The theatre has a large capacity of 2,208 and seating is split into stalls and circle. This is a very large theatre, and has a range of seating options to match. The front rows of the circle and the centre of the stalls are probably the best in the house, particularly in the centre, but the rear block of the circle is very far away from the stage.
There are two bars, the American Airlines Bar below stall level, and one more at upper circle level. Fizzy drinks are £2.20, a glass of wine is £4.50, and beer £4+.
The Apollo Victoria Theatre originally functioned as a cinema, named the New Victoria Cinema. It was an architectural masterpiece, built 1930, in one of the finest examples of art deco in the country. Some of the sea-life motifs which originally adorned the auditorium walls can still be seen today. Due to difficult competition The New Victoria Cinema was forced to close in 1976, and remained closed for 5 years. During the interim it was bought by Apollo Lesuire Ltd. by whom it was re-branded as the Apollo Victoria Theatre. In 1981, Shirley Bassey sang at the opening night of the new venue.
In 1984, beginning an amazing eighteen year stint, The Apollo Victoria Theatre hosted Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Starlight Express, where the whole stage, and much of the auditorium, was made into a roller-skating arena on multiple levels. When the run came to a close the auditorium was extended once more, to hold over 2000.
The theatre seats 924, and seating is split into stalls, dress circle, upper circle and balcony. Pillars can obscure the view of some seats in all tiers. The sides of the balcony and parts of the upper circle are classed as restricted view.
The Lyric Theatre is the oldest theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, having been built in 1888. It was designed by C. J. Phipps, as a home for operetta for Henry J Leslie. The design retained an original 1767 house front at the rear of the theatre, which is still in place today. Comic operas the theatre hosted include Mountebanks (1892) and Dorothy (1888), alongside the more serious La Dame Aux Camelias (1893). At the beginning of the 20th century, the Lyric Theatre turned to hosting plays, including Robin Hood (1906), The Chocolate Soldier (1910), by George Bernard Shaw, and A Reunion in Vienna (1934), starring Laurence Olivier and directed by Noel Coward.
In 1933, Thomas Bostock took over as manager, and the Lyric Theatre was entirely redecorated, including a total refurbishment of the foyer and bars. The facade has been restored more recently, in 1994. Musicals have run at the Lyric Theatre throughout the 20th century. They include early an example, Girl in a Taxi (1911), and more recently the original Blood Brothers (1983), by Willie Russell, and a revival of the musical Ain’t Misbehavin’ (1995). In 2005, Nica Burns and Max Weitzenhoffer purchased the Lyric Theatre, along with the Apollo, the Duchess and the Garrick, forming Nimax Theatres.
The theatre seats 1618, and seating is split into stalls, dress circle and grand circle. The front row of both the dress and grand circle may have restricted viewing due to a hand rail. Legroom in the dress circle is generally restricted. There are ‘loges’ and slip seats at dress circle level.
The loges are situated on projections from the front of the dress circle, five sets of short, enclosed rows. View from these is side-on, with obstructing safety bars for many. In the grand circle, the side blocks offer somewhat limited viewing angles.
The Prince Edward Theatre has five licensed bars, one at street level, two at the stalls level, one selling soft drinks only, and one each at dress circle and grand circle level. The tariff is the same as all Delfont Makintosh theatres, which is better value than other West End venues. Soft drinks are from £1.50 and beer and wine is from £4.50.
The Prince Edward Theatre was designed by Edward A. Stone, with interior by Frenchmen Marc Henri Levy and Gaston Laverdet. It opened in 1930, named after Prince Edward, then Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII, after abdicating to his brother George VI, Duke of Windsor). Shortly after opening, the Prince Edward Theatre was renamed the London Casino, where it was home to dance and caberet performances. In the war, stage alterations were undertaken by Thomas Braddock, reopening the venue as the Queensbury Services Club. During this time, shows were broadcast on the BBC for the benefit of the servicemen. After the war, it was reconverted into a theatre, the London Casino, and in the fifties, a cinema screen was installed. The venue became known as the Casino Cinerama Theatre.
