Revamped Crewe theatre playing for laughs
THEATRE bosses have launched a big-name programme of comedy and variety to draw in audiences from across the area.
HQ Theatres, the company brought in by Cheshire East Council to manage Crewe's Lyceum Theatre, is focusing on shows it believes will attract crowds from within a 40-minute drive of Crewe – encouraging people to make the trip up the D-road.
It wants to operate in tandem with theatres in Stoke-on-Trent, and the larger West End-style stage productions on offer at The Regent theatre, in Hanley.
In particular, the theatre is hoping shows from big name comics including Shaun Lock, Jack Dee, Dave Spikey and Rich Hall – will help drive up audience figures.
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It has also laid on a diverse mix of entertainment to appeal to the varying tastes within its wide catchment area, with lavish productions of ballet and opera planned alongside Abba tributes and male strippers.
Theatre director Alistair Armit said: "We have got a bit of everything, partly to test the water. We have got a completely mixed demographic, which is brilliant from a programmer's point of view.
"We can put on all sorts of different shows which appeal to a different audiences every night. We are focusing on a lot of comedy and we have got some really big names to drive that.
"We were offered a show with Micky Flanagan as part of his tour and it sold out in three hours, so we realised we have a real market for comedy. We have found a niche."
HQ Theatres was brought in to manage the century-old Lyceum by the council in a move to save tax payers £140,000 and inject new life into the venue.
The company took over in January and has already invested a 'considerable' sum in refurbishing the listed building, which will include a bistro, to be open daily from April.
The theatre aims to market itself as a destination night out, with visitors able to enjoy a meal before seeing a show, then have a drink at the bar afterwards.
HQ Theatres chief executive Derek Nichols, below, said: "The Lyceum is a fine example of an early 20th century theatre. We know the Lyceum is loved.
"We want to build and develop the audience. We think our catchment area is within a drive time of 30 or 40-minutes and runs very much into Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire.
"We don't see ourselves as being in competition with places like the Regent, which is a lovely theatre, but it needs big shows.
"The Lyceum is a more intimate venue, ideal for smaller productions and acts like comedians.
"But we also have the technology for musicals."
Salesman Graham Anthony, aged 39, of Henry Street, Crewe, said: "I've not been to the Lyceum in ages, to be honest. But it's part of Crewe. I like the idea of more comedy, I would go to see that."
Julie Jones, aged 29, of Crewe, added: "I like the idea of more comedy and things like Strictly Come Dancing."