Alhambra | Glasgow
Now for the first time, the compelling story, fully illustrated, of the famous Alhambra Theatre, which started with the trans-Atlantic expansion of entertainment linking London, Glasgow, Paris, Berlin, San Francisco and New York.
Told by Graeme Smith, author of The Theatre Royal - Entertaining a Nation.
The most advanced theatre in Britain, the Alhambra opened in 1910 and stayed ahead of other theatres. Famous for glamour and humour, variety, ballet, pantomime, musicals, opera, drama and dance the Alhambra expressed the prowess of Glasgow and its environs. Its managing director Sir Alfred Butt gave “the best of European and American Vaudeville attractions” in the “Resort of the Elite.”
Alhambra's eminent architect Sir John James Burnet was awarded the Royal Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects, one of only a few to be recognised in this way, and his firm went on to design the Empire Exhibition, 1938. The Alhambra was one of a handful of super-large theatres in Britain. Its founders supported cinema, jazz, cabaret and ballrooms.
Alhambra pantomimes became the hallmark of quality and spectacle, headed by Will Fyffe, Harry Gordon, Alec Finlay, Jimmy Logan, Stanley Baxter, Fay Lenore, Rikki Fulton, Kenneth McKellar and others. A showcase for musicals and premieres, including Jack Buchanan, Jessie Matthews, and Ivor Novello, it was also the birthplace of Mona Inglesby's International Ballet company; the heart of Scotland's largest-ever repertory company, the Wilson Barrett Company; and the venue of Scotland's first Royal Variety performances, attended by Queen Elizabeth. The theatre's Five Past Eight shows presented by Howard & Wyndham remain unequalled in Britain, most often led by Jack Radcliffe, Eve Boswell and Jimmy Logan. The Bluebell Girls made their debut in Britain at the Alhambra, and its Starlight Room was unique in Britain.
For over forty years it was an independently owned theatre - a venture of London and Glasgow, the first step in Sir Alfred Butt emerging as the Napoleon of Variety, and the promoter of scintillating musicals. In 1954 it became the premier theatre of Howard & Wyndham, a company born in the city. Their majestic theatre buildings survive today in Glasgow (2), Edinburgh (2), Newcastle, Manchester, and Liverpool... all except their flagship... the Alhambra.
The Alhambra was a modern theatre, its entertainment exuberant.