Open Access Articles- Top Results for West End theatre

West End theatre

West End theatre is a common term for mainstream professional theatre staged in the large theatres of "Theatreland" in and near the West End of London.[1] Along with New York's Broadway theatre, West End theatre is usually considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English-speaking world. Seeing a West End show is a common tourist activity in London.[1]

Total attendances first surpassed 12 million in 2002 and then 13 million in 2007,[2] setting a new record for the West End. In 2013 ticket sales were 14,587,276. Since the late 1990s there has been an increase in the number of famous screen actors on the London stage.[citation needed]


Further information: English Renaissance theatre

The Theatre in London flourished after the English Reformation. The first permanent public playhouse, known simply as The Theatre, was constructed in 1576 in Shoreditch by James Burbage. It was soon joined by The Curtain. Both are known to have been used by William Shakespeare's company. In 1599, the timber from The Theatre was moved to Southwark, where it was used in building the Globe Theatre in a new theatre district formed, beyond the controls of the City corporation. These theatres were closed in 1642 due to the Puritans who would later influence the interregnum of 1649.

After the Restoration (1660), two companies were licensed to perform, the Duke's Company and the King's Company. Performances were held in converted buildings, such as Lisle's Tennis Court. The first West End theatre, known as Theatre Royal in Bridges Street, was designed by Thomas Killigrew and built on the site of the present Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. It opened on 7 May 1663 and was destroyed by a fire nine years later. It was replaced by a new structure designed by Christopher Wren and renamed the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.[3][4]

Outside the West End, Sadler's Wells Theatre opened in Islington on 3 June 1683. Taking its name from founder Richard Sadler and monastic springs that were discovered on the property,[5][6] it operated as a "Musick House", with performances of opera; as it was not licensed for plays. In the West End, the Haymarket Theatre opened on 29 December 1720 on a site slightly north of its current location, and the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden opened in Covent Garden on 7 December 1732.

The Patent theatre companies retained their duopoly on drama well into the 19th century, and all other theatres could perform only musical entertainments. By the early 19th century, however, music hall entertainments became popular, and presenters found a loophole in the restrictions on non-patent theatres in the genre of melodrama. Melodrama did not break the Patent Acts, as it was accompanied by music. Initially, these entertainments were presented in large halls, attached to public houses, but purpose-built theatres began to in the East End at Shoreditch and Whitechapel.

The West End theatre district became established with the opening of many small theatres and halls, including the Adelphi in The Strand on 17 November 1806. South of the River Thames, the Old Vic, Waterloo Road, opened on 11 May 1818. The expansion of the West End theatre district gained pace with the Theatres Act 1843; which relaxed the conditions for the performance of plays, and The Strand gained another venue when the Vaudeville opened on 16 April 1870. The next few decades saw the opening of many new theatres in the West End. The Criterion Theatre opened on Piccadilly Circus on 21 March 1874, and in 1881, two more houses appeared: the Savoy Theatre in The Strand, built by Richard D'Oyly Carte specifically to showcase the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan, opened on 10 October (the first theatre to be lit by cooler, cleaner electric lights), and five days later the Comedy Theatre opened as the Royal Comedy Theatre on Panton Street in Leicester Square. It abbreviated its name three years later.[4] The theatre building boom continued until about World War I.

The London Opera Glass Company was founded in 1913 and has provided opera glasses for many West End theatres.[7][8]

During the 1950s and 1960s, many plays were produced in theatre clubs, in order to evade the censorship then exercised by the Lord Chamberlain's Office. The Theatres Act 1968 finally abolished censorship of the stage in the United Kingdom.


"Theatreland", London's main theatre district, contains approximately forty venues and is located in and near the heart of the West End of central London. It is traditionally defined by The Strand to the south, Oxford Street to the north, Regent Street to the west, and Kingsway to the east, but a few other nearby theaters are also considered "West End" despite being outside the area proper (e.g. The Apollo Victoria Theatre, in Westminster). Prominent theatre streets include Drury Lane, Shaftesbury Avenue, and The Strand. The works staged are predominantly musicals, classic or middle-brow plays, and comedy performances.[9]

Many theatres in the West End are of late Victorian or Edwardian construction and are privately owned. The majority of them have great character, and the largest and best maintained feature grand neo-classical, Romanesque, or Victorian façades and luxurious, detailed interior design and decoration. On the other hand, leg room is often cramped, and audience facilities such as bars and toilets are often much smaller than in modern theatres. The protected status of the buildings and their confined urban locations, combined with financial constraints, make it very difficult to make substantial improvements to the level of comfort offered. In 2003, the Theatres Trust estimated that an investment of £250 million over the following 15 years was required for modernisation,[10] and stated that 60% of theatres had seats from which the stage was not fully visible.[11] The theatre owners unsuccessfully requested tax concessions to help them meet the costs. Several incidents followed from 2004 onwards of falling plasterwork or performances being cancelled because of urgent building repairs being required culminating in the partial collapse of the ceiling of the Apollo Theatre in December 2013.[12] Of these earlier incidents, only one led to people being hurt,[13] but at the Apollo Theatre 76 people needed medical treatment for their injuries.[14]

