PRINCE OF WALES THEATRE

Opened: First theatre on 18 January 1884, second on 27 October 1937
Original architect: Robert Cromie
Seat capacity: 1,139
Former name: Prince's Theatre (1884-1886)
Currently showing: Dark

Past production highlights: Diamond Lil, starring Mae West (1948), Harvey (with Sid Field in 1949 and Jimmy Stewart in 1975), Funny Girl with a young Barbra Streisand (1966), Hello Dolly! with Danny La Rue as the first male Dolly (1983), Aspects of Love with Michael Ball, Smokey's Joe's Café, The Full Monty.

What's going to happen: Architects will create a contemporary interpretation of Robert Cromie's original 1937 designs for the building. The façade will be dramatically improved, creating a two-way transparency for theatregoers and passers-by. Entrances will be revamped to improve public thoroughfare. The auditorium will be rebuilt using a colour palette of gold, bronze and copper. Seats will be made more comfortable, with more leg-room. The American Bar and the Stalls Bar (renamed the Delfont Bar after Bernard Delfont) will become two of the largest bars in the West End, capable of serving over two-thirds of the audience at any time. Backstage areas will be rationalised and reorganised, with facilities and décor upgraded.

When's it happening: From September 2003 to early summer 2004. The theatre will reopen with the transfer of Abba's Mamma Mia!.

What will it cost: Approximately £7 million.


The theatre as it is today

STRAND THEATRE

Opened: 22 May 1905
Original architect: WGR Prague
Seat capacity: 1,082
Former names: Waldorf Theatre (1905-1909), Whitney Theatre (1911-1912)
Currently showing: The Rat Pack

Past production highlights: Annie Christie (1923), Eugene O'Neill's first play performed in the West End; Stop Flirting with Fred and Adele Astaire (1924); Arsenic and Old Lace (broke records in 1942/43, revived 2003); Sailor Beware! with Peggy Mount (1955); A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum starring Frankie Howerd; No Sex Please - We're British (for 11 years from 1971); Buddy (for 7 years from 1995).

What's going to happen: The glamour of the original interior will be recreated while public areas and facilities will be upgraded and expanded. This will include major improvements to all auditorium sightlines and disabled access. The fifth floor of Waldorf Chambers - a section of the Strand building which was the London apartment of Ivor Novello from 1913 until his death in 1951 and which is now used as offices (by West End producers Duncan Weldon and Paul Elliott amongst others) - will be restored to a private dwelling (Cameron Mackintosh has himself expressed a desire to live there). The theatre's Dress Circle bar will be renamed the Novello bar in honour of the composer and playwright. Also incorporated is the first stage of a dedicated telephone booking centre for Delfont Mackintosh Theatres.

When's it happening: In two stages, with phase one from June 2003 and phase two in 2004.

What will it cost: £1.7 million.


QUEEN'S THEATRE

Opened: 8 October 1907
Original architect: WGR Prague
Seat capacity: 990
Currently showing: The Rocky Horror Show

Past production highlights: Moonlight in Silver with Douglas Fairbanks Jr (1923); Short Story with Sybil Thorndike and Rex Harrison (1935); the Gielgud season with Alec Guinness, Peggy Ashcroft and George Devine (1937); Stop the World I Want to Get Off (1961); Neil Simon's The Odd Couple (1967); Private Lives with Maggie Smith and Robert Stephens (1972); Saturday, Sunday, Monday (1974); Another Country with Kenneth Branagh (1982); Leonard Bernstein's Wonderful Town (1986); Vanessa, Lynn and Jemma Redgrave in Three Sisters (1990); Stephen Sondheim's Passion (1996).

GIELGUD THEATRE

Opened: 27 December 1906
Original architect: WGR Prague
Seat capacity: 889
Former names: Hicks Theatre (1906-1908), Globe Theatre (1908-1994)
Currently showing: Tell Me on a Sunday

Past production highlights: Noel Coward's Fallen Angels (1925), George Bernard Shaw's Candida marks start of HM Tennent company's tenancy (1937); The Lady's Not for Burning with John Gielgud (1949); Alan Ayckbourn's trilogy The Norman Conquests (1975); Daisy Pulls It Off (1983); The House of Bernarda Alba revived with Glenda Jackson and Joan Plowright; Peter Hall's production of The Importance of Being Earnest; Mark Ravenhill's Shopping and F***ing (1997); The Graduate (2000).


