West End theatre is mainstream professional theatre staged in the large theatres in and near the West End of London.Along with New York City's Broadway theatre, West End theatre is usually considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English-speaking world. Seeing a West End show is a common tourist activity in London.
There are a total of 39 theatres in the West End, with the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, opened in May 1663, the oldest theatre in London.The Savoy Theatre – built as a showcase for the popular series of comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan – was entirely lit by electricity in 1881.
Society of London Theatre (SOLT) announced that 2018 was a record year for the capital's theatre industry with attendances topping 15.5m for the first time since the organization began collecting audience data in 1986. Box office revenues exceeded £765m.While attendance in 2019 was down 1.4% compared to the previous year, box office revenues reached a record £799m. Famous screen actors, British and international alike, frequently appear on the London stage.
Theatre in London flourished after the English Reformation. The first permanent public playhouse, known as The Theatre, was constructed in 1576 in Shoreditch by James Burbage. It was soon joined by The Curtain. Both are known to have been used by William Shakespeare's company. In 1599, the timber from The Theatre was moved to Southwark, where it was used in building the Globe Theatre in a new theatre district formed beyond the controls of the City corporation. These theatres were closed in 1642 due to the Puritans who would later influence the interregnum of 1649.
After the Restoration (1660), two companies were licensed to perform, the Duke's Company and the King's Company. Performances were held in converted buildings, such as Lisle's Tennis Court. The first West End theatre, known as Theatre Royal in Bridges Street, was designed by Thomas Killigrew and built on the site of the present Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. It opened on 7 May 1663 and was destroyed by a fire nine years later. It was replaced by a new structure designed by Christopher Wren and renamed the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.
Outside the West End, Sadler's Wells Theatre opened in Islington on 3 June 1683. Taking its name from founder Richard Sadler and monastic springs that were discovered on the property,it operated as a "Musick House", with performances of opera; as it was not licensed for plays. In the West End, the Theatre Royal Haymarket opened on 29 December 1720 on a site slightly north of its current location, and the Royal Opera House opened in Covent Garden on 7 December 1732.
The Patent theatre companies retained their duopoly on drama well into the 19th century, and all other theatres could perform only musical entertainments. By the early 19th century, however, music hall entertainments became popular, and presenters found a loophole in the restrictions on non-patent theatres in the genre of melodrama. Melodrama did not break the Patent Acts, as it was accompanied by music. Initially, these entertainments were presented in large halls, attached to public houses, but purpose-built theatres began to appear in the East End at Shoreditch and Whitechapel.
The West End theatre district became established with the opening of many small theatres and halls, including the Adelphi in The Strand on 17 November 1806. South of the River Thames, the Old Vic, Waterloo Road, opened on 11 May 1818. The expansion of the West End theatre district gained pace with the Theatres Act 1843, which relaxed the conditions for the performance of plays, and The Strand gained another venue when the Vaudeville opened on 16 April 1870. The next few decades saw the opening of many new theatres in the West End. The Criterion Theatre opened on Piccadilly Circus on 21 March 1874, and in 1881, two more houses appeared: the Savoy Theatre in The Strand, built by Richard D'Oyly Carte specifically to showcase the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan, opened on 10 October (the first theatre to be lit by cooler, cleaner electric lights), and five days later the Comedy Theatre opened as the Royal Comedy Theatre on Panton Street in Leicester Square. It abbreviated its name three years later.Opened in 1903, the New Theatre was renamed the Noël Coward Theatre in 2006 in honour of the playwright Noël Coward. The theatre building boom continued until about the First World War.
During the 1950s and 1960s, many plays were produced in theatre clubs, to evade the censorship then exercised by the Lord Chamberlain's Office. The Theatres Act 1968 finally abolished censorship of the stage in the United Kingdom.
"Theatreland", London's main theatre district, contains approximately forty venues and is located in and near the heart of the West End of London. It is traditionally defined by the Strand to the south, Oxford Street to the north, Regent Street to the west, and Kingsway to the east, but a few other nearby theatres are also considered "West End" despite being outside the area proper (e.g. The Apollo Victoria Theatre, in Westminster). Prominent theatre streets include Drury Lane, Shaftesbury Avenue and the Strand. The works staged are predominantly musicals, classic and modern straight plays, and comedy performances.
Many theatres in the West End are of late Victorian or Edwardian construction and are privately owned. Many are architecturally impressive, and the largest and best maintained feature grand neo-classical, Romanesque, or Victorian façades and luxurious, detailed interior design and decoration.
