British theatre impresario keen to bring more Broadway shows to Newcastle

17 May 2023

Hot on the heels of Come From Away's record-breaking Newcastle season at the Civic Theatre, leading English theatre operator and producer Sir Howard Panter has visited the city as part of a reconnaissance trip scouting new locations to host future Broadway productions.

Sir Howard owns and operates 16 theatres across Europe as well as Sydney's Theatre Royal on a 55 year lease from the NSW Government. He is currently in Australia to attend the opening of the Broadway jukebox smash Tina - The Tina Turner Musical, on Thursday at the Theatre Royal.

His company, Trafalgar Entertainment, is also responsible for producing a range of major theatre shows including Jersey Boys, The Rocky Horror Show, Jagged Little Pill, 42nd Street and War Horse.

Sir Howard and his team were in Newcastle today to take a firsthand look at the iconic Civic Theatre as well as the heritage-listed Victoria Theatre, which is undergoing a $5 million restoration project ahead of being reopened next year.

Sir Howard Panter said he's been hearing for some time now of the excitement and reinvention of Newcastle.

"So many people have told me that I have to come to Newcastle. I was promised a mature, heritage city built on both the harbour and the coastline. Having now finally made my way here, I must say I’ve been blown away by what Newcastle has to offer," Sir Howard said.

"To have a theatre of the size and grandeur of the Civic Theatre next to a new five-star hotel with light rail access on its doorstep, and a plethora of fine dining options on offer at Honeysuckle, it's about as close to 'theatre heaven' as it gets.

“The Civic has that old world European feel to it that just adds to the sense of time travel that great theatre shows can take their audience on. I couldn’t be more keen to bring a Broadway show to Newcastle and hope we have some exciting news to share with the city in the next few months."

City of Newcastle CEO Jeremy Bath met with Sir Howard and said discussions to bring Trafalgar’s first show to the Civic Theatre are well advanced.

"The reinvention of Newcastle as a cosmopolitan, thriving major events city has been known for some time to entertainment and producers throughout Australia. The record-breaking local staging of Come From Away has grabbed the attention of international theatre producers such as Trafalgar, who recognise the burgeoning theatre demand that exists in Newcastle, and the Hunter," Mr Bath said.

"Having someone of Sir Howard’s stature make time to travel to Newcastle from his London base is both an honour and an opportunity to showcase all our city has to offer.

"With a thriving local night time economy, $110 million expansion of Newcastle Airport underway to enable international flights to the city, $45 million expansion of the Newcastle Art Gallery to house the most valuable art collection in regional Australia, and a theatre catchment that stretches from NSW's Central Coast to Port Macquarie, it's really no surprise that theatre producers are circling Newcastle.

"Few theatres compare to the majesty of the Civic Theatre in Newcastle and Come From Away impressed theatregoers during its recent Newcastle debut, smashing previous box office ticket sales records and whetting the city's appetite for more Broadway live musical theatre.

"Newcastle is ready willing and able to add its name to the national touring list of major shows when they visit Australia."

More than 21,500 theatregoers from across the Hunter and as far away as Tasmanian and Queensland flocked to the Civic Theatre during Come From Away's three-week extended run in February to share in the incredible real-life story of the 7,000 air passengers from around the world who were grounded in Newfoundland Canada in the wake of 9/11.

Newcastle was also the first regional city in Australia to stage Van Gogh Alive, with 84,000 tickets sold in just five weeks for the immersive, multi-sensory display of the painter's iconic artworks, delivered as part of New Annual 2022.