How the Queen's will look once the new development is completed


The new Sondheim Theatre will sit on the roof of the Gielgud and Queen's complex

What's going to happen: The island block, bookended by the Gielgud and Queen's, will be completely reinvented, according to the designs of architects RHWL. A spacious communal foyer area will link the theatres, with improved public circulation throughout. Disabled access be improved, together with expanded bar and toilet facilities. The Queen's seating capacity will be increased from 990 over three levels to 1,213 over two levels, enhancing comfort and all sightlines.

Most ambitiously, utilising interconnecting real estate will be a brand new venue, named after the American composer and lyricist [Stephen Sondheim - the SONDHEIM THEATRE. This will be the first theatre built in Shaftesbury Avenue since 1931. The flexible 500-seat studio's specific aim will be to accommodate extended runs of musicals and plays transferring from small-scale off-West End venues such as the Almeida, Donmar Warehouse and NT Cottesloe. Located above the Queen's, the Sondheim will be built to take advantage of roof-level views across London.

When's it happening: The leases for both the Queen's and Gielgud, currently operated by Really Useful Theatres, revert back to Mackintosh on 25 March 2006. Work will begin in the first quarter of 2006. For the Gielgud, this is set to last just three months. For the Queen's and the new Sondheim, it will take an estimated 20 months.

What will it cost: Approximately £20 million.



The Albery recently played host to the sell out Private Lives


The Wyndham's as it looks today

ALBERY THEATRE

Opened: 12 March 1903
Original architect: WGR Prague
Seat capacity: 872
Former name: New Theatre (1903-1973)
Currently showing: The Master Builder

Past production highlights: Peter Pan repeated every Christmas from 1915-1919; George Bernard Shaw's St Joan with Sybil Thorndike (1924); Hamlet directed by and starring John Gielgud (1934); Romeo and Juliet with Gielgud and Laurence Olivier alternating as Romeo and Mercutio (1935); the premiere production of Oliver! (1960-1966); A Month in the Country with Helen Mirren and John Hurt (1995); Blood Brothers before it transferred to the Phoenix (1988-1991); the Almeida Theatre season (1998); Private Lives with Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan (2001); and Macbeth with Sean Bean.

WYNDHAM'S THEATRE

Opened: 16 November 1899
Original architect: WGR Prague
Seat capacity: 750
Currently showing: Absolutely! {perhaps}

Past production highlights: David Garrick starring namesake actor-manager Charles Wyndham opened the theatre; Sandy Wilson's The Boy Friend ran for 2,078 from 1954; Godspell with David Essex (1972); Edward Albee's Three Tall Women with Maggie Smith (1996); the world premiere of Arthur Miller's The Ride Down Mount Morgan; Art, originally with Ken Stott, Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay (1996); Up for Grabs with Madonna; The Play What I Wrote.

 

What's going to happen: Comparatively minor work will be undertaken to improve and unify public entrances to the upper auditorium levels (now separate from those to the lower levels in Wyndham's, while, at the Albery, bar capacity will be vastly increased and public circulation improved.

When's it happening: The leases for both the Albery and Wyndham's, currently managed by the Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG), revert back to Mackintosh on 28 September 2005, after which, work will begin.

What will it cost: Approximately £2 million.


PRINCE EDWARD THEATRE

Opened: 3 April 1930
Original architect: Edward Stone
Seat capacity: 1,690
Former names: Radio Theatre (1935-1936), London Casino (1936-1942, 1946-1954), Queensberry All-Services Club (1942-1946), London Casino Cinerama Theatre (1954-1974), Casino Cinema (1974-1978)
Currently showing: Mamma Mia!

Past production highlights: Evita, starring Elaine Paige (ran from 1978-1986), Crazy for You (ran from 1993-1996), Martin Guerre (premiered in 1996)


Refurbishment of this theatre is already complete

What happened: Completely refurbished under the management of Delfont Mackintosh. The stage was enlarged, the auditorium remodelled and redecorated and new side boxes added.

When did it happen: In 1992 and early 1993.
What did it cost: Approximately £4 million.


For more information and background on Mackintosh's plans, see the following:

  • "Sondheim Forms Centre of New £7m Avenue Complex" (News, 25 Jun 2003)
  • "Mackintosh Vows to Lower Costs, Clean Up Streets" (News, 25 Jun 2003)
  • "Mackintosh Plans 500-seat London Transfer Space" (News, 22 Apr 2003)
  • "Mortal Mortar: Refurbishing the West End" (Features, 27 Jan 2003)
  • "Mackintosh Unveils Multi-million Theatre Rescue Plans" (See News, 10 Jan 2003)