The Novello Theatre is a West End theatre on Aldwych, in the City of Westminster. It was known as the Strand Theatre between 1913 and 2005.
The theatre was built as one of a pair with the Aldwych Theatre on either side of The Waldorf Hilton, London, both being designed by W. G. R. Sprague. The theatre was opened by The Shubert Organization as the Waldorf Theatre on 22 May 1905, and was renamed the Strand Theatre, in 1909. It was again renamed as the Whitney Theatre in 1911, before again becoming the Strand Theatre in 1913. In 2005, the theatre was renamed by its owners (Delfont Mackintosh Theatres) the Novello Theatre in honour of Ivor Novello, who lived in a flat above the theatre from 1913 to 1951.
The black comedy Arsenic and Old Lace had a run of 1337 performances here in the 1940s, and Sailor Beware! ran for 1231 performances from 1955. Stephen Sondheim's musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum opened here in 1963, running for nearly two years. In 1971, the comedy No Sex Please, We're British opened here, remaining for over 10 years of its 16-year run until it transferred to the Garrick Theatre in 1982.
The theatre was extensively refurbished in 1930 and again in the early 1970s. It was Grade II listed by English Heritage on 20 July 1971. After The Rat Pack: Live From Las Vegas in 2005, its 100th anniversary year, the theatre was extensively refurbished. The current seating capacity is 1,105. The theatre reopened on 8 December 2005 with the Royal Shakespeare Company's annual London season, playing to 4-week runs of Twelfth Night, The Comedy of Errors, A Midsummer Night's Dream and As You Like It, concluding in March 2006.
In 2006, the theatre played host to the London première of the Broadway musical Footloose, starring Cheryl Baker. Ending on 11 November, Footloose made way for the Royal Shakespeare Company's return season for 2006-7, following which the Broadway musical The Drowsy Chaperone made its European première on 6 June 2007. The London production starred Elaine Paige, Bob Martin, Summer Strallen and John Partridge. The London production closed after a run of only two months on 4 August 2007 after failing to attract audiences, despite positive notices.
It was announced on 10 July 2007, just three days after the announcement of Drowsy's premature closure that the theatre would be the home of a new musical version of the MGM motion picture Desperately Seeking Susan with music by Blondie and Deborah Harry, directed by Angus Jackson, and starring Emma Williams and Kelly Price. The musical previewed on 16 October 2007 (originally 12 October 2007), receiving its world première on 15 November 2007. However, just two weeks after its opening, following a critical mauling, the show announced its final performance for 15 December 2007, having played just four weeks of previews and four weeks of open run, losing over £3.5 million.
A quick replacement came in the form of the cross-West End transfer of Shadowlands from the Wyndham's Theatre, commencing 21 December 2007 for a 12-week run to 25 February 2008. Producer Phil McIntyre opened ZooNation's adaptation of the musical Into the Woods, entitled Into the Hoods, on 26 March 2008. This theatre is one of the 40 theatres featured in the 2012 DVD documentary series Great West End Theatres, presented by Donald Sinden.
The Waldorf Theatre was built by S. and J. Waring for a group of business men called the Waldorf Theatre Syndicate Ltd., and then leased to the Shubert Brothers, although Sam Shubert died in a train accident in May 1905, so it was his brother Lee Shubert who took over the running of the Theatre when it was finished later that month.
The Theatre opened as the Waldorf Theatre on the 22nd May 1905 with an Opera by Ferdinand Paer, 'Il Maestro di Capella,' which was part of the opening season of plays and operas presented by Eleanora Duse. The Theatre was built as part of the Aldwych reconstruction which began at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Four theatres were demolished when London's Aldwych, named after the Old Wych Street, was constructed.
This vast operation began in the last years of the nineteenth century and was not finally completed until after the First World War. The Olympic Theatre in Wych Street and the Opera Comique in the Strand were closed in 1899, the Globe Theatre in Newcastle Street shut its doors in 1902. This was followed by the closure of the Gaiety Theatre in the Strand in June of the same year.
The Waldorf Theatre was constructed at the bottom corner of Catherine Street - the top end of which houses the fourth and present Theatre Royal Drury Lane which has been open since 1812. The Waldorf Theatre was part of a vast new building consisting of the Waldorf Theatre itself, the new Waldorf Hotel in the center, and at the far end, the Aldwych Theatre. Both Theatres were designed by the well known Theatre Architect W. G. R. Sprague and given identical exteriors.
Just prior to the Theatre's opening the ERA printed a description of the new Waldorf Theatre in it's 20th May 1905 edition saying:- 'The decorative scheme of the interior is in the Louis XIV style. The walls of the crush room and main staircase are adorned with alternate stripes of dove coloured and violet marble, and the balustrade of the staircase is a wrought iron copy of one of Baron's famous designs.
The auditorium of the Waldorf Theatre in 1905.On the first tier level is the refreshment saloon, decorated in cream and gold. In the auditorium the colour scheme is Rose du Barri, relieved by richly gilt circle fronts, and by a touch of green in the French tapestries upholstering the stalls and dress circle; a qualifying note being struck in the brown French walnut of the seat frames.
One of the notable features is a magnificent circular ceiling in modelled plaster with finely gilt centre piece and outer border, and a boldly treated picture sweeping round the two, painted after the style of Le Brun. The bas relievo modelling of the tympanum which surmounts the proscenium represents Apollo in his chariot drawn by four spirited horses, and attended by goddesses and cupids. The action is full of vigour, combined with delicacy of touch.
