the foyers and new bars and lounges. We don’t want to distract you from the show, but make sure you look up to see the restored heritage ceilings and new proscenium when you get a chance” Scott Carver Senior Associate Interior Design, Tina Fox said.

The architectural masterpiece and centrepiece of theatre in Sydney’s CBD will be re-opening its doors this Thursday December 2 with Broadway hit musical Jagged Little Pill bringing performance and creativity once again to the heart of Sydney whilst expanding international tour possibilities within Australia.

Delivering on the 'Sydney gets it first’ promise to bring the very best of international theatre to this exciting new venue, two of the most exciting current new Broadway musicals will be kicking off the programming. Grammy and Tony Award winning Broadway musical Jagged Little Pill will be the first production to hit the stage 2 to 29 December followed in January by one of the most critically acclaimed multi award-winning productions of the 21st Century Girl from the North Country. Four-time Tony Award winning Broadway musical An American in Paris will follow in April 2022, just a taste of what is to come for audiences.


@jaggedmusicalau from 2 December 2021.
@northcountryau from 5 January 2022.
@americaninparisau from 29 April 2022.

Photos: November 2021 Theatre Royal Sydney, Auditorium and Foyer, by Pierre Toussaint