A history of West End theatres

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Adelphi Theatre

The Adelphi Theatre is a theatre specialising in comedy and musical theatre. In 1806 when it was founded, it was named the Sans Pareil by a merchant named John Scott and his daughter Jane. Jane wrote more over 50 shows and musical theatre and pantomine took over the stage. In 1819 the theatre was renamed the Adelphi Theatre.  The name comes from the Adelphi Buildings opposite the centre (a block of 24 terrace houses), which later led to the district itself being knows as Adelphi.
The theatre was known for it’s melodramas which in turn became known as Adelphi Screamers. The first Charles Dicken’s adaptation The Christening was performed here and many more Dicken’s adaptations followed. In 1858 the theatre was demolished and The New Adelphi seating 1500 was opened. The building was later renovated in 1879 and 1887 where further surrounding buildings were purchased in order to expand the theatre.
 
William Terriss, who regularly performed at the theatre was stabbed by Richard Archer Prince whilst entering the building through the entrance on Maiden Lane. There is still a plaque on the wall to this day. When captured, Prince told police, “I did it for revenge. He had kept me out of employment for ten years, and I had either to die in the street or kill him.” There are rumours of the ghost of Terriss haunting the theatre.
 

Adelphi continued…

In 1901 the third version of the theatre was opened, called the Century Theatre. In 1904 however, the name was reverted back to the Adelphi. The Adelphi as we know it opened in 1930 redesigned in Art Deco style by Ernest Schaufelberg. It was named the Royal Adelphi Theatre and in 1940 once again became the Adelphi.
 
The theatre became under theatre in 1968 but campaigns saved it. In 1993, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Theatre Group purchased the theatre and completely refurbished it. The video of his musical Cats was filmed at the theatre. In 1997, Chicago premiered at the Adelphi and became its longest running production with an eight and a half year stint before moving on to another theatre. This made it the longest running American musical in the West End.
 
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the show from the BBC television hit Any Dream Will Do premiered at the Adelphi in 2002. Today, the theatre is owned by the Adelphi Theatre Company Ltd, a combination of Webber’s Really Useful Theatre Group and Nederlander International. 
 
Kinky Boots is currently showing at the Adelphi Theatre – get tickets.
 

Aldwych Theatre

The Aldwych Theatre was originally built as part of a pair, with the other half of the pair being the Novello Theatre (previously known as the Waldorf Theatre). The theatre was constructed in the Edwardian Baroque style and was funded by Seymour Hicks. The theatre opened in 1905 with Hick’s production of Blue Bell.
 
In 1960, the Royal Shakespeare Company announced they would be using the Aldwych Theatre as their base for 3 years, and in actual fact ended up staying for 20. Once the Royal Shakespeare Company left, the Nederlander organisation took over the theatre. The theatre is mentioned in Instructions for John Howell by Julio Cortazar in the anthology All Fires The Fire.
 
Since 2000 a mix of shows have hit the stage at the Aldwych from Webber’s Whistle Down the Wind to Dirty Dancing.
 
Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is currently showing – get tickets.
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Ambassadors Theatre

The Ambassadors Theatre is one of the smallest theatres in the West End seating only 444. The construction of the theatre began in 1913. However it was interrupted by the First World War, putting things on hold for 3 years. The theatre was built with the intention of being an intimate and friendly venue. It has stayed that way over the years. The theatre is opposite the well known restaurant The Ivy, attended by the most elite.
 
The Ambassador Theatre Group purchased the theatre in 1996. The group are now the largest West End theatre operator. The theatre was split in two at first but in 1999 was renamed the New Ambassadors Theatre and became one theatre again. It hosted niche plays, the type that are normally seen only in small fringe venues. Within a few years however, the theatre began showing more commercially appealing theatre due to it’s central West End location. 
 
In 2007, Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen purchased the theatre and renamed it the Ambassadors Theatre once more. In 2014 Stephen announced he would be selling the theatre to Delfont Mackintosh Theatres who again want to rename the theatre in honour of Stephen Sondheim. Sondheim is an American composer. He has been called “the greatest and perhaps best-known artist in the American musical theatre” having written lyrics for West Side Story amongst many others. The sale however is yet to take place.
 
The theatre is currently showing Stomp – get tickets.
 

Apollo Theatre

The Apollo is one of few theatre in London to be freehold. It is the only completed theatre designed by Lewin Sharp specifically for musical theatre. The building was built using plain brick in order to blend in with the other buildings on the street. It was the first London theatre to be completed in the Edwardian period. The balcony of the 3rd tier is thought to be the steepest in London.
 
Stoll Moss Group purchased the theatre in 1975 and the theatre was later sold to Webber’s Really Useful Theatre Group and Bridgepoint Capital in 2000. In 2005 Nimax Theatres purchased the theatre.
 
In 2013 during a showing of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, 110 square ft of the theatre’s ceiling collapsed 40 minutes into the performance. A lighting rig and part of the balcony trapped two people. It injured around 88 – 7 of those were serious injuries. In 2014 the theatre reopened with Let the Right One In.
 
The theatre is currently showing Love In Idleness – get tickets.
Photo courtesy of Wiki
 

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