What Came First? Hit Shows That Played London’s Greatest Theatres

By Shaun Nolan
Tuesday 14 April 2015

Shows open and close so regularly that it’s pretty easy to forget what show was in the theatre before what’s running there now. What played the Apollo Victoria Theatre before Wicked? What played the Adelphi Theatre before the likes of Made in Dagenham and The Bodyguard? What played the Prince Of Wales before Mamma Mia! and The Book Of Mormon? I’m about to let you know why bums were on seats way before the shows that are running today...

The Adelphi Theatre, previously home to Made In Dagenham and soon to be home to the new Kinky Boots London production this August. I’m sure we can all remember The Bodyguard that played here before starring Heather Headley and I’m sure most of us can also remember the fantastic revival of Sweeney Todd starring Michael Ball and Imedla Staunton as well. Let’s cast out minds back a bit further though and remember the likes of Love Never Dies, the sequel to The Phantom Of The Opera that played this theatre; Andrew Lloyd Webber infamously painted the front of the theatre black without asking for government permission, too! Or how about the original production of the very successful hit musical Me And My Girl that played the theatre way back when in 1985 for a fantastic eight years.

The Novello Theatre is currently home to Mamma Mia! after it transferred from the Prince Of Wales a few years ago and this theatre has seen some cult favourite modern musicals in recent times as well. Short lived productions of Broadway shows like Spring Awakening and The Drowsy Chaperone played famously short runs here respectively – did anyone even know that Elaine Paige starred in The Drowsy Chaperone transfer?! The first West End revival of Cabaret also played here way back in the 80s, too!

Matilda’s residence at the Cambridge Theatre comes hot on the heels of the long-running revival of Chicago that came before it, but did you know that a musical about Jerry Springer’s morning TV shows ran here for a respectable two years back in 2003? It’s a cult classic and a recording is available on DVD; I recommend taking a read about the controversy it caused after being broadcast on TV if you have a spare five minutes! A revival of Grease played here before that too as well as the original production Our House, the Madness musical.

The Book of Mormon and Mamma Mia! seem to have been the only things that have ever run at the Prince of Wales in my young memory, but some hit have played there before I came along as well. The Andrew Lloyd Webber classic Aspects Of Love had its original run here with Michael Ball in the lead as well as the original London production of City of Angels that recently received a stellar revival at the Donmar Warehouse in Covent Garden. RENT also played two very limited revival runs here back in the early Noughties!

But if there’s one show that seems to have been playing in their theatre for all of eternity then it has to be Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre, but it turns out that two more classic Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals made their original stamps on the theatre world in this home as well. Starlight Express famously ran at the Apollo Victoria for almost 18 years making it the second longest running West End musical in history at that point. Following that was Lloyd Webber’s most fun musical to date, Bombay Dreams. A video recording exists of this show as well if you fancy checking it out and its comfy run of two years sets it firmly in the theatre’s previous hits.

Do you remember any other hit shows you saw years ago in the West End’s greatest theatres? Tweet me to let me know and I’ll pull them all together for another post!


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Shaun Nolan

Shaun grew up listening to the cast recordings of musical theatre treasures like Miss Saigon and Cats before finding his own feet at a young age and exploring a wide breadth of musicals and shows by himself. Now that he's older and wiser, he loves nothing more than taking very regular trips down to London's West End to soak up the pure magic that he loves so much... and then coming home and sharing it with you on his own blog and London Theatre Direct.

Please note: Opinions expressed on the blog are those of the relevant contributors, not of London Theatre Direct Ltd, its owners or staff. London Theatre Direct Ltd is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by contributors.

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