The Shaftesbury Theatre has stood on its site on Shaftesbury Avenue since 1911 and over the last century has seen a history defined by name changes and numerous well known shows arriving on its stage. Despite going through two world wars, it managed to survive the century, apart from a mishap during the 1970s, allowing it to remain in the modern day where it stands up alongside venues like the Dominion Theatre, the Apollo Victoria Theatre and Her Majesty’s Theatre, amongst others, with its blockbuster musical productions. It is also a Grade II Listed Building and as a result it will stay in its current form in the capital for the foreseeable future, with more high profile works undoubtedly destined for its stage.
When the theatre opened in 1911 its early years have been noted for the large gaps between productions, though it was still managing to draw in audiences to its shows. At this time it was known as the New Prince’s Theatre and had been designed by Bertie Crewe (a well known theatre designer also responsible for the likes of the Royal Court Theatre, the Lyceum Theatre, Sadler’s Well and the Phoenix Theatre, amongst others). It would remain the New Prince’s Theatre for the first three years of its run, changing simply to the Prince’s Theatre in 1914, under which a number of operas graced its stage.
When the theatre became the Shaftesbury Theatre in 1962 it would go on to showcase a number of well known musicals of the time, some home grown and others making the transition from the other side of the Atlantic. It continued in this form for years to come, remaining as such in the modern day, with people continuing to flock to the Shaftesbury Theatre to witness enormously popular shows like “Hairspray the Musical” and “Flashdance the Musical”, amongst others.
The only time in which this has been disturbed was in the 1970s, when part of the ceiling collapsed in 1973 and put a halt to the ongoing production of the time. It had survived the two world wars of the twentieth century, but did not manage to emerge from the century as a whole unscathed. However, in its repaired form, it is likely to remain an integral part of the capital well into the future.
The first production to emerge on the stage of the Shaftesbury Theatre was 1911’s “The Three Muskateers”, adapted from Alexandre Dumas’ novel of the same name (though this production preceded the famous musical adaptation that first premiered in New York in 1928). It would kick start the life of a theatre that would go on to host some of the world’s best known musicals, though its early days were also seemingly marred by extensive gaps between productions. However, this would not stop it from becoming the home to various famous operas of the time, with some well known names also making their way to its stage.
Under the banner of the Prince’s Theatre, it would be the home to various well known operas from Gilbert and Sullivan. From 1919 onwards it would regularly host Rupert D’Oyly Carte’s Season of Gilbert and Sullivan Operas and this would continue well into the 1920s, along with productions like “The Return of Sherlock Holmes”.
However, it was under its current banner of the Shaftesbury Theatre that many of the well known shows that have been attached to the venue made their way to Shaftesbury Avenue. From 1962 onwards such shows included the likes of “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”. The former was an early staging of the famous musical based on best-selling novel by Anita Loos, with performers such as Dora Bryan and Bessie Love amongst those making their way to the Shaftesbury Theatre. It would continue for 223 performances from 1962 onwards and marked the first of many successful productions for the venue.
In later decades the West End welcomed the musical “Hair” to the stage – a show most recently seen at the Gielgud Theatre in 2010 – which continued for some time having made a name for itself on the other side of the Atlantic. It opened in 1968 but would be forced out of the venue in 1973; not because of poor reviews or declining audiences, but because it was the time in which part of the ceiling collapsed, with a new roof required before shows could return.
In recent years the venue has housed high profile productions such as “Hairspray the Musical” and “Flashdance the Musical”, both of which are high profile adaptations of hit movies from the 1980s. “Hairspray” managed to find its way into the news on numerous occasions during its run, largely due to the star names it attracted to its cast, and enjoyed a successful run throughout the last decade before ending in March 2010.
Further Facts about the Shaftresbury Theatre
• Famous names to have appeared at the venue include Basil Rathbone, Dora Bryan, Eddie Izzard, Phil Jupitus, Michael Ball, Mel Smith and Maureen Lipman, amongst others.
• “Hairspray” had been nominated for a total of 11 Laurence Olivier Awards by the end of its run in 2010.
|Thursday, 23 Feb, 2017||Shaftesbury Theatre, London||Motown the Musical|
|Friday, 24 Feb, 2017||Shaftesbury Theatre, London||Motown the Musical|
|Saturday, 25 Feb, 2017||Shaftesbury Theatre, London||Motown the Musical|
|Monday, 27 Feb, 2017||Shaftesbury Theatre, London||Motown the Musical|
|Tuesday, 28 Feb, 2017||Shaftesbury Theatre, London||Motown the Musical|
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