What Came First? Hit Shows That Have Played London’s Greatest Theatres: Round Two!
| By Shaun Nolan
Shows open and close in the West End so frequently that it becomes hard to keep up with what’s playing when and where, so today I thought I’d take you all back in time once again and talk you through major shows that have played some of London’s most renowned theatres.
The Queen’s Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue is currently home to Les Miserables after it transferred from the Palace Theatre back in 2004. The theatre itself saw a lot of damage when a bomb fell directly onto it during the Blitz and refurbishment took a long time to restore it to its former glory. Nonetheless, the theatre has been home to shows like The Rocky Horror Show for in a limited run in 2003, the London premiere of the Tony Award-winning musical Contact and a classic stage adaptation of The Hobbit back in 2001, which has since been adapted into a very popular film franchise.
Not too far from the Queen’s is the Piccadilly Theatre which is currently home to Jersey Boys which moved in following Ghost’s closure and Miss Saigon’s arrival at the Prince Edward Theatre in 2014; Jersey Boys’ former home. The theatre, even though it has been subject to many ‘hen night’ musicals (as I’d refer to them) in previous years, it has actually landed many successful original transfers from Broadway. Plays include Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, A Streetcar Named Desire and Noises Off. Meanwhile, musicals include the original transfer of Man of La Mancha back in the 1970s, Ragtime back in 2003 starring Maria Friedman (a personal favourite show of mine), a successful revival of Guys and Dolls starring Ewan McGregor and Jane Krakowski among others like Jenna Russell and Douglas Hodge, and the original production of Ghost: The Musical.
Let’s move a bit closer to Covent Garden shall we and talk about two of London’s oldest of theatres, starting with the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane which is currently home to the world premiere production of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. This theatre has seen many, many incredible shows during its time and if those walls could talk, I could sit there forever and listen. The original production of Miss Saigon played its entire run at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane as well as the London debuts of Oklahoma!, Carousel, South Pacific and The King and I right after the Second World War. The theatre has also experienced many Broadway transfers including A Chorus Line, My Fair Lady, Camelot, The Producers and Shrek the Musical, as well as its fair share of original productions like the cult favourite musical adaptation of Lord of the Rings back in 2006, starring Mary Poppins alum and Finding Neverland star Laura Michele Kelly.
Around the corner is a theatre that has seemingly forever been home to the very long running Phantom of the Opera: Her Majesty’s Theatre. Even though Phantom looks as though it’s been playing the theatre forever, this theatre has also seen many major musicals make their London debuts. Pippin made its short original run at that very theatre with Paul Jones in the title role back in October 1973. The original London productions of classics like Fiddler On The Roof (1967) and West Side Story (1958) also made their London debuts in this very theatre, alongside classics like Paint Your Wagon (1953) and Brigadoon (1949).
Last but not least is one of the most iconic theatrical destinations on the globe: the London Palladium. Currently home to Sinatra: The Man and His Music and soon to be home to London’s second revival of Cats The Musical (this time starring Beverley Knight), the theatre has hosted a whole lot of entertainment but has surprisingly only been playing musicals on a frequent schedule since the 90s. A reworking of Joseph was one of the first major musicals to play the theatre back in 1991 followed by a revival of Oliver! in 1994 (which was duplicated back in 2009 at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane). The theatre opened under Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group’s reign with a revival of The King and I starring Elaine Paige back in 2000. Before that production even opened, the box office had taken in over £7 million in advanced ticket sales. A stage adaptation of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang followed from 2002 until 2005 following the closure of The King and I. In Christmas 2005, Tommy Steele led a Christmas production of Scrooge – The Musical which was followed in the New Year by a production very similar to the theatre’s current resident entitled ‘Sinatra At The London Palladium’; a show that integrated video and live music to tell the man’s story. The Sound of Music followed that starring Connie Fisher in 2006 and Sister Act succeeded in 2009 with Patina Miller at the helm. Since then, we’ve seen things like A Chorus Line being revived, I Can’t Sing! and of course, the two Christmas revivals of Cats.
Do you remember seeing any shows in London’s greatest theatres? Get in touch on Twitter @Shaunycat or @Theatre_Direct and let us know, and I’ll be sure to feature your memory next time!