HE IS the man who transformed a planned bingo hall into one of the country’s most successful theatres.

Now after 26 years at the top Dennis Hall, the chief executive of The Mayflower theatre, is to retire.

He will step down in October, having seen the theatre stage three of the UK’s biggest touring productions – Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang – among dozens of other top West End and Broadway shows.

Dennis told the Daily Echo: “I have had a ball!

“But I feel that now is the right time to pass the baton on. I have thoroughly enjoyed the past 26 years and am exceedingly proud of all that has been achieved.

“My personal highlights would include the three royal visits from Prince Charles, the Princess Royal, and Prince Edward and the experience of being the first provincial theatre to invest in a West End production – Buddy.

The 65-year-old arrived at the then Gaumont in November 1985.

“It was very apparent that the theatre was in a sorry state,” he said.

“Staff morale was low, which was not surprising as the current owners had been attempting to turn the place into a bingo hall.”

Following a 14 month closure and £4m refurbishment, The Gaumont was reborn as The Mayflower on February 24, 1987.

Dennis added: “Our priority has always been to provide the very best of the industry’s touring productions, and I believe that this has been achieved.

“We have succeeded in our aspiration to stage world class musicals, ballet, opera and drama. We have catered for a vast range of taste in our offering of plays, comedy acts, singers and bands, both rock and pop, with artistes from the whole spectrum of the entertainment world.”

“I have worked with Britain’s best producers with their remarkable productions.

“I must acknowledge my incomparable management team and staff and The Mayflower theatre trust chairman and board, who I have had the pleasure of working with throughout this incredible journey.”

The search is now under way for a new chief executive.