The New London Theatre is a West End theatre located on the corner of Drury Lane and Parker Street in Covent Garden, in the London Borough of Camden. The Winter Garden Theatre formerly occupied the site until 1965.
The modern theatre is built on the site of previous taverns and music hall theatres, where a place of entertainment has been located since Elizabethan times. Nell Gwynn was associated with the tavern, which became known as the Great Mogul by the end of the 17th century, and presented entertainments in an adjoining hall, including "glee clubs" and "sing-songs". The Mogul Saloon was built on the site in 1847, which was sometimes known as the "Turkish Saloon or the "Mogul Music Hall." In 1851, it became the Middlesex Music Hall, known as The Old Mo. This in turn was rebuilt as the New Middlesex Theatre of Varieties, in 1911 by Frank Matcham for Oswald Stoll.
In 1919, the theatre was sold to George Grossmith, Jr. and Edward Laurillard, refurbished and reopened as the Winter Garden Theatre. They produced Kissing Time (1919, with a book by P. G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton and music by Ivan Caryll), followed by A Night Out (1920), both starring Stanley Holloway. Grossmith and Laurillard also became managers of the Apollo Theatre in 1920. But expanding their operation caused Grossmith and Laurillard to end their partnership, with Grossmith retaining control of the Winter Garden.
Grossmith then partnered with George Edwardes's former associate, Pat Malone, to produce a series of mostly adaptations of imported shows at the Winter Garden between 1920 and 1926: Sally (1921), The Cabaret Girl (1922, with book by Wodehouse and music by Jerome Kern), The Beauty Prize (1923, with Wodehouse and Kern), a revival of Tonight's the Night (1923), Primrose (1924, with music by George Gershwin), Tell Me More (1925, with words by Thompson and music by George Gershwin) and Kid Boots (1926 with music by Harry Tierney), many of them featuring Leslie Henson. Grossmith co-wrote some of the Winter Garden pieces, directed many of his own productions and starred in several, notably as Otis in Sally. Several of the later productions lost money, and Grossmith and Malone ended the partnership.
The Vagabond King was produced at the theatre in 1927, and in 1929, Fred and Adele Astaire starred in Funny Face. In 1930, Sophie Tucker played in the Vivian Ellis musical Follow a Star, and in 1923, Gracie Fields appeared here in Walk This Way. In 1933, the theatre hosted Lewis Casson in George Bernard Shaw's On the Rocks, followed in 1935 by Love on the Dole, starring Wendy Hiller. The theatre closed in the late 1930s, reopening in 1942. In 1945, it hosted a Donald Wolfit season, and in 1953, Agatha Christie's Witness for the Prosecution played. 1956 saw The Water Gypsies by Vivian Ellis and A P Herbert; Hotel Paradiso starring Alec Guinness, Douglas Byng, Irene Worth and Billie Whitelaw; and Tyrone Power starred in Shaw's The Devil Disciple. 1958 included The Iceman Cometh.
The theatre closed permanently in 1959 when it was sold by the Rank Organisation to a developer. It was then gutted and remained vacant until 1965 to be replaced in 1973 by the current building.
Designed by architect Paul Tvrtkovic and scenic designer Sean Kenny (Blitz!, Oliver!, Pickwick (musical)), modelled after the Walter Gropius Total-Theater, and seating 960 on 2 levels, the theatre's auditorium first opened with a television recording of Marlene Dietrich's one-woman show. The theatre officially opened on 2 January 1973 with a production of The Unknown Soldier and His Wife starring Peter Ustinov. It then hosted Grease, starring Richard Gere as Danny. Beginning in 1977, the theatre was used as a television studio for several years and then returned to use as a theatre. The theatre's biggest hit was the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Trevor Nunn musical Cats, choreographed by Gillian Lynne which premièred in the theatre on 11 May 1981. Closing in 2002, this production became the longest running musical in West End history.
The theatre also hosted the 1977 BBC Sports Personality of the Year and the Masters snooker between 1976 and 1978. Also in 1977, the theatre hosted the BBC's A Song For Europe contest, the preliminary heat to choose the UK entry for the Eurovision Song Contest. However, the show was blacked out on TV due to a last minute strike by technicians. The famous video clip for the song We Are The Champions by the band Queen was shot there on October 1977, which followed a minor 70 minute concert.
