Apollo Theatre

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Apollo Theatre
Apollo Theatre, February 2022, Magic Goes Wrong.jpg
The theatre showing Magic Goes Wrong in 2022
Apollo Theatre
Address Shaftesbury Avenue
London, W1
United Kingdom
Coordinates 51°30′41″N0°08′00″W / 51.511472°N 0.133417°W / 51.511472; -0.133417 Coordinates: 51°30′41″N0°08′00″W / 51.511472°N 0.133417°W / 51.511472; -0.133417
Public transit Underground no-text.svg Piccadilly Circus
Owner Nimax Theatres
Designation Grade II
Type West End theatre
Capacity 658 [1]
Opened21 February 1901;122 years ago (1901-02-21)
Architect Lewin Sharp

The Apollo Theatre is a Grade II listed West End theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue in the City of Westminster, in central London. [2] Designed by the architect Lewin Sharp for owner Henry Lowenfeld, [3] [4] it became the fourth legitimate theatre to be constructed on the street when it opened its doors on 21 February 1901, [4] with the American musical comedy The Belle of Bohemia . [3] [4]




Henry Lowenfeld had bought land on the newly created Shaftesbury Avenue at the turn of the 20th century—next door to the Lyric Theatre, which opened in 1888—and as a consequence the Apollo is one of the few theatres in London to be freehold. [3] [4]

The only complete theatre design of architect Lewin Sharp, [3] the Apollo was specifically designed for musical theatre and named after the Greek god of the arts and leader of the muses. [5] It was constructed by builder Walter Wallis of plain London brick in keeping with the neighbouring streets; the front piece is in the Renaissance style with a sculpted stone fascia by T. Simpson. The structure encloses a four-level auditorium, with three cantilevered balconies and a first-floor central loggia, decorated in the Louis XIV Style by Hubert van Hooydonk. In keeping with then European style, each level has its own foyer and promenade. [4]

Owing to the death of Queen Victoria the previous month, it became the first London theatre to be completed in the Edwardian period. [4] The capacity on the opening night, 21 February 1901, [6] was 893, with a proscenium of 9.14 metres (30.0 ft) wide and 8.89 metres (29.2 ft) deep. [3]

The capacity today is 757 seats, [5] with the balcony on the 3rd tier considered the steepest in London. [4] [7]


Owing to a relatively unsuccessful opening, impresario Tom B. Davis took a lease on the building, and hence management of operations, from 1902. [5] The theatre was renovated by Ernest Schaufelberg in 1932, with a private foyer and anteroom installed to the Royal Box. [3] Prince Littler took control of the theatre in 1944. [5]

Stoll Moss Group purchased the theatre in 1975, [5] selling it to Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group and Bridgepoint Capital in 2000. Nica Burns and Max Weitzenhoffer purchased the theatre and several others in 2005, [7] creating Nimax Theatres, which still owns the theatre. [5]

2013 ceiling collapse

On 19 December 2013, at about 20:15 GMT, [8] 10 square metres (110 sq ft) of the auditorium's ornate plasterwork ceiling collapsed around 40 minutes into a performance of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time . [9] [10] It brought down a lighting rig and a section of balcony, thereby trapping two people and injuring around 88, including seven seriously. There were 720 people in the audience at the time. The incident was preceded by heavy rain. [8]

The emergency services responded with 25 ambulance crews, an air ambulance rapid response team, 8 fire engines with more than 50 firefighters, and the Metropolitan Police. [9] Casualties were taken to the foyers of the adjacent Gielgud and Queen's theatres, [11] where the emergency services could triage. The London Ambulance Service later stated that they had treated 76 injured people, with 58 taken to four London hospitals, some on commandeered buses. [9] Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust said 34 adults and 5 children were subsequently treated in accident and emergency at St Thomas' Hospital. [9]

The venue reopened on 26 March 2014, with an adaptation of Let the Right One In produced by the National Theatre of Scotland. The owners were able to reopen the theatre by sealing the fourth level and balcony with a temporary floor, which allowed investigators to continue their work in determining the cause of the collapse. [12] That month Westminster City Council issued a notice to other historic theatres saying that the ceiling collapse appeared to have been caused by the gradual deterioration of Hessian wadding mixed into plaster of Paris to form the ties lashing timbers together, which had probably been in place since the theatre was built. [13] [14]

Production history

Souvenir of 300th performance of Veronique at the theatre in 1905 Veronique1a.jpg
Souvenir of 300th performance of Véronique at the theatre in 1905

The opening caused a public uproar, with a selected audience for the first performance, on Thursday 21 February 1901, and the first public performance scheduled for 22 February. [4] The Times refused to review the private opening, instead waiting until the first public production on the following day. [4] The opening production was the American musical comedy The Belle of Bohemia , [3] which survived for 72 performances—17 more than it had accomplished when produced on Broadway. [4] The production was followed by John Martin-Harvey's season, including A Cigarette Maker's Romance and The Only Way, an adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities . [3] [4]

George Edwardes produced a series of successful Edwardian musical comedies, including Kitty Grey (1901), Three Little Maids and The Girl from Kays (1902). An English version of André Messager's light opera Véronique became a hit in 1904, starring with Ruth Vincent, who also starred in Edward German's Tom Jones in 1907 in which Cicely Courtneidge made her London debut. [15] Between 1908 and 1912 the theatre hosted H. G. Pelissier's The Follies. After this it staged a variety of works, including seasons of plays by Charles Hawtrey in 1913, 1914 and 1924, and Harold Brighouse's Hobson's Choice in 1916. [5] Inside the Lines by Earl Derr Biggers ran for 421 performances in 1917. [15] Gilbert Dayle's What Would a Gentleman Do? played in 1918 [3] and Tilly of Bloomsbury by Ian Hay was the success in 1919. [15]

