Opera returns for night of magic

WHAT do Cinderella and the Tunbridge Wells Opera House have in common?

Both undergo a magical transformation to enjoy an evening of music and enchantment and it was the turn of both of them last Sunday (February 19) as the Merry Opera Company staged ‘Cinderella 23’ in Tunbridge Wells.

The ‘magic’ for the Opera House is with its landlords Wetherspoons, who have a reputation for taking over listed buildings, restoring them and continuing to operate them.

The Tunbridge Wells Opera House even calls time on drinkers once a year to transform the building back to its old self and put on an opera.

In ‘Cinderella 23’, the heroine makes her bid to transform her unhappy life for the better, amid a cast of grumpy stepmothers and fairy godfathers.

She is helped – or hindered – along the way by glass slippers and what the company calls ‘anima(gica)l assistants’.

The score harks back to the building’s past glory, featuring Handel and Rossini, along with songs from American musical theatre composer Jerome Kern, all leading up to an unexpected twist.

Dating from 1902, the Grade II-listed building is crowned by copper green cupolas in a grand ‘Edwardian Baroque’ style.

Over the years, the building has been a cinema and bingo hall before finally becoming a pub when Wetherspoons took over in 1996.

The chain says it spends millions each year on renovating many of its public houses.

Even after taking over the building in the 1990s, Wetherspoons has kept up the investment, undertaking a £700,000 restoration after part of the roof collapsed in 2020.

The roof had been repaired once before, after it was bombed during World War II.

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