Between 2003 and 2005 the theatre hosted Bill Kenwright's revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. This closed after a two and a half year run on 3 September 2005. Most recently, the venue played host to the London transfer of the off-Broadway production, Blue Man Group, which closed in June 2007, to make way for the Royal Shakespeare Company's repertory productions of The Seagull and King Lear, starring Ian McKellen. In Spring 2008, a new musical adaptation of Gone With The Wind ran for only two months. New musical Imagine This closed after only being open for one month.
The National Theatre production of War Horse transferred into the theatre from the 28 March 2009 where it stayed until 12 March 2016 after over 3,000 performances. The theatre was home to the Sheffield Cruicible's production of the musical Show Boat which opened on 9 April 2016. Despite positive reviews, the production closed early, on 27 August 2016. On 22 October 2016 the London production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's School of Rock the musical opened, direct from Broadway.
The theatre has been owned since 1991 by Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group. The theatre building also contains an underground car park, a cabaret venue, a basement nightclub, shops and a residential tower. In 2014, Lloyd Webber reorganized the group, and the entity that owns the theatre is Really Useful Theatres.
1828 - 1911
The site on which the New London Theatre stands has been a place of entertainment since the 17th century, firstly as a tavern called the Mogul, named after the Mogul of Hindustan, and later when Henry Cook held his Glee Club meetings and sing songs there from 1828 in an adjoining hall. This hall was altered in 1847 and renamed the Mogul Saloon which opened on the 27th of December that year with a capacity of 500. Music Hall performances soon began there and in 1851 the Hall was renamed the Middlesex Music Hall.
After H. G. Lake had taken over Hall in 1868 he set about rebuilding it, this he accomplished by 1872 and made more alterations in 1875. The next door Tavern's early barman, J. L. Graydon, took back control of the Hall in 1878 and made a great success of the place, which resulted in him rebuilding it again in 1891 at a cost of £12,000, a considerable sum in those days. Arthur Lloyd is known to have performed at the Middlesex MusicHall in 1892.
Although the Hall was still officially known as the Middlesex Music Hall it had always been affectionately known as 'The Old Mo,' after it's original guise as The Mogul saloon, probably because the Mogul Tavern next door was still in existence right up until the end.
The Middlesex Theatre of Varieties 1911 - 1919
In 1910 the former barman of the Mogul Tavern who had by now been running the Middlesex Music Hall very successfully since 1878 went into partnership with Oswald Stoll and together they set about a rebuild. The old Music Hall closed on the 11th of January and was then completely demolished. By October the following year the renowned Theatre Architect, Frank Matcham, had built them a brand new Theatre called the New Middlesex Theatre of Varieties. This new Theatre opened on the 30th of October 1911, a week before another of Matcham's new Theatres also had its opening; the Victoria Palace.
On the 28th of October 1911 the ERA printed a review of the New Middlesex Theatre of Varieties, (reprinted in Mander & Mitchenson's ' Theatres of London') which said:- 'Built to the design of Frank Matcham the new house has been erected in red brick, Portland stone and polished granite, and occupies an advantageous position in Drury Lane, within earshot of the hurry and bustle of Holborn.
The new theatre besides being a valuable acquisition to the thoroughfare, is a striking object lesson in the advance of refinement in the public amusements of the people of this country... The New Middlesex is the property of The Middlesex Theatre of Varieties Ltd of which Mr Oswald Stoll is chairman and managing director, and Mr J. L. Graydon so long and honourably connected with the old Middlesex, a director taking an active interest in the business...
The new building has the largest frontage of any variety theatre in London, namely 155 ft to Shelton Street and 115 f t to Drury Lane, and covers an area of 12,700 superficial feet. Thus the original site of 10,000 ft, together with an important property in the vicinity, has been absorbed. The main entrance is at the angle of Drury Lane and Shelton Street whence, through the main vestibule, staircases lead direct to the stalls and circle. The stalls patrons pass into a crush room, and thence by corridors direct to the stalls, which are approached on either side. The auditorium is of ample dimensions - 88 ft by 80 ft - is capable of seating 3000 people, and contains two tiers constructed on the steel cantilever principle without columns, so that a clear and uninterrupted view of the stage is obtained from every seat.
The ground floor is divided into orchestra stalls, stalls, and pit-stalls, all furnished with comfortably upholstered seats, in common with the family circle; while the balcony, as the gallery is named, is provided with beautifully upholstered seats, equaled in roomy comfort only in the dress circles of the best theatres of the country. The theatre is heavily carpeted in all parts. Every seat in the theatre including the balcony is numbered, and consequently, is reservable in advance. To facilitate further the work of this innovation, a large booking office has been established at 101 High Holborn.