George Grossmith, Jr. and Edward Laurillard managed the theatre from 1920 to 1923, presenting a series of plays and revivals, including Such a Nice Young Man by H.F. Maltby (1920) and Trilby (1922), the latter based on the 1894 George du Maurier novel of the same name. They had produced The Only Girl here in 1916 and Tilly of Bloomsbury in 1919. The Fake was produced in 1924, starring Godfrey Tearle. 1927 saw Abie's Irish Rose and Whispering Wires, with Henry Daniel. The next year, Laurence Olivier starred in R. C. Sherriff's Journey's End . Seán O'Casey's The Silver Tassie and Ivor Novello's A Symphony in Two Flats both played in 1929. Diana Wynyard starred as Charlotte Brontë in Clemence Dane's Wild Decembers in 1932. Marion Lorne was the star of a number of plays by her husband Walter Hackett from 1934 to 1937. Ian Hay's Housemaster had the most successful run in this period with 662 performances from 1936. [15] Raymond Massey starred in Robert Sherwood's Pulitzer Prize-winning Idiot's Delight in 1938. Patrick Hamilton's play Gaslight held the stage in 1939, and Terence Rattigan's Flare Path played in 1942. [5]

Control of the theatre transferred to Prince Littler in 1944. John Clements and Kay Hammond starred that year in a revival of Noël Coward's Private Lives , and Margaret Rutherford starred in The Happiest Days of Your Life in 1948, followed by Sybil Thorndike and Lewis Casson in Treasure Hunt, directed by John Gielgud in 1949. After this, Seagulls Over Sorrento ran for over three years beginning in 1950. The theatre's longest run was the comedy Boeing-Boeing , starring Patrick Cargill and David Tomlinson, which opened in 1962 and transferred to the Duchess Theatre in 1965. In 1968 Gielgud starred in Alan Bennett's Forty Years On , and in 1970 he returned in David Storey's Home , with Ralph Richardson. He returned to the theatre in 1988, at the age of 83, in The Best of Friends by Hugh Whitemore. [5]

A number of hit comedies transferred to or from the theatre in the 1970s and 1980s, and other important plays here during the period included Rattigan's Separate Tables , with John Mills in 1976, Romantic Comedy with Tom Conti and Pauline Collins in 1983, Lyle Kessler's Orphans in 1986 with Albert Finney, I'm Not Rappaport the same year, with Paul Scofield, and Dorothy Tutin, Eileen Atkins and Siân Phillips in Thursday's Ladies in 1987. Driving Miss Daisy played in 1988, starring Wendy Hiller, and 1989 saw Zoë Wanamaker in Mrs Klein, Vanessa Redgrave in A Madhouse in Goa , Thunderbirds FAB starring Andrew Dawson and Gavin Robertson, and Peter O'Toole in Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell . Penelope Wilton starred in Rattigan's The Deep Blue Sea in 1993, and In Praise of Love played in 1995 with Peter Bowles. Mark Little starred in the Laurence Olivier Award-winning one-man show, Defending the Caveman in 1999. [5]

Selected post-1999 productions

The facade in 1989, during a production of Thunderbirds FAB ThunderbirdsFAB.jpg
The facade in 1989, during a production of Thunderbirds FAB


  1. "Apollo Theatre". nimaxtheatres.com. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
  2. English Heritage listing accessed 28 April 2007
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 "Apollo Theatre". Arthur Lloyd. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 "Apollo Theatre, Shaftsbury Ave, London". ThisIsTheatre.com. 22 April 2014. Retrieved 15 October 2014.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 "Apollo Theatre". Nimax Theatres . Retrieved 19 December 2013.
  6. "Apollo Theatre: history". telegraph.co.uk. The Telegraph. 19 December 2013. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
  7. 1 2 "The history of the London Apollo". standard.co.uk. London Standard. 20 December 2013. Retrieved 20 December 2013.
  8. 1 2 "Apollo Theatre balcony collapses". BBC News . 19 December 2013. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
  9. 1 2 3 4 "Apollo Theatre: Ceiling collapse injures 76 people". BBC News . 19 December 2013. Retrieved 20 December 2013.
  10. "Apollo Theatre Collapse Causes Injuries". news.sky.com. Sky News. 19 December 2013. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
  11. "'Roof collapses' at West End's Apollo Theatre, serious injuries reported". whatsonstage.com. Whats On Stage. 19 December 2013. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
  12. "Apollo Theatre to reopen after ceiling collapse". The Telegraph. 25 February 2014. Retrieved 15 October 2014.
  13. Siobhann Tighe (24 March 2014). "Apollo theatre collapse due to 'old' materials". BBC News. Retrieved 6 November 2019.
  14. "Apollo theatre ceiling collapse blamed on failure of old cloth ties". The Guardian. Press Association. 24 March 2014. Retrieved 6 November 2019.
  15. 1 2 3 4 Weinreb, Ben; Hibbert, Christopher, eds. (1983). The London Encyclopaedia. Macmillan. p. 22. ASIN   0333576888.
  16. 1 2 3 4 5 "History of London's Grade II listed Edwardian building". mirror.co.uk. Daily Mirror. 19 December 2013. Retrieved 20 December 2013.
  17. "The Country Girl". Best of Theatre. Retrieved 12 September 2014.
  18. "Final cast announced for Urinetown at the Apollo Theatre". blog.londonboxoffice.co.uk. London Box Office. 3 September 2014. Retrieved 12 September 2014.
  19. Wiegand, Chris (8 February 2023). "The Time Traveller's Wife musical sets a date for London's West End". The Guardian. ISSN   0261-3077 . Retrieved 8 February 2023.

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Apollo Theatre Website Nimax Theatres Website