Like many of the West End theatres found in the nation’s capital, the Aldwych Theatre has behind it an illustrious history that has seen it house some of the most high profile shows of the last century, in addition to welcoming some of the biggest stars of the time as well. From its early days as a brand new venue on Aldwych from 1905 onwards to its current occupation as the West End’s home to the blockbuster production Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story On Stage, it has been an integral part of the world-famous London theatre landscape.
One thing that West End venues tend to have in common is their architects and whilst Bertie Crewe and others designed various theatres in London, it was W G R Sprague who remains one of the best known names of the scene. Sprague was responsible for everything from the Wyndham’s Theatre and the Lyceum Theatre to the Novello Theatre and the Queen’s Theatre, whilst also giving audiences the Aldwych Theatre – the large venue that regularly attract huge crowds to its production of “Dirty Dancing”.
Like the Gielgud Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, the Aldwych was a venue that built in association with the actor Seymour Hicks, with the former being known as the Hicks Theatre in the first few years of its operations. But the Aldwych has always been known by that name, taking it from the street on which it is found (which itself is named after the Old Wych Street in London), and across the century it has managed to survive two world wars and welcome an abundance of shows. These have ranged from productions from the mentioned Seymour Hicks to an array of shows from the Royal Shakespeare Company, plus everything in between, making for a successful century for the venue.
And it has entered the 21st century with further success, welcoming both plays and musicals to its stage from 2000 to the modern day. Whereas other venues in the capital that also house musical productions tend to solely place such shows on its stage, the Aldwych still prefers to spice things up and welcome various different shows and now that it is a Grade II Listed building (as of 1971) it will remain in the capital for the foreseeable future.
The very first show to appear on the stage of the Aldwych Theatre took the form of “Bluebell in Fairlyand”, which was presented by the well known performer and playwright Seymour Hicks, who was also presenting shows such as “The Beauty of Bath” and “My Darling” to the Gielgud Theatre (then the Hicks Theatre) during the same decade. So the venue got off to a good start, with “The Beauty of Bath” also making the transition to the stage of the Aldwych before the decade was out, before the 1910s rolled along and shows such as “Le Sacre du Printemps” appeared in 1913 and then “The Unknown” in 1920.
As the century progressed, so did the Aldwych and pretty soon it would be welcoming one of the biggest stars of the time to its stage in the form of Vivien Leigh. In 1949 the actress had earned great acclaim for her screen roles, including that of “A Streetcar Named Desire”, and she would take to the stage in an adaptation of the same story to entertain the Aldwych audience. Then, eventually, the venue became the home to the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Once the RSC had claimed the venue as its own it would find a loyal audience from some prestigious productions. One of them was “The Devils” by John Whiting and it would be followed by regular productions by Harold Pinter. His play “The Collection” would have its premiere at the Aldwych in 1962, which starred Michael Hordern (later Sir Michael Hordern) amongst its cast members. Then, “The Homecoming” received the same treatment with Peter Hall (later Sir Peter Hall) directing the premiere. So it was only natural that the venue was gaining quite a reputation at the time and as the then-current home of the Royal Shakespeare Company it would continue to welcome prestigious shows for the next twenty years.
In the last decade the venue has carried out welcoming well known shows, with the Royal Shakespeare Company returning in 2001 for a production of “The Secret Garden”. Then, as the decade progressed it would welcome Alan Ayckbourn’s “Bedroom Farce”, “Fame the Musical”, “Dancing in The Streets” and, as of today, “Dirty Dancing: The Classic Story on Stage”. The latter is the blockbuster stage adaptation of the hit 1980s movie, which originally starred Jennifer Grey and the late Patrick Swayze as star-crossed lovers. It was a story that was always ripe for the stage and it has proven this by remaining at the venue from 2006 to the modern day.
Further Facts about The Aldwych Theatre
• Amongst the well known names to appear at the Aldwych Theatre are Sir Michael Hordern, Vivien Leigh, Kenny Baker, Paul Rogers and others.
• As the venue is an old structure that has been around for over a hundred years, it is not surprising to hear that it is reportedly haunted, joining a long list of other London theatres to make such a claim.
|Saturday, 29 Apr, 2017||Aldwych Theatre, London||Beautiful - The Carole King Musical|
|Monday, 01 May, 2017||Aldwych Theatre, London||Beautiful - The Carole King Musical|
|Tuesday, 02 May, 2017||Aldwych Theatre, London||Beautiful - The Carole King Musical|
|Wednesday, 03 May, 2017||Aldwych Theatre, London||Beautiful - The Carole King Musical|
|Thursday, 04 May, 2017||Aldwych Theatre, London||Beautiful - The Carole King Musical|
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