In 1978, it was reconverted to its first function, as a theatre for shows and plays. The name the Prince Edward Theatre was reinstated. Since renovations increasing the size of the stage in 1992/3, making it a suitable venue for larger scale production, the theatre has been home to musicals including the ABBA musical, Mamma Mia, and Mary Poppins. The Prince Edward Theatre is currently owned by the Delfont Makintosh Group.
The theatre seats 690, and seating is split into stalls, dress circle and upper circle. Seats in all levels are arranged in a single block. The rake of the stalls is good, allowing an intimate feel, since theatre is small, and a clear view from all seats. The front rows of the dress circle and the central columns of the upper circle have the best view.
The Vaudeville Theatre is third building to have been built on this site on the Strand. The first of the three opened in 1870, designed by prolific architect of the time, C. J. Phipps. The auditorium was a horseshoe built behind two houses on the Strand, which left little room for a foyer or behind the scene areas. By 1889, these houses had been demolished, making room for an extension of the guest facilities. In 1891, the theatre was sold to the Gatti family, who purchased to avoid disputes over noise coming from their nearby electricity generating facility. The Gatti family were very successful managers of the Vaudeville Theatre, owning all the way up until 1969. In 1925, the theatre was reconstructed, including changing the horseshoe shaped auditorium to the rectangular shape which is in use today. It reopened in 1926, with a revue by Archie de Bear, famous because the final rehearsal was broadcast on the BBC.
A proposed development of Covent Garden saw the Vaudeville Theatre under threat along with other nearby theatres including the Duchess Theatre and the Lyceum Theatre. In 1969, the Gatti family finally sold their interest in the theatre to new manager Peter Saunders. He had the Vaudeville Theatre redeveloped, including making the balcony an extension of the bar. In recent years, the Vaudeville Theatre has hosted musicals including prize-winning Kat and the Kings (1998), in which, in a strange case, the whole cast won the Best Actor Olivier Award. Madame Melville (2000) saw the return to acting of Home Alone star Macauley Culkin. The longest running show has been Stomp, which ran from 2002 to 2007.
Don’t get us wrong, we have a lot of original London musicals to be proud of, Phantom of the Opera, Billy Elliot, Mamma Mia – there are loads. It still doesn’t stop us getting jealous of those Americans who can claim some of the best musicals as their own! We’ve put together a few musical battles to compare their success to determine which is better, the West End or Broadway!
Hairspray (US) vs. Hair (UK)
It’s the battle of the hippie hair and the beehive!
Debuted in New York in 2002 and closed in 2009
In the West End it was enjoyed by audiences for just 2 and a half years
Winner of 8 Tonys and 4 Laurence Olivier Awards out of 11 nominations which broke the record!
The theatre seats 1012, and seating is split into upper circle, dress circle and stalls. There is a barrier running across the front of the dress and upper circles, (higher near the aisles) which may obstruct viewing from the front row. A good rake in the upper circle ensures a good view from the back, even if they feel far away.
The Phoenix theatre opened in 1930, designed by Giles Gilbert Scott, Bertie Crew and Cecil Masey. A change in ownership in 1966, lead to a refurbishment which included the construction of the Noel Coward bar in the foyer, which Coward himself opened. Noel Coward had a strong association with the Phoenix Theatre. He appeared at its opening, in his own play Private Lives. He has also appeared in Tonight at 8.30 alongside Gertrude Lawrence, and Quadrille, which opened just days after Lawrence’s death.
The Phoenix Theatre has hosted successful plays such as John Gielgud’s Love for Love, and a musical version of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (1968). The ‘80s and ‘90s saw award-winning musicals, and a successful Shakespeare season at The Phoenix Theatre. The longest running show at the Phoenix was Blood Brothers, which opened in 1991 and closed in 2012, transferring from a long and successful run at the Albery Theatre.