THE Liverpool Empire Theatre is to welcome a very special Royal guest later this year. HRH Prince Edward the Earl of Wessex will be visiting the theatre to head up a 150 years celebration. The Empire Theatre (Merseyside) Trust together with the Ambassador Theatre Group have announced that celebrations will take place at a special Royal Gala performance of Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers on Thursday 29th September. The Royal Gala will commemorate the 150-year anniversary of the original theatre built on the site that now houses the Liverpool Empire Theatre. The Alexandra Theatre, as it was known, was built in 1866 and was the predecessor to the Liverpool Empire Theatre, beginning 150 years of theatrical entertainment on Lime Street. In February 1924, the Alexandra Theatre was closed and shortly after, it was demolished. It was replaced by the present Empire Theatre in 1925. When the Alexandra Theatre was demolished, the grand proscenium arch was rescued and incorporated into the new theatre building, becoming what is now one of the Empires most striking features. The Chairman of the Empire Trust Board, Mr Terry Smith said, “It is just a case of a whole series of things coming together – our 150-year celebration, a local writer, a local producer, a locally based storyline. Now that we have had official confirmation of the Royal patronage we are guaranteed to have an absolutely fantastic Royal Gala.” Buckingham Palace has confirmed that HRH Prince Edward the Earl of Wessex will attend the celebrations together with the Earl and Countess of Derby, the Lord Lieutenant of Merseyside, Dame Lorna Muirhead and the High Sheriff Mr James Davis. It is expected that a large number of celebrities and stage personalities will also be attending. Mr Smith added, “We were particularly thrilled when we learned that, as soon as Prince Edward heard of the event he made a definite decision that he wanted to be present. In fact, on the day before and day of the show he will be taking part in several major events in South Wales which had to be rearranged and it will be quite an operation to get him to Liverpool in time for the performance. The celebration itself comes at a very happy time for the Theatre with record attendances, an impressive programme of upcoming shows and all the newly refurbished entertainment facilities like a luxury Ambassador Lounge, the new Lime Street Bistro and fabulous piano bar all proving extremely popular.” The net proceeds of the Gala will go to a special fund managed by the Theatre Trust to support smaller dance, theatre, music and other arts groups based in Merseyside. Tickets for the performance are on sale now from the venue’s Box Office, online at atgtickets.com/Liverpool or by calling 0844 871 3017.