Updated: Oct 14
A deal has finally been struck to bring the Epstein Theatre in central Liverpool back into life.
At the end of July the city council agreed to pay a £685,000 bill for the theatre's closure and administration (see here), knowing that a new management company was waiting in the wings to take over.
After a statutory period to accept objections, the council has appointed the newly-formed Epstein Entertainments Ltd, a joint venture between Liverpool producers Bill Elms, Chantelle Nolan and Jane Joseph, who have taken over management of the historic Hanover Street venue this week – and have already announced (today, October 14), its first show.
The Epstein will reopen in December with family favourite pantomime Beauty and the Beast, starring actor Ben Richards – well-known for his West End appearances and television roles in Hollyoaks, Footballers Wives, Holby City and The Bill – as Gaston. The show runs from December 16-January 9, 2022.
Bill Elms is a 30-year entertainment-industry veteran: a director of his own city PR firm and a theatre producer under Bill Elms Productions. Last year he created the Liverpool Theatre Festival, of which he is artistic director (and which will continue). He will become the Epstein's artistic and communications director.
His partners are Chantelle Nolan and Jane Joseph, the daughter and mother team who as Regal Entertainments have just taken over the running of the St Helen's Theatre Royal, after managing it successfully for 20 years.
Chantelle - who creates the Theatre Royal's annual pantomime and other shows – will be the Epstein's artistic and operations director.
The Epstein is a 108-year-old, 380-seat proscenium arch theatre originally built as Crane’s Music Hall in 1913 and renamed the Crane Theatre in 1938. In 1967 the theatre was bought by the council and renamed The Neptune Theatre, which became a comedy club and after years of uncertainty, closed its doors in 2005.
After a £1 million refurbishment in 2011, the theatre was reborn as the Epstein, honouring the man who managed the Beatles to world fame. The opening show at the new venue was the premiere of Epstein: The Man Who Made The Beatles – produced by Elms.
Elms said: "I’m delighted to have been successful in the joint tender for the lease of the theatre. This is a venue I have loved with a passion for so many years and is one of Liverpool's leading historical and cultural gems. I’m excited to play a part in both strengthening and reaffirming its future."
Elms wants to establish the Epstein as "among the most prolific theatres in the industry", showcasing established favourites, revivals and new works with both local and national producers and production companies, and attracting mid-scale UK tours that currently tend to bypass the city.
Chantelle Nolan – whose mother produced the annual pantomime at the Neptune for years – added: “The Epstein holds a very special place in people’s hearts, myself included. I appeared in my mother's first show there as a child. I couldn't have known that I’d be running the venue one day. The Epstein has amazing potential."
The new management is keen to receive enquires from local and national production companies for the programme from January 2022: email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pantomime tickets can be booked here