No building in Dublin recalls the Victorian Music Hall more readily than the Olympia Theatre, with its glass canopy, supported by ornamental pillar and wrought iron scrollwork.
Situated opposite Dublin Castle in the heart of the city, the theatre was designed by John Callaghan, a well known architect of the time, for Dan Lowrey who opened his new theatre, known as The Star of Erin, on the site of the present Olympia Theatre on December 22nd, 1878.
|Olympia Exterior in 1960's||Olympia Exterior in 2011|
The entrance was at 12 Crampton Court, an old-world courtyard of coffee and antique shops. For seventeen years under Dan, his sons & grandsons, The Star played host to all the great names in international vaudeville.
In June 1897, Lowrey's was closed and remodelled and in August of that year it reopened as The Empire Palace Theatre of Varieties. So it happens that the theatre we now call The Olympia, this beautiful Rococo building, is almost precisely as it was on that August day in 1897. The new entrance from Dame Street actually runs under Lowrey’s old stage.
|Proscenium arch in the 1960's||Proscenium arch in 2011|
Barney Armstrong took over the reigns of direction in The Empire in 1915. On February 5th, 1923, the name changed again, this time to The Olympia Theatre. Stanley Illsely and Leo McCabe took over in 1952 and were in management for twelve years.
In the early 1960’s a group of London Irish businessmen bought the building and land. Dr. Brendan Smith made contact with the owners and secured a lease on the building. He formed a new company called Olympia Productions Ltd. and was elected chairman.
Over its formative years many world famous names in the theatre and film world have appeared on the stage in the Olympia. These include Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, Tyrone Power, Noel Coward, Alec Guinness, Dame Edith Evans, Marcel Marceau and many more...
|Seated layout in 1960's||Seated layout in 2011|
On November 5th, 1974, during a rehearsal break on the opening night of West Side Story, the Proscenium Arch of the theatre collapsed and sadly the theatre remained closed until March 14th 1977. It was due to the generosity of Dublin City Council, Corporation and, indeed, the Dublin people and members of the Irish Theatre Community, but especially the tenacious efforts of the Board of Olympia Productions and the staff, that the theatre was re-opened on March 14th 1977.
When the theatre opened its doors again in 1977, Gerry Sinnott took over the lease & the running of The Olympia and enjoyed an 18 year reign until 1995, when Gaiety Investments took the helm. The Gaiety Investments group have consistently brought the patrons of The Olympia to their feet with world class events including live music concerts as well as seated theatre shows.
|Front of theatre without canopy in 2004||Front of theatre with renovated canopy in 2007|
Another catastrophe hit The Olympia Theatre, quite literally, when the ornate glass canopy which had sheltered people as they enter theatre since 1897, was knocked down by a truck in an accident on 18th Nov 2004. Over the course of two and half years it rested in Glasgow while being painstakingly restored to its former beauty. The canopy was re-installed, with the help of the Department of Arts, Sports & Tourism, and unveiled by Maureen Grant on 12th November 2007.
The venue remains Dublin’s most loved theatres & music venues, with a repertoire that spans all genres, rock, pop, comedy, theatre, pantomime, cabaret, traditional, folk, hip-hop, metal, easy listening, variety acts, ballet, magic & more...
The stellar reputation of the theatre is proved time & time again when world famous acts request intimate shows here for their Irish fans. In recent years we’ve had big names such as: REM, Radiohead, David Bowie, Morrissey, Muse, Foo Fighters, The Strokes, Blur, Kings Of Leon, Michael Buble, Alicia Keys, The Killers, The Prodigy, Snow Patrol, Interpol, Arcade Fire, Sufjan Stevens, The Script, Faith No More, The Pixies, The Specials, Florence & The Machine, Bryan Adams, Mumford & Sons, Beady Eye, Adele, Queens Of The Stone Age & Noel Gallagher, all of whom chose the relatively small venue to host shows here when they could have sold out large arenas.
The ornate doors of The Olympia Theatre have been open & welcoming patrons for the last 116 years, and we look forward to welcoming many future generations to our venue.
|Maureen's Bar in The Olympia Theatre||The photos adorning the walls of Maureen's Bar|