THE show is finally set to go on at Richmond's Georgian Theatre Royal, which will open its doors for its first professional performance in 18 months.

Pianist Albert Lau will share the stage with another star – the theatre’s magnificent Steinway grand piano, making a first appearance following its recent restoration.

The Steinway’s restoration is just one of several exciting projects to have taken place behind the scenes at The Georgian Theatre Royal during the long months of lockdown.

These include the installation of new, comfortable seating and a state-of-the-art heating and ventilation system that will vastly improve the audience experience and enable the circulation of 100 per cent fresh air into the 18th-century auditorium.

“Lockdown and the subsequent cessation of live performances seemed like a great opportunity to send the piano away for a bit of TLC,” said the theatre’s manager, Clare Allen. “We knew it would be a lengthy process so it was a good time to have it out of action.”

Tasked with the job of bringing the Steinway – Model C for those in the know – up to top concert standard was the Piano Workshop based in Kirkbymoorside, near Pickering.

Here the instrument was stripped down to its component parts, and then re-built and re-strung. Its cabinet has also been re-sprayed to a contemporary high-gloss concert piano finish.

Aidan Delacey-Simms, a specialist in Steinway restoration at the workshop, said: “Steinways are the Rolls Royce of pianos and this is a beautiful instrument with a fantastic sound.

"As well as giving the piano a complete overhaul, we have used the best available replacement parts such as modern hammerheads and strings, which are even better than the originals. It has been a pleasure to work on such a prestigious instrument, which now plays to an exceptional standard."

The Steinway was originally bought by the theatre in 1965 for the princely sum of £1,500. It was part-funded using a donation of £1,000 from Lady Barlow, also known as the acclaimed actress Margaret Rawlings.

Lady Nancy Crathorne – who championed the initial restoration of the theatre – described the event at the time: “Margaret Rawlings came to the theatre and immediately fell in love with it. She then asked me if there was anything we needed. So I said, rather desperately, a Steinway. She then gave us a cheque for £1,000. It was terribly generous and has made a great deal of difference already. Now we can aim for the best pianists because we have an instrument that gives absolute joy to them.”

Lady Crathorne was correct in her aspirations and in the following decades, many famous people have played the Steinway, most notably the distinguished American pianist and conductor, Stephen Bishop-Kovacevich, who performed in June 1966. Apparently he was so pleased with the theatre’s new piano that he played it all afternoon for his own pleasure before he performed in the evening. He returned for another concert in May 1990. In the same year, Joyce Grenfell’s pianist, Arthur Blezzard was so taken with the piano that he went on playing after the show until the early hours of the morning.

A great coup was one of the 20th century’s best-known composers Benjamin Britten in May 1967, who played alongside the tenor Peter Pears. Other renowned musicians have included Kathryn Stott (1984), Barry Douglas (1990) and Benjamin Frith (2009).

Albert Lau, who will be taking the bows at the opening concert on September 3, is also fast making a name for himself on the international circuit. It is fitting that he is also a Young Steinway Artist. Albert first visited The Georgian Theatre Royal shortly before lockdown and is delighted to be returning to perform on its stage with its wonderful acoustics.

His varied programme will include Beethoven’s popular “Appassionata’ and works by Clara Schumann, Franck, Chopin, York Bowen and Ravel.

Born in Hong Kong and now living in Cologne, Albert studied at Indiana University and continued his postgraduate studies with Joanna MacGregor at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Albert performs internationally as a solo pianist and chamber musician and has released two CDs, Unveiled and Mirage.

Speaking ahead of his Richmond performance, Albert said: “I am very excited to be performing at the Georgian. It should be a very special atmosphere, as it is the first opportunity the audience will have to experience the beautifully refurbished auditorium and to hear the newly restored Steinway.” The concert is on Friday, September 3 at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £16, from or on 01748-825252.

The Georgian Theatre Royal’s Autumn Season offers a wide and varied programme of live events that include drama, classical and popular music, tribute bands, author talks, stand-up comedy and children shows. It culminates with the legendary pantomime, this year Beauty and the Beast, which opens on 3 December and runs until 9 January 2022.

The Georgian Theatre Royal’s Steinway grand piano can be hired out to other venues for concerts and performances. For further information, please call 01748 823710.