Theatre News

The Phantom of the Opera West End home redesign details revealed in planning application

The application features a plethora of new details

Her Majesty's Theatre
Her Majesty's Theatre
© Lee Fitzgerald

New information has been revealed for a redesigned auditorium at The Phantom of the Opera's home, Her Majesty's Theatre.

As per a planning application submitted recently, the new work will see internal works to the stage area including alteration to the proscenium, boxes and orchestra pit and repainting of the ceiling. Her Majesty's is a Grade II* listed building (one of only three Grade I or II listed buildings in the West End) that has housed the hit show for over 30 years.

The project hopes to restore the venue's original Scagliola proscenium (rather than the false proscenium that sat on top of it), by repairing brickwork, removing black paint and reinstating a timber superstructure. This process is expected to last eight weeks.

First reported on in The Stage, documents available on the Westminster website offer tidbits of information about what audiences might expect when the show reopens (currently scheduled for later this year).

The modifications will aid the design of the "new production of Phantom of the Opera", which will "not be limited to the stage area and
will move into the auditorium, covering the proscenium and parts of the boxes", "as with the original 1986 production". The hope is that "the auditorium and the audience become part of the production", and that the musical will "blur the boundary between stage and auditorium". The revered Maria Björnson was responsible for the original 1986 design.

A letter, dated from 2015 and included in the planning application "identified a number of cracks in the masonry wall above the proscenium arch", though "the cracks witnessed do not suggest a significant failure or degradation of this structure", and are in fact historic rather than ongoing.

The restoration of the proscenium will also allow for the accommodation of new sound equipment, meaning the auditorium's boxes will be used "as originally intended". There will also be new designs for the orchestra pit, which will feature balusters rather than a pleated curtain.

According to the application's cover letter, the design aims to improve the historical nature of the venue ("by restoring and reinstating original design intentions"), the aesthetics of the space ("by improving visitor comfort and experience") and technical specs (to ensure "that the theatre can accommodate modern day musical sets").

This letter also states that "new set design elements would cover the vertical scagliola [while these areas are being restored], providing a coherent display and accommodating enhanced audio equipment."

Furthermore, " alterations to the proscenium arch are reversible and allow for considered repair and restoration in due course, with a range of immediate enhancements complimenting these."

The Phantom of the Opera is expected to reopen in June 2021.

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