Noël Coward Theatre



  • An Edwardian theater in St Martin's Lane, London. It was known as the New Theatre until 1973 and the Albery Theatre from 1973 until 2006,when it was renamed in honour of Noël Coward, whomade his West End debut here in 1920.

    At the turn of the 20th Century Charles Wyndham, manager of the Criterion Theatre for 23 years, owned property between Charing Cross Road and St Martin's Lane. On the Charing Cross Road side he built Wyndham's Theatre and, when he failed to sell the rest of the land, built the New Theatre opposite. It opened in 1903. Seating 876, it was the first theater in London with 'electrical flying scenery'. The original Louis XVI decor remains, with portrait medallions of French kings and queens in the auditorium and sculptured cupid figures (representing peace and music, and winter and summer) on both sides of the proscenium.

    The theater's first great triumph came in 1924 with SybilThorndike's performance in Shaw's Saint Joan. In 1935 the theatersaw the longest ever run of Romeo and Juliet; the outstandingcast of Olivier, Gielgud, Ashcroft, and Evans gave 186 performances.From 1944 to 1950 it was home to the Old Vic, whose own theaterhad been bombed. Some of Olivier's greatest work was seen here, includinghis Richard III (1944) and Oedipus (1945). Richardsonfound equal glory with his Falstaff in Henry IV, Parts I andII (1945).

    The theater's longest run, however, was Lionel Bart's musicalOliver!, which opened in 1960 for 2618 performances (revivedin 1977 for a three-year run). The Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Ricemusical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat openedhere in 1973. That year the New Theatre changed its name to the Alberyto honour Sir Bronson Albery, a former manager, as well as to avoidconfusion with the New London Theatre. Subsequent successes includeda revival of the Willy Russell musical Blood Brothers (1988)and an acclaimed production of Coward's Private Lives (2001)starring Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan. By contrast Ducktastic! (2005), a show directed by Kenneth Branagh and featuring performing ducks, closed after one month. Since its renaming in June 2006 the theater hashosted just three productions: the Sesame Street-inspired musical Avenue Q (2006), the stage adaptation of Calendar Girls(2009), and Lucy Prebble's Enron (2010).