The scheme of decoration in the auditorium is Arabesque, in light tones of cream and gold, with tints of pale green, and the hangings, seatings, and furnishing generally, in warm crimson. The entrance to the building, including the vestibules, the crush room for the stalls, etc., are all in Renaissance, but the general tone of the colour has been carried out throughout the house in its entirety.
Mrs. J. L. Graydon, also known as Miss Lottie Cherry in her Music Hall performing days, helped her husband Mr. J. L. Graydon run the Middlesex Music Hall. She also helped manage Foresters Music Hall with her husband and then went on to manage the Alhambra in Brighton. The Old Mogul public house has been entirely rebuilt, and is in keeping with the modern theatre of which it forms a part. An innovation, however, has been made by the introduction of refreshment rooms on the first floor, which is approached by a separate staircase direct from the street, without passing into the Mogul itself.' The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 28th of October 1911. The Theatre was altered, redecorated, and reopened as the Winter Garden Theatre in 1919.
The Winter Garden Theatre 1919 - 1965
The Middlesex Theatre of Varieties continued with Music Hall and later French reviews and some touring reviews until 1919 when it was bought by George Grossmith and Edward Laurillard. They redecorated the auditorium in the 'Treillage Style,' removed the Pit, and altered the position of the main entrance. The Theatre reopened as the Winter Garden Theatre on the 20th of May 1919 with the musical 'Kissing Time' by Guy Bolton and P. G. Woodhouse, which was very successful, running for 430 performances. Remarkably the original Mogul Tavern, which had been incorporated into the building when the Theatre was originally rebuilt, now became the Stalls Bar and was renamed the Nell Gwynn Tavern.
A multitude of successful plays and musicals were staged at the Winter Garden Theatre for the next forty years but after a Christmas performance of 'Alice in Wonderland' in 1959 the Theatre, then owned by the Rank Organisation, was sold to a property developer and the Theatre closed its doors for the last time and was stripped of all its internal fittings. The Theatre then stood derelict until 1965 when it was finally demolished. The site was then used for the building of the New London Theatre, with adjoining shops, showrooms, flats, a restaurant, and car park in 1971.
The New London Theatre 1971 - Present Day
Work began on the building of the New London Theatre and adjoining shops, showrooms, flats, restaurant and car park in 1971. The Complex was constructed on the site of the former Winter Garden Theatre which had been demolished in 1965. An A.R.I.B.A press release at the time (reprinted in Mander & Mitchenson's ' Theatres of London') enthused about the new Theatre and Complex of facilities saying:- 'The New London is a theatre of the future. It is a theatre that moves; stage, seats, lights even the walls can be made to change their positions. Every type of production can be presented in a totally different way and yet can be performed within hours of each other. No longer will producers be constricted by the limitations of either 'proscenium' or 'in-the-round' for at the New London the use of modern technology has made both possible...
...Almost one third of the theatre's floor is built on a revolve 60ft wide which accommodates the stage, the orchestra pit and the first eight rows of the 911 seats. The walls along more than half the theatre length are faced with moveable panels extending from floor to ceiling. These are made to track and pivot in such a way that the shape of the auditorium can be completely changed. In a normal proscenium setting those at the edge of the stage turn to form the wings and proscenium opening whilst the remainder open out into a trumpet shape merging with the walls of the main auditorium.
The real magic becomes apparent when, at the throw of a switch, all of these elements-stage, seats, orchestra pit, walls-silently change their position to transform the theatre into an amphi-theatre. In just 4 minutes the revolve turns through 180 degrees bringing the stage to the centre of the auditorium and the 'front stalls' to where the backdrop had been. All of these 206 seats are then raised by electrically operated screw jacks to a steeper angle of raking. The wall panels slide and pivot into an unbroken half -circle at the back of the theatre.
The ceiling-composed of louvred panels like a horizontal venetian blind-is opened up to allow lights to project through, and scenery to be lowered, onto any part of the stage below. Everything on the main revolve is movable; the orchestra pit across its centre is made up of three simple elevators any of which, when raised to floor level, reduces the size for when smaller groups of musicians are performing. Within the main revolve a smaller stage revolve is fitted as well as a set of traps reached from below. The sound and lighting systems are the most advanced design with all controls centralised in a glass walled box high at the back of the auditorium. For many productions manual control will be unnecessary - a complete performance can be controlled automatically by a 'total memory' dimmer system. To ensure that sound definition achieves the highest possible standards the designers, at every stage, have consulted, with Dr Larsen Jorden, the Danish acoustics expert...