In 2012 Gross sales of £529,787,692 were up 0.27% and attendances also increased 0.56% to 13,992,773 year-on-year[15] In 2013, sales again rose this time by 11% to £585,506,455,[16] with attendances rising to 14,587,276.[17] This was despite slightly fewer performances occurring in 2013.[18]

Long-running shows

The length of West End shows depend on ticket sales. Musicals tend to have longer runs than dramas.[citation needed] The longest-running musical in West End history is Les Misérables. It overtook Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats, which closed in 2002 after running for 8,949 performances and 21 years, as the longest-running West End musical of all time on 8 October 2006. Other long-runners include Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera and Willy Russell's Blood Brothers which have also subsequently overtaken Cats. However the non-musical Agatha Christie play The Mousetrap is the longest-running production in the world, and has been performed continuously since 1952.

File:StMartins theatre London2.jpg
The St Martin's Theatre, home to The Mousetrap, the longest-running play in the world.

List of West End theatres

  • If no show is currently running, the play listed is the next show planned (dates marked with an *)
  • If the next show planned is not announced, the applicable columns are left blank
Theatre Owner Current production Classification Capacity Opening
Adelphi Theatre Really Useful Theatres Group Kinky Boots[35] Musical 1436 2015-09-1515 September 2015* Open-ended
Aldwych Theatre Nederlander Organization Beautiful: The Carole King Musical[36] Musical 1176 2015-02-2424 February 2015 Open-ended
Ambassadors Theatre Delfont Mackintosh Theatres Stomp Physical Theatre 450 2007-10-044 October 2007 Open-ended
Apollo Theatre Nimax Theatres The Audience[37] Play 775[38] 2015-05-055 May 2015 Open-ended
Apollo Victoria Theatre Ambassador Theatre Group Wicked Musical 2208 2006-09-2727 September 2006 Open-ended
Arts Theatre JJ Goodman Ltd. Bad Jews[39] Play 350[40] 2015-03-2525 March 2015 2015-07-1111 July 2015
Cambridge Theatre Really Useful Theatres Group Matilda the Musical Musical 1283 2011-11-2424 November 2011 Open-ended
Criterion Theatre Criterion Theatre Trust The 39 Steps Play 591[41] 2006-09-2020 September 2006 Open-ended
Dominion Theatre Nederlander Organization Lord of the Dance – Dangerous Games[42] Dance 2001 2015-03-1313 March 2015 2015-09-055 September 2015
Duchess Theatre Nimax Theatres The Play That Goes Wrong[43] Play 494[44] 2014-09-1414 September 2014 Open-ended
Duke of York's Theatre Ambassador Theatre Group Hay Fever[45] Play 650 2015-05-1111 May 2015 2015-08-011 August 2015
Fortune Theatre Ambassador Theatre Group The Woman in Black Play 440 1989-06-077 June 1989 Open-ended
Garrick Theatre Nimax Theatres Let It Be[46] Musical 718[47] 2015-02-2828 February 2015 Open-ended
Gielgud Theatre Delfont Mackintosh Theatres The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time[48] Play 889 2014-07-088 July 2014 Open-ended
Harold Pinter Theatre Ambassador Theatre Group Sunny Afternoon[49] Musical 796 2014-10-2828 October 2014 Open-ended
Her Majesty's Theatre Really Useful Theatres Group The Phantom of the Opera Musical 1161 1986-10-099 October 1986 Open-ended
London Palladium Really Useful Theatres Group Beyond Bollywood[50] Musical 2302 2015-05-1111 May 2015 2015-06-2727 June 2015
Lyceum Theatre Ambassador Theatre Group The Lion King Musical 2100 1999-10-1919 October 1999 Open-ended
Lyric Theatre Nimax Theatres Thriller – Live Musical 915[51] 2009-01-2121 January 2009 Open-ended
New London Theatre Really Useful Theatres Group War Horse Play 1108 2009-04-033 April 2009 Open-ended
Noël Coward Theatre Delfont Mackintosh Theatres Death of a Salesman[52] Play 872 2015-05-1313 May 2015 2015-07-1818 July 2015
Novello Theatre Delfont Mackintosh Theatres Mamma Mia![53] Musical 1143 2012-09-066 September 2012 Open-ended
Palace Theatre Nimax Theatres The Commitments[54] Musical 1400[55] 2013-10-088 October 2013 2015-11-011 November 2015[56]
Phoenix Theatre Ambassador Theatre Group Bend It Like Beckham the Musical[57] Musical 1000 2015-06-2424 June 2015* Open-ended
Piccadilly Theatre Ambassador Theatre Group Jersey Boys[58] Musical 1200 2014-03-1515 March 2014 Open-ended
Playhouse Theatre Ambassador Theatre Group 1984[59] Play 786 2015-06-1818 June 2015* 2015-09-055 September 2015
Prince Edward Theatre Delfont Mackintosh Theatres Miss Saigon[60] Musical 1618 2014-05-2121 May 2014 Open-ended
Prince of Wales Theatre Delfont Mackintosh Theatres The Book of Mormon Musical 1160 2013-03-2121 March 2013 Open-ended
Queen's Theatre Delfont Mackintosh Theatres Les Misérables Musical 1099 2004-04-1212 April 2004 Open-ended
Savoy Theatre Ambassador Theatre Group Gypsy[61] Musical 1158 2015-04-1515 April 2015 2015-11-2828 November 2015
Shaftesbury Theatre The Theatre of Comedy Company Memphis[62] Musical 1400 2014-10-2323 October 2014 31 October 2015
St Martin's Theatre Stephen Waley-Cohen The Mousetrap Play 550 1974-03-2525 March 1974 Open-ended
Theatre Royal, Haymarket Crown Estate The Elephant Man[63] Play 888 2015-05-1919 May 2015 2015-08-088 August 2015
Theatre Royal, Drury Lane Really Useful Theatres Group Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Musical 2220 2013-06-2525 June 2013 Open-ended
Trafalgar Studios 1 Ambassador Theatre Group Man of Steal Magic 380 2015-05-2929 May 2015 2015-07-044 July 2015
Trafalgar Studios 2 Ambassador Theatre Group STOP!...the Play[64] Play 100 2015-06-033 June 2015* 2015-06-2727 June 2015
Vaudeville Theatre Nimax Theatres Just Jim Dale[65] Solo 681[66] 2015-05-2828 May 2015 2015-06-2020 June 2015
Victoria Palace Theatre Delfont Mackintosh Theatres Billy Elliot the Musical[67] Musical 1517 2005-05-1111 May 2005 Open-ended
Wyndham's Theatre Delfont Mackintosh Theatres American Buffalo[68] Play 750 2015-04-2727 April 2015 2015-06-2727 June 2015