However, owing to the age of the buildings, leg room is often cramped, and audience facilities such as bars and toilets are often much smaller than in modern theatres. The protected status of the buildings and their confined urban locations, combined with financial constraints, make it very difficult to make substantial improvements to the level of comfort offered. In 2003, the Theatres Trust estimated that an investment of £250 million over the following 15 years was required for modernisation, and stated that 60% of theatres had seats from which the stage was not fully visible. The theatre owners unsuccessfully requested tax concessions to help them meet the costs.
From 2004 onwards there were several incidents of falling plasterwork, or performances being cancelled because of urgent building repairs being required. These events culminated in the partial collapse of the ceiling of the Apollo Theatre in December 2013.Of these earlier incidents, only one led to people being hurt, but at the Apollo Theatre 76 people needed medical treatment for their injuries. The refurbishment of the Dominion Theatre was completed in 2017 with the unveiling of a new double-sided LED screen, the largest and highest resolution projecting screen on the exterior of a West End theatre.
In 2012, gross sales of £529,787,692 were up 0.27% and attendances also increased 0.56% to 13,992,773-year-on-yearIn 2013, sales again rose this time by 11% to £585,506,455, with attendances rising to 14,587,276. This was despite slightly fewer performances occurring in 2013.
On 16 March 2020, following government advice due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all theatres in the West End were closed until further notice.
The length of West End shows depend on ticket sales. Produced by Cameron Mackintosh, the longest-running musical in West End history is Les Misérables , which has been running in London since October 1985. It overtook Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats , which closed in 2002 after running for 8,949 performances and 21 years, as the longest-running West End musical of all time on 9 October 2006. Other long-runners include Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera and Willy Russell's Blood Brothers which have also subsequently overtaken Cats. However the non-musical Agatha Christie play The Mousetrap is the longest-running production in the world, and has been performed continuously since 1952.
|Adelphi Theatre||Strand||1436||LW Theatres / Nederlander Organization|
|Aldwych Theatre||Aldwych||1176||Nederlander Organization||Tina—The Tina Turner Musical||Musical||17 April 2018||Open-ended|
|Ambassadors Theatre||West Street||444||Ambassador Theatre Group|
|Apollo Theatre||Shaftesbury Avenue||775||Nimax Theatres||Everybody's Talking About Jamie||Musical||22 November 2017||Open-ended|
|Apollo Victoria Theatre||Wilton Road||2384||Ambassador Theatre Group||Wicked||Musical||27 September 2006||Open-ended|
|Arts Theatre||Great Newport Street||350||JJ Goodman Ltd.||Six||Musical||29 January 2019||Open-ended|
|Cambridge Theatre||Earlham Street||1283||LW Theatres||Matilda the Musical||Musical||24 November 2011||Open-ended|
|Criterion Theatre||Jermyn Street||593||Criterion Theatre Trust|
|Dominion Theatre||Tottenham Court Road||2069||Nederlander Organization||The Prince of Egypt||Musical||25 February 2020||Open-ended|
|Duchess Theatre||Catherine Street||494||Nimax Theatres||The Play That Goes Wrong||Play||14 September 2014||Open-ended|
|Duke of York's Theatre||St. Martin's Lane||650||Ambassador Theatre Group|
|Fortune Theatre||Russell Street||432||Ambassador Theatre Group||The Woman in Black||Play||7 June 1989||Open-ended|
|Garrick Theatre||Charing Cross Road||718||Nimax Theatres|
|Gielgud Theatre||Shaftesbury Avenue||986||Delfont Mackintosh Theatres||To Kill a Mockingbird||Play||May 2021*||Open-ended|
|Gillian Lynne Theatre||Drury Lane||1108||LW Theatres||Cinderella||Musical||7 April 2021*||Open-ended|
|Harold Pinter Theatre||Panton Street||796||Ambassador Theatre Group|
