The New London Theatre, which housed Cats for 21 years, has been officially renamed after former ballerina and renowned choreographer Gillian Lynne in a ceremony taking place on Friday. The musical’s unprecedented success at the time of its run has been largely credited to Lynne’s spectacular choreography.
Pictured: Dame Gillian Lynne sits on her rightful throne with Andrew Lloyd-Webber, Cameron Mackintosh, and cast-members from Cats
Cats producer and theatre owner Cameron Mackintosh and English composer and director Andrew Lloyd-Webber hosted the ceremony at what is now called the Gillian Lynne Theatre. During his speech at the ceremony, Lloyd Webber told Lynne, “You've made many stars look wonderful over your career, but today you are the star.”
The ceremony included a dance performance from Cats followed by Dame Gillian Lynne being carried on a golden throne to take centre stage, where she was presented with a key to the Gillian Lynne Theatre by Lord Lloyd-Webber himself.
The dame, currently 92 years old, was incredulous of the accolade and could hardly believe that a theatre was being named after her, having recently admitted that the 90s were not a kind decade to her.
Lloyd-Webber commented on how obvious it seemed to rename the New London Theatre in her honour and admitted to being ashamed of not having thought of it sooner. Mackintosh elaborated on his comments, saying that hopefully the next theatre to be renamed after a significant figure will be another ‘Eureka moment’ and ‘seem just as obvious’ as this one. Mackintosh also mentioned that the Dame Gillian Lynne exhibit will remain in place at the Victoria Palace Theatre.
Many former stars of the famed feline musical, Cats, were ecstatic to see the theatre named after Lynne. Elaine Paige, who originated the role of Grizabella in Cats and now works as a presenter for a Sunday afternoon show on BBC Radio 2, said it was ‘wonderful and timely’ to see Gillian receive this historical honour. Bonnie Langford, who originated the role of Rumpleteazer, told BBC "Her name will now remain in lights forever, which is what she has always wanted."
The historic move marks the Gillian Lynn Theatre as the first West End venue to be named after a non-royal woman. The Apollo Victoria, Victoria Palace and Old Vic theatres are all named after Queen Victoria, while Her Majesty’s Theatre is named after Queen Elizabeth II. In contrast, men are very well represented in the West End with theatres named after Harold Pinter, Ivor Novello, Noel Coward and John Gielgud.
Gillian Lynne was given the title of dame in 2014 for her significant contributions to dance and musical theatre. In 1981 she won an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement of the Year in Musicals for her choreography in Cats, which ran at the New London Theatre from 1981 to 2002. Aside from Cats, in which she worked with Lord Lloyd-Webber, she is also known for being the leading soloist for Sadler’s Wells Ballet from 1944 to 1951 and being the star dancer at the London Palladium from 1951 to 1954. She also worked with Lloyd-Webber for The Phantom of the Opera and Aspects of Love.
The Gillian Lynn Theatre is currently running Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s smash-hit musical, School of Rock, which is booking until 13 January 2019.
For tickets to see School of Rock at the newly named Gillian Lynn Theatre, click here.