The beginning of the end of the Grand Theatre as photographed in 1958. I have been reading the report in the Luton News of the demise of the Grand, which staged its final show in May 1957. And very sad reading it makes.
The theatre had been opened in 1898 by actress Lily Langtry. It was a success for years but eventually suffered temporary closures until its final reopening in1955. Even nude shows failed to change its fortunes.
The final Christmas panto had played to half-empty houses with Dan Leno, son of the famous old musical hall star of the same name, saying the public had got into a lazy mentality owing to television and were letting the theatre die.
The theatre’s final performance on May 4th, 1957, was played to an almost empty house. It was called “As You (the public) Want it”. Manager Mr Lennol said: “This is a sad occasion. We are closing down through lack of support. I think it is a disgrace to the people of Luton that they could not keep going a little theatre of just over 500 seats. It’s goodbye for ever to the Grand.”
The report finished by saying the theatre had opened with The Sign Of The Cross and Mr Lennol from the stage at 10.35pm closed the Grand with the sign of a cross.
“The few people who were there to say goodbye walked slowly out of the theatre. The doors were slammed closed behind them…the frames shuddered as if the theatre were choking after its last breath of air. And the Grand Theatre, Luton, died – willing, but unwanted.”