Her Majesty's Theatre

57 Haymarket,
London, SW1Y 4QL

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Her Majesty's Theatre

Viewing: Photo | Street View

There has been a theatre on this site ever since 1705, the current Her Majesty’s Theatre being the fourth to be built. The Queen’s Theatre was built in 1705, and was designed by John Vanbrugh. The interior was remodeled by Robert Adam in 1778, it was later known as the King’s Theatre, and was destroyed by fire on 17th June 1789. Rebuilt, it re-opened on 26th March 1791, and it was in this new King’s Theatre that Mozart’s "Cosi fan Tutte" was first performed in London in 1811, followed by "The Magic Flute" in 1812. The theatre was remodeled by John Nash in 1816, and it was re-named Her Majesty’s Theatre in 1837, closing in 1852. It re-opened in 1856, but was destroyed by fire on 6th December 1867. Rebuilt again in 1869, the new Her Majesty’s Theatre was designed by Charles Lee and seated 2,500. This was not a great success and it was closed in 1890 and demolished.

The current Her Majesty’s Theatre was built in 1896, and opened on 28th April 1897 with "Seats of the Mighty" a play by Gilbert Parker. It was the final theatre to be designed by noted theatre architect C.J. Phipps, who died before it was completed. The exterior of the building is faced with Portland stone and has a massive dome on top. Originally seating 1,208 on four levels inside the auditorium. There are now 453 in the orchestra stalls, 281 in the Royal circle, 324 in the grand circle and 103 in the balcony. The proscenium is 34 feet wide, the stage 49 feet deep and there are 20 dressing rooms.

It was re-named His Majesty’s Theatre in 1902, when King Edward VIII became King after Queen Victoria. It hosted the first ever production to be staged of George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion”. In 1916, it had a smash hit when the musical "Chu Chin Chow, played for 2,238 performances. Other hits in this always popular theatre’s history have been Noel Coward’s "Bitter Sweet" in July 1929 and "Brigadoon"(1949).

During the mid-1930’s, it was used by MGM as a showcase theatre for the following films: William Powell in "The Great Zeigfeld" from 1st September 1936 until 11th October 1936 (which then transfered to the London Hippodrome), Norma Shearer in "Romeo and Juliet" from 13th October 1936 until 6th December 1936, and Luise Rainer in "The Great Waltz" from 13th December 1938 until 15th January 1939.

It was re-named Her Majesty’s Theatre in 1953 when the Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne. Following hits include: “Paint Your Wagon”(1953), "The Teahouse of the August Moon"(1954), "West Side Story" from December 1958 until June 1961. Then following a redecoration, "Bye Bye Birdie" until February 1962, "Fiddler on the Roof" in 1984, running almost 4 years. The current World Pemiere production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s "Phantom of the Opera" opened on 9th October 1986. The theatre is now owned by The Really Useful Group, headed by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Her Majesty’s Theatre is a Grade II* Listed building.

Contributed by Ken Roe

Recent comments (view all 6 comments)

Ken Roe
Ken Roe on November 12, 2009 at 11:09 am

Photographs, vintage memorabilia and more history here:
View link

Tinseltoes
Tinseltoes on March 9, 2010 at 7:24 am

I don’t see the point to listing this as a cinema. Three brief film bookings in the 1930s aren’t enough.

rsalters (Ron Salters)
rsalters (Ron Salters) on May 31, 2012 at 11:06 am

This is a wonderful theater- glad to see it listed in CT. I remember “West Side Story” here in mid-1959; and I saw a performance of the same here in the mid-1980s. The Theatre Royal Haymarket is just across the street, and up the street to the north, and on the same side, there was a prominent cinema.

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