About the theatre
The Lyric Theatre is the oldest surviving of all the theatres currently on Shaftesbury Avenue. The foyers and bar areas were completely redocorated in 1932/33 while the exterior was restored in 1994.
The Lyric Theatre initially staged mostly light operattas when it first opened before subsquently staging light comedies and straight drama. In 1950 Andre Roussin's The Little Hut run for 1,261 performances with Robert Morley in the first cast. 1972 saw Alan Ayckbourn's How the Other Half Loves run for 869 performances. More recently Five Guys Named Moe, a musical based on the songs of Louis Jordan, had a very successful run here - opening 14 December 1990 and running until 4 March 1995.
Lyric Theatre History
The Lyric Theatre is the oldest theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, having opened in December 1888. Designed by architect C J Phipps, it was originally built for impresario Henry J Leslie as a home for operetta. Since then the building has successfully hosted drama, comedy and musicals and some highlights of its rich history are listed below.
•1888 Opened with a transfer of the comic opera Dorothy from the Prince of Wales Theatre, featuring Marie Tempest.
•1892 The Mountebanks, a comic opera by W S Gilbert.
•1893 Eleanora Duse made her London debut in La Dame aux Camellias.
•1896 The Sign of the Cross, written and produced by Wilson Barrett.
•1898 Sarah Bernhardt appeared in Frou-Frou, Phèdre, Julie and La Tosca. Tom B Davis took over the management.
•1899 Floradora with music by Leslie Stuart (including ‘Tell Me Pretty Maiden’) brought the theatre into the 20th century.
•1902 Johnstone Forbes-Robertson produced and appeared with his wife Gertrude Elliott in Mice and Men.
•1906 Lewis Waller appeared in a season of revivals and a romantic version of Robin Hood.
•1910 The Chocolate Soldier was the first of Bernard Shaw’s plays to be set to music when Oscar Strauss composed songs for an adaptation of Arms and the Man.
•1911 Michael Faraday became sole controller of the theatre and Yvonne Arnaud found fame in the musical The Girl in the Taxi.
•1916 F W Tibbets became lessee (until 1930).
•1922 A play about the composer Franz Schubert employing his music, Lilac Time, was a great success.
1924 The Frederick Lonsdale musical The Street Singer.
•1926 The Gold Diggers starred Tallulah Bankhead.
•1929 Leslie Howard appeared in Berkeley Square.
•1931 Eugene O’Neill’s Strange Interlude and Dodie Smith’s first play, Autumn Crocus.
•1932 Dangerous Corner by J B Priestley.
•1933 Thomas Bostock took over and the building was completely re-decorated.
•1934 Alfred Lunt and Lynne Fontane in A Reunion in Vienna and George S Kaufman’s Royal Family, directed by Noël Coward with Madge Titheradge, Marie Tempest and Laurence Olivier.
•1935 Tovarich by Robert Sherwood and Laurence Houseman’s Victoria Regina about Queen Victoria.
•1941 Yvonne Arnaud in The Nutmeg Tree.
•1943 Prince Littler took control of the building.
•1944 Terence Rattigan’s Love in Idleness saw the return of the Lunts.
•1946 The Winslow Boy again by Rattigan.
•1950 Robert Morley starred in The Little Hut which ran for 1,261 performances.
•1954 The musical Grab Me a Gondola.
•1955 Noël Coward’s South Sea Bubble starred Vivien Leigh.
•1958 Keith Michell and Elizabeth Seal led the cast in the musical Irma La Douce.
•1964 Keith Michell again as Robert Browning in Robert and Elizabeth.
•1969 Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite.
•1972 Alan Ayckbourn’s How the Other Half Loves and Alec Guinness in Alan Bennett’s Habeas Corpus.
•1974 The Lyric became part of the Stoll Moss Theatres group.
•1977 Eduardo de Filipo’s Filumena starred Joan Plowright.
•1982 Robert Holmes à Court took control of Stoll Moss Theatres.
•1983 Barbara Dickson starred in the original production of Willy Russell’s musical Blood Brothers and Judi Dench and Michael Williams were in Hugh Whitmore’s Pack of Lies.
•1984 Leonard Rossiter sadly died during the run of Joe Orton’s Loot.
•1985 Siân Phillips and Beryl Reid in the musical Gigi.
•1989 Rosemary Harris led the cast of Robert Harling’s Steel Magnolias, Kenneth Branagh in Look Back In Anger and Sheila Hancock in Andrew Davies’s Prin.
•1990 Burn This starred John Malkovich and Cameron Mackintosh’s production of Clarke Peters’ Five Guys Named Moe began a five-year run. Janet Holmes à Court took control of Stoll Moss following the death of her husband.
•1995 The musical revival Ain’t Misbehavin’, Leo McKern in Hobson’s Choice from Chichester and Australian dance sensation Tap Dogs.
•1996 Transfer of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Alan Ayckbourn’s musical By Jeeves.
•1997 Siân Phillips starred as Dietrich in Pam Gems’s play with music Marlene directed by Sean Mathias, and Antony Sher in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Cyrano de Bergerac. The theatre front of house areas were completely refurbished.
•1998 Patrick Marber’s Closer from the Royal National Theatre.
•1999 Animal Crackers from the Manchester Royal Exchange and a multi award-winning performance from Janie Dee in Alan Ayckbourn’s Comic Potential.
•2000 The Lyric became a Really Useful Theatre when Lord Lloyd-Webber’s Really Useful Group and Bridgepoint Capital purchased Stoll Moss Theatres Ltd. Fanny Burney’s A Busy Day with Stephanie Beacham and Sara Crowe prior to Brief Encounter with Jenny Seagrove and Long Day’s Journey Into Night starring Jessica Lange.
•2001 Thelma Holt presented the first full-scale production of Noël Coward’s 1926 play Semi-Monde prior to a short season of Barbara Cook Sings Mostly Sondheim and Brendan Fraser in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (both produced by Bill Kenwright).
•2002 David Warner returned to the stage in The Feast of Snails and Daisy Pulls It Off returned to Shaftesbury Avenue. The Constant Wife transferred from the Apollo Theatre, followed by another Maugham play, Home and Beauty.
•2003 A short season with Al Murray The Pub Landlord, Who Dares Wines?, Strindberg’s Dance of Death starring Sir Ian McKellen, the transfer of the Royal Court’s Hitchcock Blonde by Terry Johnson, Camut Band and The Secret Rapture.
•2004 The new musical Beautiful and Damned based on the lives of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald was presented by Gem Theatrical Productions Limited.
•2005 Bill Kenwright Limited transferred Festen from the Ameida Teatre and Delphi Productions presented Death of a Salesman starring Brian Dennehy and Clare Higgins.
•2006 Bill Kenwright presented Night of the Iguana starring Woody Harrelson, Clare Higgins and Jenny Seagrove. Phil McIntyre staged a new play Smaller by Carmel Morgan, starring Dawn French and Alison Moyet, and directed by Kathy Burke.
In 2005 veteran producers Nica Burns and Max Weitzenhoffer purchased the Lyric Theatre, along with the Apollo, Duchess and Garrick Theatres creating Nimax Theatres on 26 September 2005. The Vaudeville Theatre, solely owned by Max Weitzenhoffer, completes the Nimax portfolio.
Current shows at Lyric Theatre
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Archive shows at Lyric Theatre