Shaftesbury Theatre

Definition

Theater

  • A theater in Shaftesbury Avenue, London, that opened in 1911as the New Prince's Theatre. The management intended to specializein popular melodrama, with seat prices ranging from sixpence to fiveshillings. Since 1916, however, musicals and light opera have predominated.In 1919, when the theater was managed by C. B. Cochran, anassociation began with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company which was tolast more than 40 years. When the Astaires performed in Gershwin'sFunny Face in 1928, the run was interrupted by a gas explosion.Regular drama was also produced: Sarah Bernhardt appeared in 1921in Louis Verneuil's Daniel, Sybil Thorndike in 1926 in Macbeth,and Michael Redgrave and Peggy Ashcroft in 1953 in their highly praisedAntony and Cleopatra.

    After refurbishment in 1963 the theater reopened under itspresent name with the musical How to Succeed in Business WithoutReally Trying. History was made in 1968 when the controversial'hippie' musical Hair opened the day after censorship bythe Lord Chamberlain was abolished. It logged 1997 performances beforeliterally bringing the house down: as celebrations were being organizedfor its 2000th performance, part of the roof collapsed and the theaterwas closed for repairs. Under threat of demolition, it was rescuedby the efforts of the Save London's Theatres campaign; having beenlisted as "a building of special architectural or historic interest",it reopened in 1974. More recent musicals to have played in the 1358-seatauditorium include Kiss of the Spider Woman, which won the1992 Evening Standard Drama Award for Best Musical, Jonathan Larson'sRent (1998), and Marc Shaiman's Hairspray (2007), whichwas nominated for a record 11 Olivier Awards.

    The first theater to be constructed in Shaftesbury Avenue,also called the Shaftesbury, opened in 1888 with As You Like It.It also found success with musicals, such as The Belle of New York(1898) and The Arcadians (1909), which starred Cicely Courtneidgeand ran for more than two years. The theater was destroyed by bombsin 1941.

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