The building that we know as the Lyceum Theatre first appeared in the capital in 1904, when architectures got to work re-building a venue that had stood in the capital since 1765. So the theatre has a long and vibrant history and has featured a host of top names on its stage, from different generations of performers. It has been a history dominated by fire and destruction, plus reconstruction and rebranding, plus the threat of demolition in the 20th century, so it is even more remarkable that the theatre remains on its location on Wellington Street in London, where the ongoing production of “The Lion King” continues to draw in the punters.
Prior to 1904 the venue had seen names such as David Garrick make their way to the stage, within a construction designed by Samuel Beazley – whose work can still be observed in the present design. There have been many theatres to stand here with their own claims to fame on each occasion, from stand-out productions to innovations of design and comfort, and all of this lends the current venue a true air of history about it, so that those visiting it in the modern day will also be taking a trip into the past, as well as enjoying the show on offer.
Post 1904, the venue has maintained this vibrant history by regularly changing hands and purpose, emerging originally in its rebuilt form as a location featuring music hall productions. The structure survived two world wars, though it came under threat in 1939 when the building was earmarked for destruction to make way for roads, but these plans would never materialise and as a result it would continue to serve the public, this time as a music venue.
The Lyceum remained in this form for many decades, making way for various plays along the way, but it would not be until 1996 that it would take on the role that it retains to this day. It was renovated so that it could house high profile shows and would eventually earn a reputation for housing such productions, its current show of “The Lion King” opening in 1999 and attracting London theatre audiences ever since.
Thanks to “The Lion King” the Lyceum Theatre has managed to stand up as one of the most visited theatres in the capital, alongside the likes of the Dominion Theatre and Prince of Wales Theatre, amongst others. So whether the show remains on its stage or not, the theatre can expect a long career ahead of it.
Pre-1904: The Lyceum Theatre hosted a number of high profile shows and its original title of “The English Opera House” saw it stage numerous performances, including a well-documented production of “Cosi Fan Tutti” by Mozart. However, when it went through one of its many changes, it would re-appear as the Theatre Royal Lyceum and English Opera House, where various well known English Operas made their way to the stage, from “The Mountain Sylph” to “Blanche Jersey” in the early 1800s.
Later in the century the venue became the home to shows such as “A Tale of Two Cities”, “The Long Strike”, “Harlequin Cock Robin”, “Uncle Baby” and “Comedy and Tragedy”, amongst others. So the venue continued to flourish as further well known shows made their appearances. It was followed by various other plays from William Shakespeare and other well known English playwrights, in addition to “The Lady of the Lyons” and more.
Post-1904: As mentioned in the history section, the venue became a music hall prior to the war and after it emerged in the 1940s it became the location in which many well known bands would perform for decades ahead. As a result the Lyceum Theatre became the location of some anticipated and well-remembered performances from some of the biggest bands in the world, from U2 to Genesis, with the latter recording their appearance for television and subsequently released in recorded form. But in addition to these, productions such as the “Mysteries” trilogy by Bill Bryden and more would appear, demonstrating to audiences that it could still be a worthy location to witness some compelling stage shows.
Then, when the venue re-opened in 1996 it soon emerged as the top place to stage musicals, beginning with “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Oklahoma!” and eventually making way for shows such as “The Lion King” from 1999 to the modern day. The latter is the stage adaptation of the hit 1994 movie of the same name, following lion cub Simba as he is raised in the Prideland by his father King Mufasa and forced into exile following the latter’s death at the hands of scheming Uncle Scar. The show remains a popular draw and is showing no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Further Facts about the Lyceum Theatre
• Prior to 1904 the Lyceum was the home of the Sublime Society of Beefstakes, in which members would meet to eat beefstakes and drink wine.
• “The Lion King” has grossed almost £300million during its run, which was much publicized during its tenth anniversary celebrations.
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