Theatre Royal Stratford East is celebrating its 125th birthday next month by staging a special gala performance of its pantomime Aladdin.

The birthday performance will be staged on 17 December 2009, 125 years to the day since the venue's original grand opening night in 1884, which featured a performance of Strachey’s Richelieu with actor-manager Charles Dillon playing the lead.

Stratford East's current artistic director Kerry Michael said: “Our 125th birthday evening promises to be a great night with lots of familiar faces and dear friends.  It’s a special time for us at the moment with more of our work than ever touring nationally and internationally and as exciting plans grow for 2012 it feels fitting to take a moment to celebrate the wonderful legacy we have inherited and the huge amount Theatre Royal Stratford East has achieved.”

After overcoming financial difficulties during the first half of the 20th century, the venue achieved fame in the 1950s under the directorship of Joan Littlewood, who produced a slew of ground-breaking shows - such as Taste of Honey, The Hostage and Oh What a Lovely War - with a distinctly working class point of view. Since Littlewood's time, the theatre has stayed true to the mission of reflecting the diversity of its local East End community.

Fittingly, Aladdin was also the production that reopened the venue in 2001 following an extensive £4.5 million refurbishment (See News, 13 Dec 2001).

The current production, which opens this week (28 November 2009) is brought to the stage by the same creative team, led by director Kerry Michael, who were responsible for the Olivier Award-nominated Cinderella in 2007. The gala night will raise funds "to help keep the Theatre thriving well into the future".