...The New London is not a small theatre - it accommodates an audience of over 900 - but, by massing the seating radially around the focal point of the stage, the designers have achieved an atmosphere of intimacy that belies the theatre's size. No seat, including those in the circle, is remote from the stage, and carefully defined sightlines will ensure that the audience will have a clear, uninterrupted view of the performance.
Dressing accommodation for the performers is arranged on four floors at one side of the theatre with a lift giving access to the stage. The stars' dressing rooms are at stage level along with a large, comfortable Green Room. From a basement ramp lifts take the largest and heaviest pieces of scenery direct to stage and understage levels.
From the entrance foyer an escalator reaches up to the theatre's main reception-an area of 2400 sq ft immediately beneath and behind the rake of the theatre's auditorium. Here there are circular bars and a comfortable lounge area.' The above text in quotes was first published in a press release from the A.R.I.B.A in 1971.
The New London Theatre was built for Star Holdings Ltd as part of a complex of buildings including shops, showrooms, flats, and a restaurant and car park, to the designs of the then young and unknown Croatian architect Paul Tvrtkovic, and overseen by the architect Michael Percival. The Theatre opened officially with 'The Unknown Soldier and his Wife,' starring Peter Ustinov, on the 10th of January 1973. However, the Theatre had actually had two earlier performances on the 23rd and 24th of November 1972 when the BBC recorded Marlene Deitrich in concert there.
Drury Lane is of course also famous for the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, which actually fronts on to Catherine Street but is so large that the rear of the building reaches Drury Lane itself. The road used to extend further south, but the Aldwych development scheme in 1902 cut it off. This alteration of road layouts also brought into existence the Aldwych Theatre and the Strand Theatre, but it radically altered the former theatreland which had previously been situated around Drury Lane. Four theatres were demolished for the Aldwych Road scheme including the Opera Comique, the Gaiety Theatre in the Strand, the Olympic Theatre in the now lost Wych Street, and the Globe Theatre in the former Newcastle Street.
Bookings for disabled patrons of the New London are handled by the Access Team at See Tickets: Tel: 020 7087 7966 ; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Access into the New London: No steps through double swing doors into the foyer. Box Office to the right with lowered counter. Escalator up from the main foyer to the mezzanine level and then a further 32 steps up to the Stalls, or 41 to the rear Stalls. 65 steps up to the Dress Circle (threesteep steps between rows). Venue is carpeted throughout and all staircases are highlighted with handrails on either side. Theatre opens 45 minutes before the performance.
Wheelchair access. Upon arrival at the theatre, please go to the foyer and make yourself known to a member of the Front of House team. A host will accompany you to the Stage Door on Parker Mews where the lift can be accessed via a steep ramp. The lift dimensions are: door 70cm, depth 83cm. You will be able to enjoy step-free access the upper foyer and bars/accessible toilets as well as the rear stalls via the lift. There are two spaces for wheelchair users at S1 & S2 (S17 & S18 from Mon 24 July 2017) in the Stalls, companions can sit next to you. Scooter users can access the amin foyer, but have to transfer to the theatre's wheelchair to access the auditorium. 1 wheelchair transfer space is available in Stalls S3 (S19 from Mon 24 July 2017).
Disabled toilets. Adapted toilet en route from the lifts to the auditorium. Toilets. Toilets at foyer (level access), Stalls and Dress Circle level.
Drinks. You are welcome to use the lift (see above). No steps from the lift to Bar (counter height 1m). Alternatively the bar can be reached by either the escalator or 54 steps up from the entrance foyer. Moveable seating. All drinks can be brought to disabled customers in the auditorium.
Induction loop. Infra-red system with headsets and neckloops. Induction loop at Box Office. Headsets available in foyer. Parking. One blue badge parking bay outside the theatre, available from 6.30pm. NCP in Parker Mews below the theatre. Access dogs. Access dogs are allowed inside the auditorium. Staff can also dog-sit for four dogs per performance in the Manager’s office.
Location : New London Theatre, 166 Drury Lane, London WC2B 5PW
Access Line : 020 7087 7966
Tel: 020 7087 7750