5. Dominion Theatre
Amid the demolition of the Tottenham Court Road area of London to make way for a new transport link, one thing remains constant. And that’s the giant figure of Freddie Mercury, punching the air and inviting punters to come and see “We Will Rock You” at the Dominion Theatre. The show has been running there since 2002 and, despite bad reviews from critics, has been immensely popular. The theatre itself seats just over 2,000 people and was built in 1929, on the site of an old brewery that had once caused London to be flooded with beer. The Dominion is also home to the Australian mega-church of Hillsong, who meet there every Sunday and take full advantage of the stage lighting for their high-production-value worship services. Queen by night, God by day – who would have thought it would be such a comfortable mix?
4. Lyceum Theatre
One of the grandest looking theatres in London, the Lyceum’s pillars come from its 1834 incarnation but the rest of the building was built in 1904 in the rococo style. There has been some kind of theatre on the site since 1765, even though it has had a variety of uses that have only been loosely connected to the theatre (for 50 years, the Sublime Society of Beef Steak met there to eat steak and drink port). It was also threatened with closure in 1939 but was saved after plans to build a road through it fell through. It has played host to “The Lion King” for the last 14 years and the Disney adaptation looks set to stay there for the foreseeable future, grossing £289m over its run.
3. Theatre Royal
With a capacity of 2196, this was once London’s leading theatre. There have been several theatres on the site since 1663 and it’s Drury Lane location is the centre of “Theatreland”. As with many theatres in London, it is owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber, composer of musicals such as “Evita” and “Cats”. Among the many musicals staged at the theatre recently was “Oliver”, which was cast through the medium of a Lloyd-Webber fronted reality TV show. It has also showed “The Producers” and “Shrek” and is currently running £Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”.
It’s also meant to be the most haunted theatre in London, with ghosts including the Man in Grey, who sports a tricorne hat and was apparently killed in the theatre around the 18th or 19th century. Another ghost is Joseph Grimaldi, a clown, who is said to guide nervous actors around the stage when he appears. It’s good to have a helpful ghost or two!
2. London Palladium
A name which is known around the world, the London Palladium is probably the most famous theatre in London, and one of the most famous in the world. A few moments’ walk away from the chaotic shops of Oxford Street, it made a name for itself by broadcasting “Sunday Night at the London Palladium” which showcased variety acts and ran from 1955 to 1967. Millions of viewers were familiar with the revolving stage and the hottest acts of the day, who performed. In 1966, the Palladium’s owner tried to sell it off for redevelopment, but it was saved by theatre-loving investors and carried on as both a theatre and a concert venue, with Slade performing there in 1973 (and nearly causing the balcony to collapse). It continues to thrive and is eagerly awaiting the start of 2014’s “X Factor:The Musical”
1. Apollo Victoria
It may not be the most famous London theatre, but it is the biggest, seating 2,500 people. Just metres away from the Victoria Palace Theatre, it forms a sort of mini-theatreland to the South West of the main West End. The theatre has some original Art Deco features, from its 1930 opening, with a nautical theme that includes shells and fountains built into the architecture. It was specially modified for 18 years to incorporate a track around the audience so that the cast of “Starlight Express” could skate through the auditorium. It is currently home to “Wicked” which shows signs of being every bit as popular as “Starlight” was. It shattered box office records in its opening week, by taking £761,000 and has so far lasted 7 years at the venue, grossing £150 million. Back at the birth of cinema, doom-mongers predicted that live theatre would die a rapid death. Statistics like these show that it’s unlikely to happen any time soon. Apparently, the smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowds still appeal to the masses…