|Her Majesty's Theatre||Haymarket||1160||LW Theatres||The Phantom of the Opera||Musical||9 October 1986||Open-ended|
|London Palladium||Argyll Street||2286||LW Theatres|
|Lyceum Theatre||Wellington Street||2100||Ambassador Theatre Group||The Lion King||Musical||19 October 1999||Open-ended|
|Lyric Theatre||Shaftesbury Avenue||967||Nimax Theatres|
|Noël Coward Theatre||St. Martin's Lane||872||Delfont Mackintosh Theatres||Dear Evan Hansen||Musical||19 November 2019||Open-ended|
|Novello Theatre||Aldwych||1143||Delfont Mackintosh Theatres||Mamma Mia!||Musical||6 April 1999||Open-ended|
|Palace Theatre||Shaftesbury Avenue||1400||Nimax Theatres||Harry Potter and the Cursed Child||Play||25 July 2016||Open-ended|
|Phoenix Theatre||Charing Cross Road||1012||Ambassador Theatre Group||Come from Away||Musical||18 February 2019||Open-ended|
|Piccadilly Theatre||Denman Street||1200||Ambassador Theatre Group||Pretty Woman: The Musical||Musical||1 March 2020||6 February 2021|
|Playhouse Theatre||Craven Street||786||Ambassador Theatre Group|
|Prince Edward Theatre||Old Compton Street||1650||Delfont Mackintosh Theatres||Mary Poppins||Musical||13 November 2019||Open-ended|
|Prince of Wales Theatre||Coventry Street||1160||Delfont Mackintosh Theatres||The Book of Mormon||Musical||21 March 2013||Open-ended|
|Savoy Theatre||Strand||1158||Ambassador Theatre Group|
|Shaftesbury Theatre||Shaftesbury Avenue||1400||The Theatre of Comedy Company||& Juliet||Musical||20 November 2019||Open-ended|
|Sondheim Theatre||Shaftesbury Avenue||1074||Delfont Mackintosh Theatres||Les Misérables||Musical||16 January 2020||Open-ended|
|St Martin's Theatre||West Street||550||Stephen Waley-Cohen||The Mousetrap||Play||25 November 1952||Open-ended|
|Theatre Royal, Drury Lane||Catherine Street||2196||LW Theatres||Frozen||Musical||14 April 2021*||Open-ended|
|Theatre Royal Haymarket||Haymarket||888||Crown Estate||Only Fools and Horses The Musical||Musical||19 February 2019||Open-ended|
|Trafalgar Studios||Whitehall||400||Trafalgar Entertainment Group|
|Vaudeville Theatre||Strand||690||Nimax Theatres||Magic Goes Wrong||Play||8 January 2020||Open-ended|
|Victoria Palace Theatre||Victoria Street||1517||Delfont Mackintosh Theatres||Hamilton||Musical||21 December 2017||Open-ended|
|Wyndham's Theatre||St. Martin's Court||750||Delfont Mackintosh Theatres|
The following have been announced as future West End productions. The theatre in which they will run is either not yet known or currently occupied by another show.
|Baby Reindeer||Ambassadors Theatre||Postponed||Play|
|The Doctor||Duke of York's Theatre||2021||Play|
|A Doll's House||Playhouse Theatre||Postponed||Play|
|The Drifters Girl||Garrick Theatre||October 1, 2020||Musical|
|Get Up, Stand Up!||Lyric Theatre||February 6, 2021||Musical|
|Hello, Dolly!||Adelphi Theatre||2022||Musical|
|Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat||London Palladium||15 July 2021||Musical|
|Life of Pi||Wyndham's Theatre||Postponed||Play|
|Moulin Rouge!||Piccadilly Theatre||Late 2021||Musical|
|Sunday in the Park with George||Savoy Theatre||2021||Musical|
|To Kill a Mockingbird||Gielgud Theatre||Postponed||Play|
|Mean Girls||TBA||Spring 2021||Musical|
|The Pillowman||Duke of York's Theatre||2021||Play|
|The Watsons||Harold Pinter Theatre||Postponed||Play|
|Pantomime (Title to be announced)||London Palladium||December 5, 2020||Pantomime|
The term "West End theatre" is generally used to refer specifically to commercial productions in Theatreland. However, the leading non-commercial theatres in London enjoy great artistic prestige. These include the Royal National Theatre, the Barbican Centre, Shakespeare's Globe (including the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse), the Old Vic, Royal Court Theatre, Sadler's Wells Theatre, and the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre. These theatres stage a high proportion of straight drama, Shakespeare, other classic plays and premieres of new plays by leading playwrights. Successful productions from the non-commercial theatres sometimes transfer to one of the commercial West End houses for an extended run.
