Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Return of the Grand Old Lady; STARS GREET REOPENING OF HACKNEY EMPIRE

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Return of the Grand Old Lady; STARS GREET REOPENING OF HACKNEY EMPIRE

Article excerpt

Byline: NICK CURTIS

THE last fixtures still aren't quite screwed down, but the Hackney Empire has reopened in grand style after an [pounds sterling]18 million, three-year refit.

Stars including Mel Smith, Maureen Lipman, George Melly, Saffron Burrows and Greg Wise were there to applaud its return.

Indeed, there were more famous faces in the audience than on stage and the evening's entertainment - embracing every aspect of the theatre's 103-year history - had a ramshackle air of celebration.

But this place has always been about democratic, accessible fun.

The Empire is open for business again largely due to the fundraising of comedian Griff Rhys Jones - compeere last night. He paid tribute to Hackney-born businessman Sir Alan Sugar, who had stumped up about [pounds sterling]1.4 million.

The cabaret was an agreeable hodgepodge. The jerky, music-box motions of two "clockwork" dancers gave way to a music hall medley; a lithe breakdancer preceded an aria from La Boheme. …

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