Posted by: dbradbury | May 8, 2009

A night out at Neptune Theatre

Wednesday night a friend and I went to Neptune Theatre’s live production of High School Musical.  Neither of us had seen the Disney movie so we went without any preconceived notions.  I’ve seen many shows at Neptune over the years, (Anne Frank, Cabaret, Cats,  Jesus Christ Superstar, Rocky Horror Picture Show, White Christmas, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas…to name a few).  Wednesday’s High School Musical was a hit!  I woke up singing ‘Status Quo’ the next morning and my friend had sold at least 4 tickets to the show by noon based on his enthusiastic review.  Suffice it to say we were surprised and delighted by the performance!

A little historical background on Neptune…   Theatre has been performed on the site of Neptune Theatre  since 1915.  Originally known as the Strand Theatre and designed by Nova Scotia’s first professional architect, Andrew Cobb, the Strand was reputed to be the first vaudeville house constructed specifically as a theatre.

After a serious fire in 1926, the theatre was extensively redecorated.  Two years later it underwent further renovation and emerged on July 9, 1928 as the Garrick Repertory Theatre.  Summer vaudeville alternated with winter repertory until the stock market crash of 1929 caused the theatre to close its doors.  It reopened again a year later as a movie cinema which is what it remained for the next 33 years.

In the late 1950’s, it was suggested that Halifax should become the Stratford of the east with its own repertory theatre.   In 1962 the old Odeon cinema was purchased for $100,000 by Colonel Sidney Oland (Oland Breweries) who later gave the building to Neptune.  With this and another $60,000 raised by the Neptune Theatre Foundation for renovations, Neptune Theatre was born.

On July 1st 1963, Neptune celebrated its first opening night with a production of Major Barbara.  Neptune was a hit and began a repertory theatre that presented plays year round.  It was the only Canadian theatre at the time to operate 52 weeks of the year.

But by the late 1980’s the physical structure of Neptune had badly deteriorated. It was apparent that the theatre would have to be substantially upgraded and expanded.  Thus the New Neptune Project commenced.

The movement to build a new Neptune really started in 1989 with an official proposal released in 1993.  It outlined plans to take the old 19,000 square foot building and retain the main auditorium with its original Andrew Cobb design, but demolish several of the buildings around it.   A 57,000 square foot facility would be created  that included an added studio theatre, several rehearsal spaces, a theatre school, increased office space and additional improved facilities for both patrons and staff, including adequate washrooms.  In September 1997, the new complex opened appropriately with a restaging of Major Barbara.   

Today Neptune Theatre is Atlantic Canada’s largest professional regional theatre. The season runs from mid September until late May and often well into July, with productions like CATS and Beauty and The Beast.  (Historical information can be found on the Neptune Theatre website).

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