The Royal Opera House is widely regarded as one of the greatest opera houses in the world, comparable with the Palais Garnier, La Scala and the Metropolitan Opera House. Commonly known simply as Covent Garden due to its location, it is home to the Royal Opera, Royal Ballet and a resident symphony orchestra, and hosts guest performances from other leading opera, ballet and performance companies from around the world.
Likewise, the London Coliseum is the resident home to the English National Opera. The theatre is also the London base for performances by the English National Ballet, who perform regular seasons throughout the year when not on tour.
The Peacock Theatre is located on the edge of the Theatreland area. Now owned by the London School of Economics and Political Science, it is used in the evenings for dance performances by Sadler's Wells, who manage the theatre on behalf of the school.
There are a great number of theatre productions in London outside the West End. Much of this is known as fringe theatre which is the equivalent of Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway theatre in New York. Among these are the Bush Theatre and the Donmar Warehouse. Fringe venues range from well-equipped small theatres to rooms above pubs, and the performances range from classic plays, to cabaret, to plays in the languages of London's ethnic minorities. The performers range from emerging young professionals to amateurs.
There are many theatres located throughout Greater London, such as the Lyric Hammersmith, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Rose Theatre, Kingston, New Wimbledon Theatre, the Rudolf Steiner Theatre in Westminster, the Ashcroft Theatre in Croydon, Secombe Theatre in Sutton and the Churchill Theatre in Bromley.
There are a number of annual awards for outstanding achievements in London theatre:
Here you will find all the information you need about the longest running show, of any kind, in the world.
Sir Cameron Anthony Mackintosh is a British theatrical producer and theatre owner notable for his association with many commercially successful musicals. At the height of his success in 1990, he was described as being "the most successful, influential and powerful theatrical producer in the world" by the New York Times. He is the producer of shows such as Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera, Mary Poppins, Oliver!, Miss Saigon,Cats, and Hamilton.
The Royal Opera House (ROH) is an opera house and major performing arts venue in Covent Garden, central London. The large building is often referred to as simply Covent Garden, after a previous use of the site. The first opera house was constructed in 1732. It is the home of The Royal Opera, The Royal Ballet, and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. Originally called the Theatre Royal, it served primarily as a playhouse for the first hundred years of its history. In 1734, the first ballet was presented. A year later, first season of operas by George Frideric Handel began. Many of his operas and oratorios were specifically written for Covent Garden and had their premieres there.
Sadler's Wells Theatre is a performing arts venue in Clerkenwell, London, England located on Rosebery Avenue next to New River Head. The present-day theatre is the sixth on the site since 1683. It consists of two performance spaces: a 1,500-seat main auditorium and the Lilian Baylis Studio, with extensive rehearsal rooms and technical facilities also housed within the site. Sadler's Wells is renowned as one of the world's leading dance venues. As well as a stage for visiting companies, the theatre is also a producing house, with a number of associated artists and companies that produce original works for the theatre. Sadler's Wells is also responsible for the management of the Peacock Theatre in the West End, during times not used by the London School of Economics.
Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) is one of the five major ballet companies of the United Kingdom, alongside The Royal Ballet, the English National Ballet, Northern Ballet and Scottish Ballet. Founded as the Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet, the company was established in 1946 as a sister company to the earlier Sadler's Wells company, which moved to the Royal Opera House that same year, subsequently becoming known as The Royal Ballet.
The Theatre Royal Haymarket is a West End theatre on Haymarket in the City of Westminster which dates back to 1720, making it the third-oldest London playhouse still in use. Samuel Foote acquired the lease in 1747, and in 1766 he gained a royal patent to play legitimate drama in the summer months. The original building was a little further north in the same street. It has been at its current location since 1821, when it was redesigned by John Nash. It is a Grade I listed building, with a seating capacity of 888. The freehold of the theatre is owned by the Crown Estate.
The London Coliseum is a Wrenaissance theatre in St Martin's Lane, Westminster, built as one of London's largest and most luxurious "family" variety theatres. Opened on 24 December 1904 as the London Coliseum Theatre of Varieties, it was designed by the theatrical architect Frank Matcham for the impresario Oswald Stoll. Their ambition was to build the largest and finest music hall, described as the "people's palace of entertainment" of its age.
The Adelphi Theatre is a London West End theatre, located on the Strand in the City of Westminster. The present building is the fourth on the site. The theatre has specialised in comedy and musical theatre, and today it is a receiving house for a variety of productions, including many musicals. The theatre was Grade II listed for historical preservation on 1 December 1987.
