Her Majesty’s Theatre in the West End has a great deal of history attached to it, not simply because the current structure dates back to 1897, but also because three other theatres stood on the site previously, dating as far back as 1705. The result is a venue in which audiences are taking a step back into British history when they arrive to witness modern day shows like the Phantom of the Opera, where they will sit inside an auditorium that has housed different generations of performers and directors, in addition to generations of theatregoers. As a result, it is no wonder that it has been a Grade II* listed building since the 1970s and that audiences continue to flock there, where the long-running “Phantom of the Opera” has been seen since 1986.
The original building appeared on the site in Haymarket from 1705 to 1789 and during its tenure it went by various different names, from Queen’s Theatre to the King’s Theatre, depending on the monarch of the era. During this time it was used to stage operas, particularly as Lord Chamberlain’s office forbade anything that was not musical-based.
The second theatre to appear on the site lasted from 1791 to 1867 and the third would follow from 1868 to 1896, making it the shortest span of all of the theatres to appear on the site, with technological advances creating the need for a new structure – the final – to be built in 1897.
And that building, opened in 1897, was designed by the architect Charles J Phipps and across the twentieth century it has continued to house musicals and dramatic art productions, whilst also surviving the onslaught of two world wars and pulling in audiences right up to the 21st century. The current building of Her Majesty’s Theatre has seen a range of high profile stars, directors and playwrights work for productions staged within its impressive auditorium, which is well suited to such blockbuster spectacles.
But in 1986 one of the most famous shows in the West End would open its doors at Her Majesty’s Theatre, becoming so popular that it would remain until the modern day and beyond. It takes the form of the world-renowned “The Phantom of the Opera”, Andrew Lloyd Webbers spectacular musical adaptation of Gaston Leroux’s novel. Over the years people from all over the world have witness the production and in 2009 it even spawned a sequel, Love Never Dies, which runs at the Adelphi Theatre.
The famous shows that have found their way to the stage of Her Majesty’s Theatre take many different forms. These range from classic plays of the 18th century to the blockbuster musicals of the 20th and 21st centuries, in addition to the operas, comedies and dramas that have appeared in the intervening years.
An early production that appeared at Her Majesty’s Theatre took the form of the regularly performed “The Alchemist”, which arrived on what was then the Queen’s Theatre stage in 1710. Ben Johnson’s famous comedy had been a well known production since 1610 and whilst there are gaps in its recorded history, it is known to have been staged regularly from 1709 onwards, making its appearance at the Queen’s one of many at the time. Despite its age, it is still a show that can be seen in theatres in the modern day.
Later on, in the second incarnation of the theatre - known as His Majesty’s Theatre at the time – the venue became the first place in England to stage Mozart’s “La clemenza di Tito”. The opera seria was the final piece of work that the famous composer would contribute to and had first been performed in 1791. It was 1806 in which the production made it to His Majesty’s and it would be one of many operatic productions to appear in the era.
This tradition of operative productions would continue into the third incarnation of the venue, which staged productions ranging from “Carmen” to “Rigoletto”. The former is Bizet’s masterpiece that concerns the beautiful gypsy girl Carmen, who seduces a corporal in 19th century Seville. The latter is Verdi’s own masterpiece concerning a hunchback court jester who takes matters into his own hands when his daughter is kidnapped by the duke. “Rigoletto” also has the distinction of being the final production to appear in this version of the theatre before the modern version was opened in 1897.
And since then the productions have largely taken on the forms of high profile musicals. It also hosted George Bernard Shaw’s play “Pygmalion” for the first time, before moving on to some of the best known shows in London, including “Paint Your Wagon” and “West Side Story”, both of which appeared in the 1950s. It also welcomed an early production of “Bitter Sweet” by Noel Coward in 1929. However, “The Phantom of the Opera” remains the most famous show to appear at Her Majesty’s Theatre, having opened its doors in 1986 and remaining to the present day.
Further Facts about Her Majesty’s Theatre
• Despite the praise that is given to the design of Her Majesty’s Theatre in the modern day, opinion at the time was less favorable. Critics denounced the work of Phipps and claimed that it was not up to standards.
• 2011 will see “The Phantom of the Opera” celebrate 25 years in the capital. This feat was also celebrated by the Queen’s Theatre’s “Les Misérables” in 2010.
|Wednesday, 10 Feb, 2016||Her Majesty's Theatre, London||The Phantom of the Opera|
|Thursday, 11 Feb, 2016||Her Majesty's Theatre, London||The Phantom of the Opera|
|Friday, 12 Feb, 2016||Her Majesty's Theatre, London||The Phantom of the Opera|
|Saturday, 13 Feb, 2016||Her Majesty's Theatre, London||The Phantom of the Opera|
|Monday, 15 Feb, 2016||Her Majesty's Theatre, London||The Phantom of the Opera|
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