The Prince Edward Theatre in London currently houses the popular stage musical “Jersey Boys”, which chronicles the history of the band The Four Seasons, but whilst the story it depicts is an interesting one, the venue has had quite a history itself. Since it first emerged on the London theatre scene in 1930 it has found itself hosting a wide range of shows, whilst also welcoming some well known names and going through various different shapes and redesigns. As such it has gone by many different names over the last century and served a number of different purposes, continuing in the modern day as a venue regularly staging some of the best known musicals in the world.
Currently the venue has reverted back to its original name of the Prince Edward Theatre, which was named after the then Prince of Wales – who would go on to become King Edward VIII and, following his abdication, the Duke of Windsor. But between 1930 and today it would be renamed and repurposed regularly, first of all becoming the London Casino in 1935 and then, less than a decade later, the Queensbury All Services Club, before reverting to the London Casino relatively quickly. During this time it would house various shows and, as the Services Club, many films.
Then it would become the Casino Cinerama Theatre and during its tenure under that name, with its large screen, it would welcome a number of moving pictures.
But it wouldn’t be until 1978 that audiences would return to the newly renamed Prince Edward Theatre witness the kinds of shows that originally made it to its stage. So between 1978 and the modern day it would be the home of some of the biggest musicals around, attracting large audiences along the way. Many of these have been classic revivals of some stand out shows, whilst others have been brand new productions from across the Atlantic.
The latest is “Jersey Boys”, which has been running at the Prince Edward Theatre since 2008 and has seen many visitors pass through the doors of the venue to witness the story of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, from their humble beginnings to their time at the top as the performers of songs like “Sherry”.
The first show to appear at the venue when it originally opened its doors was “Rio Rita”. The show had already appeared for many years on the other side of the Atlantic, but its appearance as the opening production for the Prince Edward Theatre would mark the first of the venue’s UK premieres. Described as a light musical comedy and set on the Rio Grande, “Rio Rita” follows the character of Jim Stewart as he falls for a girl named Rita Ferguson, who is also pined after by the villainous General Esteban, the Governor of the San Lucar District.
Over the century it would welcome may shows of different shapes and sizes, but it would return as the home of musical theatre in 1978 when it staged a production of the world famous “Evita”, which starred the famous singer and actress Elaine Paige as part of its illustrious cast, as well as David Essex and Joss Ackland. The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical would last almost a decade, eventually bowing out in 1986, and in the decades ahead, the Prince Edward Theatre would continue in this tradition of welcoming some of the high profile musicals of the West End.
Elaine Paige would return for the next production, which was another premiere in the form of the now-famous musical “Chess”, which contained music from ABBA’s Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson. Set within the context of the Cold War, it depicts American and Russian chess Champions, plus their managers, as they become embroiled in a love triangle. The show would appear at the Prince Edward Theatre for three years, before welcoming Paige back to the stage on yet another occasion for a production of the 1930s musical “Anything Goes”.
Another high profile show to appear at the Prince Edward Theatre was “Mamma Mia!”, which would eventually transfer to the Prince of Wales Theatre, but would start out life at the Old Compton Street venue for its first five years. The show would see the work of Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson return to the stage of the Prince Edward as the music of ABBA filled the stage and elevated a romantic story set on a Greek island.
But it is “Jersey Boys” that remain the popular draw in the modern West End, with Bob Gaudio’s musical chronicles the highs and lows of the popular New Jersey band Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. The production opened at the venue in 2008 and has continued strong, using music from the back catalogue of The Four Seasons to tell its story.
Further Facts about The Prince Edward Theatre
• Famous names to appear at the Prince Edward Theatre include Elaine Paige, David Essex, Sarah Brightman, Siobhan McCarthy, Scarlett Strallen and others.
|Tuesday, 27 Sep, 2016||Prince Edward Theatre, London||Aladdin - Disney's New Musical|
|Wednesday, 28 Sep, 2016||Prince Edward Theatre, London||Aladdin - Disney's New Musical|
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