Her Majesty's Theatre is a West End theatre situated on Haymarket in the City of Westminster, London. The present building was designed by Charles J. Phipps and was constructed in 1897 for actor-manager Herbert Beerbohm Tree, who established the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art at the theatre. In the early decades of the 20th century, Tree produced spectacular productions of Shakespeare and other classical works, and the theatre hosted premieres by major playwrights such as George Bernard Shaw, J. M. Synge, Noël Coward and J. B. Priestley. Since the First World War, the wide stage has made the theatre suitable for large-scale musical productions, and the theatre has accordingly specialised in hosting musicals. The theatre has been home to record-setting musical theatre runs, notably the First World War sensation Chu Chin Chow and the current production, Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, which has played continuously at Her Majesty's since 1986.
Singin' in the Rain is a stage musical with story by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, lyrics by Arthur Freed, and music by Nacio Herb Brown.
The culture of London concerns the music, museums, festivals and lifestyle within London, the capital city of the United Kingdom. The city is particularly renowned for its theatre quarter, and its West End theatre district has given the name to "West End theatre", the strand of mainstream professional theatre staged in the large theatres in London. London is also home to notable cultural attractions such as the British Museum, the Tate Galleries, the National Gallery, the Notting Hill Carnival and The O2.
The Lyceum Theatre is a 2,100-seat West End theatre located in the City of Westminster, on Wellington Street, just off the Strand. The origins of the theatre date to 1765. Managed by Samuel Arnold, from 1794 to 1809 the building hosted a variety of entertainments including a circus produced by Philip Astley, a chapel, and the first London exhibition of waxworks displayed by Madame Tussaud. From 1816 to 1830, it served as The English Opera House. After a fire, the house was rebuilt and reopened on 14 July 1834 to a design by Samuel Beazley. The building was unique in that it has a balcony overhanging the dress circle. It was built by the partnership of Peto & Grissell. The theatre then played opera, adaptations of Charles Dickens novels and James Planché's "fairy extravaganzas", among other works.
Richard Blackwood is an English actor, presenter and rapper. Between 2015 and 2018, he played Vincent Hubbard in the BBC soap opera EastEnders. In 2020, he began portraying the role of Felix Westwood in the Channel 4 soap opera Hollyoaks.
Nick Winston is an internationally renowned English stage director and choreographer working in theatre, opera and television. His extensive credits include, Stage Director & Choreographer for The Royal Variety Performance at The London Palladium (ITV); choreographer for Miranda Hart: My Such Fun Celebration at The London Palladium (BBC); Sondheim at 80, starring Dame Judi Dench at the Royal Albert Hall (BBC); Shakespeare Live, From The RSC, which received a BAFTA nomination for Live Entertainment (BBC) and Theatre Druid’s award-winning production of Waiting For Godot which played at the Lincoln Center in New York.
Emma Williams is an English actress of stage, screen, TV and radio. She has been nominated four times for an Olivier Award.
Five Guys Named Moe is a musical with a book by Clarke Peters and lyrics and music by Louis Jordan and others. The musical is based on an earlier musical short of the same name by Louis Jordan from 1943. It had its UK debut at the Cottesloe Theatre at the National Theatre followed by a short run at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, before moving to the West End for over four years in, and finally premiering on Broadway in 1992. It was revived in 2010 at Edinburgh Festival, starring Peters himself, and returned later in 2010 to the theatre in which it originally premiered. The musical won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Entertainment.
The Book of Mormon is a musical comedy with music, lyrics and book by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez, and Matt Stone.
Flora Spencer-Longhurst is an English stage and television actress. She is best known for her role in the CBBC series Leonardo and the FX series The Bastard Executioner.
Rhiannon Sarah Margaret Drake is a British musician, composer, producer and actress. She is best known for playing Sabrina in the original West End cast of Grim, and her role in the musical film And You Were Wonderful, On Stage.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the performing arts, mirroring its impacts across all arts sectors. Due to physical distancing requirements and closure of the physical venues, curtailing not only public performances but also rehearsals, many performing arts institutions attempted to adapt by offering new digital services. In particular this resulted in the free online streaming of previously recorded performances of many companies – especially orchestral performances and plays – lists of which were collated by journalists as well as bespoke crowdsourcing projects.
Jennifer Fitzpatrick is an English actress who is best known for her performances in musicals in the West End and on tour in the UK. She has also performed in Europe and appeared on television, and she co-wrote the screenplay for the 2012 film Payback Season.