The Apollo Victoria Theatre has stood the test of time to emerge as one of the many famous West End theatres to be found in the capital. It was originally constructed in the 1920s and shares an art deco style with an array of other London venues, whilst its biggest claims to fame surround two of the capital’s biggest musicals – “Starlight Express” and “Wicked”. But its journey to this point in its tenure in the capital has been a long one, which has seen it take on many different roles and stage various different productions to different degrees of success.
When it first arrived on Wilton Road it immediately became the home of many moving pictures as it housed an array of films for the viewing public. At this point in its history the Apollo Victoria Theatre was known as the New Victoria Cinema and whilst films took up a large part of its output, it was also utilised for various variety shows in these early years as audiences witnessed a wide range of visual entertainment. This remained the case for many decades, surpassing many other West End venues in London as a cinema, and eventually made way to musical theatre productions like “The Sound of Music” in the 1970 and 1980s.
The venue had also managed to survive the Second World War, avoiding the perils of the bliss, which had caused damage to venues like the Queen’s Theatre and completely removed the Gaiety Theatre from the West End landscape. Instead it was able to stand the test of time and remain to the modern day on Wilton Road, where it has flourished.
The last few decades of the Apollo Victoria Theatre have been defined by the high profile shows that have taken to its stage, including the long-running “Starlight Express” and “Wicked”. It has meant that the Apollo Victoria Theatre has joined venues such as Her Majesty’s Theatre and St Martin’s Theatre as a venue that regularly houses long-running and popular shows and this is likely to continue for some time to come, whether it is the ongoing production of “Wicked” on its stage, or if it welcomes something else. After all, like many West End venues, it is a Grade II* listed structure and that means that historic preservation will help it to maintain its place in the list of high profile London attractions.
Famous shows to appear at the venue in its early years reflect its status as a cinema that also housed variety acts. So years before “Wicked” opened on its stage the Apollo Victoria Theatre, or New Victoria Cinema as it was then known, was welcoming films such as “Old English” and, later on, “Legend of the Werewolf”. The former was an adaptation from a play by famous English novelist and playwright John Galsworthy, who also penned the well known play “The Skin Game” in 1920 (as well as The Forsyte Saga novels).
Its time as a cinema in fact came to an end in the 1970s, with the mentioned “Legend of the Werewolf” and “Vampire Circus” screened as a double bill in the middle of the decade. It was the end of an era for the New Victoria Cinema, a location that went down in history in 1939 when it was utilised, amongst other venues, to screen The Epsom Derby live. It was a breakthrough achievement at the time and whilst the theatre would go on to flourish, its participation in this feat would ensure its place in the history books.
But in the last three decades it has been the turn of musical theatre productions to make their way to the Apollo Victoria Theatre. Amongst the first of these took the forms of “The Sound of Music”, “Camelot” and a 1983 revival of “Fiddler on the Roof”. The latter is, of course, Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick and Joseph Stein’s adaptation of Sholen Aleichem’s story. The original Broadway show was a Tony Award-winning smash hit and upon its appearance in 1980s London starred the Israeli performer Chaim Topol.
But it was “Starlight Express” that would take the Apollo Victoria Theatre into the 21st century, beginning its run in 1984 and remaining there until 2002, a stretch of almost twenty years. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Richard Stilgoe’s blockbuster musical would have thousands of performers and attract a large array of theatregoers during its run.
And whilst shows such as “Bombay Dreams” and “Saturday Night Fever” would follow, it was the current production, Wicked, that would see the venue into the second decade of the 21st century. A prequel to the legendary story The Wizard Of Oz, it has set imaginations racing as it depicts the early years of Glinda the Good Witch and Elphaba the Wicked Witch of the West.
Further Facts about the Apollo Victoria Theatre
• Like various other London theatres, there are said to be ghosts present in the venue, with numerous reports that the theatre is haunted.
• Famous names to appear at the Apollo Victoria Theatre include James Fox, Nigel Planer, Kerry Ellis, Alexia Khadime, Oliver Thornton, Jeffrey Daniel and Greg Ellis, amongst others.
|Friday, 06 May, 2016||Apollo Victoria Theatre, London||Wicked|
|Saturday, 07 May, 2016||Apollo Victoria Theatre, London||Wicked|
|Monday, 09 May, 2016||Apollo Victoria Theatre, London||Wicked|
|Tuesday, 10 May, 2016||Apollo Victoria Theatre, London||Wicked|
|Wednesday, 11 May, 2016||Apollo Victoria Theatre, London||Wicked|
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