A deep cornice in Louis XIV style runs round the theatre, and over the proscenium opening and boxes. The proscenium opening and the dress and upper circle are supported by pilasters of Fleur de peche marble with gilt capitals; and between the smaller pilasters on the dress circle and stalls level lofty mirrors reach to the cornice. The prevailing tone of Rose du Barri is continued in a deep velvet pile carpet of the same colour.' The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 20th May 1905.
When the Avenue Theatre, now the Playhouse, was partly destroyed by the collapse of part of Charring Cross Station in 1905, its then owner Cyril Maude, moved to the Waldorf Theatre and opened a season of productions there from January 1906 until his own Theatre could be rebuilt. Maude put on 'The Superior Miss Pellender', a revival of 'She Stoops to Conquer', 'The Heir at Law', 'The Second in Command', and 'Shore Acres' at the Waldorf.
The Waldorf Theatre had a change of name in October 1909 when it was taken over by J. A. Harrison and became the Strand Theatre, but this was only temporary as in 1911 it was changed again, this time to the Whitney Theatre when it was bought by the American Manager F. C. Whitney. However, Whitney was not successful in this venture and the name reverted back to the Strand Theatre again in 1913 when Louis Meyer took up the reins, and this name would remain until 2005.
Damage was inflicted on the Strand Theatre in London when two bombs were dropped on Aldwych by the Zeppelin L15. Another bomb from the same airship fell in front of the Lyceum Theatre. The Zeppelins were a sinister new development in aerial warfare. Their engines made 'a weird and peculiar burr' which became all too familiar. Bombing raids using aircraft followed in 1917.'
In the summer of 2005, marking the Theatre's 100th anniversary, the Delfont Mackintosh group, who had recently refurbished the Prince of Wales Theatre, began a major refurbishment of the Strand Theatre. This was completed in December 2005 when the Theatre was renamed again, this time to the Novello Theatre in recognition of Ivor Novello who had lived in a flat over the Theatre for 38 years, between 1913 and 1951. Novello wrote many of his most memorable musicals in the Theatre during this period.
'Kings Rhapsody' was written by, and starred, Ivor Novello in the leading role along with Phyllis Dare. The show opened at the Palace Theatre on the 15th of September 1949 and ran for 841 performances, outlasting Novello himself, who died on the 6th of March 1951. A visitor to the site, Adam Harrison, writes: 'Ivor Novello’s flat was “Flat 4, The Aldwych” which was above the Strand Theatre, now the Novello Theatre, and there is now a Blue Plaque beside the door to the four flats, built one above the other, at the Novello Theatre.
Duncan C. Weldon and Triumph Theatre Productions used to be based in that flat which I knew well. The bedroom faced sideways to the Duchess Theatre and by then was sadly just an office. The big Music Room was Duncan’s Office. It was the big bay above the neon for the old Strand. Flat 3 was not so big and was used by Paul Elliot and the other two flats were very small and did not go over the theatre due to the Dress and Upper Circle Bars on the corner of the site.
The top two flats went around the corner of the bay and had smashing curved rooms with views out. Not sure who is in the top three flats now, but the small first floor one just above a shop, has been opened out off the Dress Circle Bar and is now the Theatre Manager's Office.' - Adam Harrison, Frank Matcham Society.
On the 6th of September 2012 the Novello Theatre became the new home for the hit musical Mamma Mia when it transferred from the Prince of Wales Theatre.
Venue Access Information. How to book - Telephone: 0844 482 5137 or E-mail: email@example.com .Discounts are available for all disabled theatregoers and their companions.
There is an Infrared system in the auditorium, and they will be reinstating the loop system in the Box Office. Guide dogs are allowed into the auditorium, alternatively staff are happy to dog-sit.
Wheelchair access. Separate access for wheelchair users off Catherine Street. The venue is not suitable for scooters. The theatre provides transfer seats for one wheelchair in total per performance. Transfer seats are available at A23 and A24 in the Dress Circle. Each wheelchair user must bring a non-disabled companion. Customers who can't transfer from their wheelchair can use Dress Circle AA 10-11.
Toilets. There are Men's and Women's toilets at the Stalls, Dress and Upper Circle levels. There is a Disabled access lavatory at Dress Circle level with street access from Catherine Street.
Bars. There are four licensed bars. Sam's Bar is situated behind the foyer down 7 steps although there is street access from Catherine Street via a ramp. The Shubert Bar is up 29 steps from the foyer. Ivor's Bar at the back of the stalls is down 2 steps and through the auditorium then a further 3 steps. The Waldorf Bar services the Grand Circle (up 17 steps) and Balcony (8 steps down).
Delfont Mackintosh want all their patrons to have a good experience while in their theatres, so they now have a visual tool for parents and carers to use with children and adults on the autistic spectrum and/or with learning difficulties. They have been researching the benefits of using social stories and would like to offer a social story for a visit to Novello Theatre. They know that people with autism find social situations difficult and understand that we are all unique. You can download the social story for Novello Theatre in PDF format here.
If you're driving into the West End to see the show, take advantage of the Q-Park Theatreland Parking Scheme saving you 50% off car parking for up to 24 hours. To qualify, present your Q-Park car park ticket for validation at the box office. Please note the discount does not apply to the pre-booking service, for full terms and conditions, participating car parks and locations visit: www.q-park.co.uk/theatreland. There is also NCP parking available in Drury Lane.
Location : Novello Theatre, Aldwych, London, WC2B 4LD
Transport: Rail : Charing Cross (National Rail) then 9 minutes. Underground: Covent Garden (Piccadilly Line) then 9 minutes. London Buses routes : 6, 19, 13 and 77a stop outside the theatre with many more serving the Strand.
Access Line : 0844 482 5137
Tel: 0844 482 5170