Thirty-three years ago tomorrow, Te Awamutu Light Operatic Society's new Woolshed Theatre was officially opened, followed by the theatre's inaugural production — Charlie Girl.

On Saturday, The King and I opens for a two-week season, and theatre-goers will be the first to experience the latest theatre upgrades.

About two years ago the committee discussed the issue of sight lines for audience members with the current theatre layout.

Three decades ago dinner theatre was popular, so the elevations had been designed to cater for tables.

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But the committee agreed they weren't likely to host any more dinner theatre evenings, so improvements could be made.

Theatre manager and retired builder Cedric Taylor drew plans for new elevations.

In standard theatre layout the first elevations allowed for two rows of seating on each level — but that meant theatre-goers in the second row had a harder time viewing the stage.

The society had invested in better quality and larger seating some time ago, but that meant there was legroom and accessibility issues.

Towards the end of last year society president Noldy Rust, and his deputy Jim Henson, took another look at the issue and agreed it should be remedied.

Cedric's plans were revisited and accepted and he agreed it was a job he could take on, with help.

The original elevations were retained and strengthened and Cedric set about pre-cutting the new elevations.

Donated timber helped keep costs down — as well as the volunteer manpower from Jim and other society members, as well as members of Te Awamutu Lions.

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Each level was put together on site and lifted into position.

The new design created a steeper elevation, with one row of seating per level.

Aisle banisters were added and the steps were doubled up to make it easier to get up and down for people of all ages.

The result is better sight lines for every theatre-goer, with an overall loss of just four seats from the standard configuration.

The front row is on the floor, and another row can be added if needed, plus the seats can be removed to created space for wheelchairs.

At the same time members undertook exterior maintenance, painting the roof and walls.

Jim says new signage has still to be installed, but the society is happy with the refurbished look.

He says the whole project was only possible because of the willingness of members to volunteer their time and experience — especially Cedric.

Earlier this month an evening was held to 'open' the new theatre — as well as honour three new life members, Donna Higham, Fiona Miller and Max Ward.

The King and I opens Saturday, May 18 and runs for two weeks, until Saturday, June 1 at the Woolshed Theatre. Tickets are available from www.iticket.co.nz and Te Awamutu i-Site.