Showtime will get bigger and better

THE show will go on – only bigger and better, say the Sunderland Empire's new bosses.

The Echo revealed this week that the iconic theatre has been snapped up by Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) as part of a 90million deal that saw 16 Live Nation venues sold off.

But ATG's joint chief executive Rosemary Squire today reassured Wearsiders that the quality of shows to tread the theatre's boards will be even better than before, with the Empire having already built up a strong reputation as the West End of the North.

She said: "In terms of the quality of production, I think the audience shouldn't worry.

"We have a huge production arm in terms of promoting high quality shows. We've just had West Side Story this year and The Rocky Horror Show is one of ours, as well as Matthew Bourne's Nutcracker.

"We also do a range and variety of shows from pantos, plays, comedies and medium-sized musicals to very big musicals, so I think from the point of view of audiences there will be even more variety on offer than now."

Rosemary announced there were no plans for any redundancies or a shake up to the running of the venue.

She said: "I think the most important thing is to reassure people that in Sunderland there will be no job losses at all.

"There is certainly no intention at the moment for redundancies but that's not to say we won't be looking at all operations."

Rosemary added that snapping up the Empire was one of the company's greatest coups as it is now the biggest theatre in its ever-expanding portfolio.

"It has to be said that this is a great opportunity for us because most of our existing venues are much smaller than the Empire so the biggest musicals can't come to our venues because they're too small at the moment.

"I'm really thrilled and think this is very positive news for Sunderland."

ATG is already responsible for producing the top class First Family Entertainment pantos that grace the Empire's stage, including this year's family show Peter Pan starring John Challis – Boycey from Only Fools and Horses – and ex-Emmerdale star James Baxter.

Previous owners Live Nation had operated the business on behalf of Sunderland City Council since 2000.

Although ATG have taken over the venue will remain in council hands.