With the multi-award-winning production of Dreamgirls taking to the stage at the Sunderland Empire in early March, I recently visited the venue with my family to sample its corporate box experience, and what a treat it was.
Opening its doors over 100 years ago, the Sunderland Empire remains one of the North East’s largest premier entertainment venues, boasting a capacity of 2,000. Despite refurbishment and expansion over the years, the Sunderland Empire maintains its traditional red and gold colour scheme and ornate décor, and welcomes touring musicals, operas, ballets and huge West End productions.
Situated in the heart of Sunderland city centre, the easily accessible venue is surrounded by a range of restaurants, bars and pubs, which customers can enjoy before or after their visit.
Operated by Ambassador Theatre Group, visitors to the Sunderland Empire can choose from a range of corporate experience packages, which include entry to the VIP Ambassador Lounge up to 90 minutes before the show and during the interval, an extensive drinks and snacks selection, excellent table service, house programmes and use of the private cloakroom and washroom facilities. What a treat!
Upon arrival, we were swiftly ushered to the sophisticated Ambassador Lounge and were instantly impressed by the venue’s atmosphere. With plush velvet seating, ambient lighting and a cosy, intimate feel, the lounge oozed luxury and opulence in abundance. The venue also had its own red carpet, which really added to the VIP experience.
Feeling thirsty, we kicked off proceedings with some delicious glasses of rosé, although customers can enjoy various drinks, including Champagne if you are really pushing the boat out. In the lounge, we also noted the venue’s excellent hospitality, with friendly, attentive staff who offered exceptional table service and were happy to accommodate to our needs.
We were then escorted to one of the four private Ambassador Boxes to enjoy the show. Offering prime positioning at the Dress Circle level, the Ambassador Box really enhanced the theatre experience, which was similarly furnished with a red carpet, glamourous décor and sophisticated seating. Accompanied by yet more rosé, we sat back to relax and watch the show of Dreamgirls unwind.
Featuring the classic songs ‘And I am Telling You I’m Not Going’, ‘Listen’ and ‘One Night Only’, Dreamgirls premiered in the UK in the West End in 2016 after 35 successful years on Broadway. Dreamgirls tells the story of the Dreams – three talented young singers – and follows their musical journey through fame, fortune, friendship and the harsh realities of show business in the 1960s, a notable time of revolution within American music history.
Directed and choreographed by Olivier and Tony Award winner Casey Nicholaw, the show stars the brilliant Nicole Raquel Dennis as Effie White, a 2019 finalist on the Voice who impressed viewers with her performance of ‘And I’m Telling You’ with Jennifer Hudson, who similarly took on the iconic role of Effie in the 2006 motion picture adaptation of the show.
Watching the show, the enticing plot and iconic musical numbers had us reduced to both laughter and tears. We were also enamored by the actors’ vocals, which I have to say were some of the most impressive I have ever seen on stage. Coupled with the luxurious ambience of the Ambassador Box, it is safe to say this was an unforgettable night.
Overall, the corporate box experience offered a fantastic evening of musical entertainment, excellent hospitality and sophisticated surroundings. Whilst it was great to do as a family, the experience also provides the opportunity for businesses to entertain clients, with a host of corporate packages available. If you are looking for a night to remember, the Sunderland Empire is really adding the edge to the theatre experience