|Address||166 Drury Lane|
Holborn, London, WC2B 5PW
|Type||West End theatre|
|Capacity||1118 on 2 levels|
|Opened||2 January 1973|
|Rebuilt||1911 (Frank Matcham)|
The Gillian Lynne Theatre (formerly New London Theatre) is a West End theatre located on the corner of Drury Lane and Parker Street in Covent Garden, in the London Borough of Camden. The Winter Garden Theatre formerly occupied the site until 1965. On 1 May 2018, the theatre was officially renamed the Gillian Lynne Theatre in honour of Gillian Lynne. It is the first theatre in the West End of London to be named after a non-royal woman.
The modern theatre is built on the site of previous taverns and music hall theatres, where a place of entertainment has been located since Elizabethan times. Nell Gwynn was associated with the tavern, which became known as the Great Mogul by the end of the 17th century, and presented entertainments in an adjoining hall, including "glee clubs" and "sing-songs". The Mogul Saloon was built on the site in 1847, which was sometimes known as the "Turkish Saloon or the "Mogul Music Hall." In 1851, it became the Middlesex Music Hall, known as The Old Mo. This in turn was rebuilt as the New Middlesex Theatre of Varieties, in 1911 by Frank Matcham for Oswald Stoll.
In 1919, the theatre was sold to George Grossmith, Jr. and Edward Laurillard, refurbished and reopened as the Winter Garden Theatre. They produced Kissing Time (1919, with a book by P. G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton and music by Ivan Caryll), followed by A Night Out (1920), both starring Stanley Holloway. Grossmith and Laurillard also became managers of the Apollo Theatre in 1920. But expanding their operation caused Grossmith and Laurillard to end their partnership, with Grossmith retaining control of the Winter Garden.
Grossmith then partnered with George Edwardes's former associate, Pat Malone, to produce a series of mostly adaptations of imported shows at the Winter Garden between 1920 and 1926: Sally (1921), The Cabaret Girl (1922, with book by Wodehouse and music by Jerome Kern), The Beauty Prize (1923, with Wodehouse and Kern), a revival of Tonight's the Night (1923), Primrose (1924, with music by George Gershwin), Tell Me More (1925, with words by Thompson and music by George Gershwin) and Kid Boots (1926 with music by Harry Tierney), many of them featuring Leslie Henson. Grossmith co-wrote some of the Winter Garden pieces, directed many of his own productions and starred in several, notably as Otis in Sally. Several of the later productions lost money, and Grossmith and Malone ended the partnership.
The Vagabond King was produced at the theatre in 1927, and in 1929, Fred and Adele Astaire starred in Funny Face. In 1930, Sophie Tucker played in the Vivian Ellis musical Follow a Star, and in 1923, Gracie Fields appeared here in Walk This Way. In 1933, the theatre hosted Lewis Casson in George Bernard Shaw's On the Rocks, followed in 1935 by Love on the Dole, starring Wendy Hiller. The theatre closed in the late 1930s, reopening in 1942. In 1945, it hosted a Donald Wolfit season, and in 1953, Agatha Christie's Witness for the Prosecution played. 1956 saw The Water Gypsies by Vivian Ellis and A P Herbert; Hotel Paradiso starring Alec Guinness, Douglas Byng, Irene Worth and Billie Whitelaw; and Tyrone Power starred in Shaw's The Devil Disciple. 1958 included The Iceman Cometh.
The theatre closed permanently in 1959 when it was sold by the Rank Organisation to a developer. It was then gutted and remained vacant until 1965 to be replaced in 1973 by the current building.
Designed by architect Paul Tvrtkovic and scenic designer Sean Kenny (Blitz!, Oliver!, Pickwick (musical)), modelled after the Walter Gropius Total-Theater, and seating 960 on 2 levels, the theatre's auditorium first opened with a television recording of Marlene Dietrich's one-woman show. The theatre officially opened on 2 January 1973 with a production of The Unknown Soldier and His Wife starring Peter Ustinov. It then hosted Grease, starring Richard Gere as Danny. Beginning in 1977, the theatre was used as a television studio for several years and then returned to use as a theatre. The theatre's biggest hit was the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Trevor Nunn musical Cats, choreographed by Gillian Lynne which premièred in the theatre on 11 May 1981. Closing in 2002, this production became the longest running musical in West End history.
The theatre also hosted the 1977 BBC Sports Personality of the Year and the Masters snooker between 1976 and 1978. Also in 1977, the theatre hosted the BBC's A Song For Europe contest, the preliminary heat to choose the UK entry for the Eurovision Song Contest. However, the show was blacked out on TV due to a last minute strike by technicians. The music video for the song “We Are the Champions” by Queen was shot there on October 1977, following a 70-min. concert.
Between 2003 and 2005 the theatre hosted Bill Kenwright's revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. This closed after a two and a half-year run on 3 September 2005. Most recently, the venue played host to the London transfer of the off-Broadway production, Blue Man Group, which closed in June 2007, to make way for the Royal Shakespeare Company's repertory productions of The Seagull and King Lear, starring Ian McKellen. In Spring 2008, a new musical adaptation of Gone with the Wind ran for only two-month. New musical Imagine This closed after only being open for one month.
The National Theatre production of War Horse transferred into the theatre from 28 March 2009 where it stayed until 12 March 2016 after over 3,000 performances.
The theatre was home to the Sheffield Cruicible's production of the musical Show Boat which opened on 9 April 2016. Despite positive reviews, the production closed early, on 27 August 2016. On 22 October 2016 the London production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's School of Rock the musical opened, direct from Broadway and will close after a three and a half year run before undergoing a refurbishment.
From 15 September 2020, Lloyd Webber's new musical Cinderella will have its world premiere at the theatre.
The theatre has been owned since 1991 by Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group. The theatre building also contains an underground car park, a cabaret venue, a basement nightclub, shops and a residential tower. In 2014, Lloyd Webber reorganized the group; the entity that owns the theatre is Really Useful Theatres.
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