A THEATRE audience including special guests had to be evacuated from the venue's gala opening night performance of a West End show last night.

Sunderland Empire marked a milestone moment in its reopening journey on Wednesday, with the opening night of its first ‘direct from the West End’ show since reopening this autumn - School of Rock – The Musical.

Key stakeholders, supporters, press and advocates of the city of Sunderland had been invited to the show, as a thank you from Sunderland Empire for their support over the past 18 months and since reopening.

But just seven minutes from the end of the show, a fire alarm went off and everyone had to leave the building.

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A spokesperson for the venue said: “For the safety of our audience, staff and visiting company, the theatre was evacuated last night seven minutes from the end of School of Rock due to a suspected fire within the theatre which was in fact a false alarm.

“The Fire Service advised us not to continue with the show in order to allow thorough checks to be made.”

The theatre will be open as usual tonight and the early end to the show didn't seem to dampen people's spirits as most theatre goers were still singing its praises on social media and saying they only missed out on giving the cast a standing ovation.


Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Olivier Award-winning West End show opened at Sunderland last night and runs until Saturday, October 9, as part of its first ever UK and Ireland tour.

The show debuted at Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre in New York in 2015, and ran for more than three years, picking up four Tony nominations along the way.

It transferred to London in late 2016 and ran for over three years at the New London Theatre, winning an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music.

Based on the hilarious hit movie, the story follows Dewey Finn, a failed, wannabe rock star who decides to earn a few extra bucks by posing as a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school.

There he turns a class of straight-A students into a guitar-shredding, bass-slapping, mind-blowing rock band and finds himself falling for the school’s beautiful, but uptight headmistress, helping her rediscover the wild child within.

Jake Sharp leads the cast as Dewey Finn having previously performed the role in the West End. Alex Tomkins will perform in the role at certain performances.

They are joined by Rebecca Lock as Rosalie Mullins, Matthew Rowland as Ned Schneebly and Nadia Violet Johnson as Patty Di Marco.

The remaining adult cast comprise Ryan Bearpark, James Bisp, Joanna O'Hare, Samuel Haughton, Tom Hext, Harveen Mann, Richard Morse, Annell Odartey, Amy Oxley, Helena Pipe, Michaela Powell, Richard Vorster and Craig Watson.

One of three teams of twelve talented children performs live alongside Dewey each night.

Tickets for School of Rock are available from the Ticket Centre on 0844-8717615 or online at ATGtickets.com/Sunderland


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