After an outlay of £40,000 (£15,000 over budget), the theatre opened on 1 October 1886. Joubert named it the Alexandra, after the then Princess of Wales. The theatre and shops were collectively known as ‘the Alexandra Buildings’ and the theatre was affectionately referred to as ‘the Aleck’. The symmetrical Exhibition Street elevation was of face red brickwork with rendered detailing, with the central entrance defined by a raised mansard roof and a distinctive semi-circular window over the doorway. Early illustrations show the building without a verandah; a cast iron one was soon added to the Exhibition Street frontage. The seating capacity was made up of approx. 1,080 in both the Stalls and Dress Circle sections and another 600 in the Upper Circle – a total capacity of nearly 2,800.
Joubert had hoped to open with a season of Italian opera, but the actual presentation was a rather low-brow comedy called Bad Lads. Within a year, Joubert had become insolvent, resuming his earlier career organising exhibitions. Over the next 14 years, the theatre had various directors and managers. A successful formula was found, with popular melodramas being a staple fare for the late 19th century audiences.
James Cassius Williamson first came to Australia with his wife in 1874 as an actor under contract to George Coppin. He formed his own theatre company in 1880 and in 1882, entered into a partnership with Arthur Garner and George Musgrove, which became known as the ‘triumvirate’.