Savoy Theatre

Definition

Theater

  • A theater in the Strand, London, designed and built by RichardD'Oyly Carte as a home for Gilbert and Sullivan's light operasand the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company. The original Savoy had some 1000seats in three tiers, and was the first public building in the worldto have electric lights. It opened in 1881 with Gilbert and Sullivan'sPatience, which had transferred from London's Opera Comique;Iolanthe (1882) was the first of the so-called Savoy Operas.In 1907 Harley Granville-barker and J. E. Vedrenne became managersand began to present works by Shaw and Shakespeare. R. C. Sherriff'srealistic play about World War I, Journey's End, was stagedin 1929, the year the building closed for reconstruction.

    The remodelled Savoy, with 1121 pink and gold seats in twotiers, opened later the same year with a revival of Gilbert and Sullivan'sThe Gondoliers. The influence of Broadway was felt in the 1940s, whenKaufman and Hart's long-running The Man Who Came to Dinner(1941) was followed by further US comedies, including Ruth McKenney'sMy Sister Eileen (1943) and Clarence Day's Life with Father(1947). Later successes have included William Douglas Home's TheSecretary Bird (1968), which had the Savoy's longest run (1463performances), and the Royal Shakespeare Company's productions ofShaw's Man and Superman (1977) and the musical Kiss Me,Kate (1988). The theater was severely damaged by fire in 1990but has since been restored. In recent years it has played host to themusical production Rat Pack - Live from Las Vegas (2005),Trevor Nunn's revival of Porgy and Bess (2006), and the musicalLegally Blonde (2009).

    Curiously, the precinct to the Savoy Theatre (and its neighbour,the Savoy Hotel) is the only public road in the UK where cars arerequired to drive on the right. A special measure to this effect wasenacted by Parliament so that visitors could alight straight fromtheir carriages to the theater entrance.

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