The Lord Mayor of London opened the Open Air Theatre in Northstead Manor Gardens back in 1932, and audiences flocked to see 'Merrie England', the first production to be staged at the outdoor venue.
The theatre itself was built on the site of Hodgson's Slack, taking advantage of ground contours which created a natural amphitheatre. The stage was (and still is) set on an island in the middle of a lake with fixed seating for the audience opposite. It was set out in five blocks with 5,876 seats, and the balance was made up with deck chairs. Folding seats for 6,000 plus have now been added to the new theatre's hard surfaced terracing.
Back in the 1930's, when English seaside resorts were at their peak, the amphitheatre drew thousands each night, offering theatrical productions and lavish musicals on a scale that few of today's producers can even hope for. By 1952 the venue had attracted 1.5 million people, and the casts of performers alone could range up to 200.
The theatre enjoyed an amazing history with regular sell out events by Scarborough Operatic Society and musicals such as 'The King and I', 'Annie Get Your Gun' and 'Hiawatha', which saw native American warriors in canoes paddling on to the football pitch sized stage. During the summer season (a period of three months) two performances were held each week.
The theatre closed in 1986 but in 2010 was re-opened in grand style by Her Majesty the Queen! Today Scarborough Open Air Theatre is still a popular entertainment venue for all musical tastes. Every summer a star studded line up draws interest from far a field and over the years has seen a diverse range of acts including – Elton John, Lionel Richie, Tom Jones, Status Quo, Kylie Minogue, Britney Spears, Rick Astley, Olly Murs, McFly, Boyzone, Kaiser Chiefs, Stereophonics, Little Mix, Russell Watson, Michael Ball, Alfie Boe, Katherine Jenkins, Elaine Paige to name but a few!
2021 is set to be a lively season once more with shows from Westlife, Snow Patrol, Lionel Richie, Keane, Duran Duran and many more to look forward to!