Upcoming productions

The following have been announced as future West End productions. The theatre in which they will run is either not yet known or currently occupied by another show.



London's non-commercial theatres

File:Old Vic theatre London Waterloo.jpg
The exterior of the Old Vic

The term West End Theatre is generally used to refer specifically to commercial productions in Theatreland. However the leading non-commercial theatres in London, including the Royal National Theatre, the Barbican Theatre, the Royal Court Theatre, the Globe Theatre, the Old Vic, the Young Vic, the Hampstead Theatre, the Almeida Theatre, and the Open Air Theatre, are located outside Theatreland, and enjoy great artistic prestige. These theatres stage a high proportion of straight drama, Shakespeare, other classic plays and premieres of new plays by leading playwrights. Successful productions from the non-commercial theatres sometimes transfer to one of the commercial Theatreland houses for an extended run.

The Royal Opera House is widely regarded as one of the greatest opera houses in the world, comparable with the Palais Garnier, La Scala and the Metropolitan Opera House. Commonly known simply as Covent Garden due to its location, it is unique among West End venues in many ways, not least in having three resident performance companies, the Royal Opera, Royal Ballet and a resident symphony orchestra. It has three performance spaces (the Main Auditorium, Linbury Theatre and Clore Studio) and hosts guest performances from other leading opera, ballet and performance companies from around the world.

Likewise, the London Coliseum is the resident home to the English National Opera. The theatre is also the London base for performances by the English National Ballet, who perform regular seasons throughout the year when not on tour.

The Peacock Theatre is also located in the Theatreland area. Now owned by the London School of Economics and Political Science, it is sometimes used for dance performances by Sadler's Wells, who manage the theatre on behalf of the school.

Other London theatre

There are a great number of theatre productions in London outside the West End. Much of this is known as fringe theatre which is the equivalent of Off Broadway Theatre in New York. Among these are the Bush Theatre and the Donmar Warehouse. Fringe venues range from well-equipped small theatres to rooms above pubs, and the performances range from classic plays, to cabaret, to plays in the languages of London's ethnic minorities. The performers range from emerging young professionals to amateurs.

There are many theatres located throughout Greater London, such as the Lyric Hammersmith, Rose Theatre, Kingston, New Wimbledon Theatre, the Ashcroft Theatre in Croydon, Secombe Theatre in Sutton and the Churchill Theatre in Bromley.


There are a number of annual awards for outstanding achievements in London theatre:

See also


  1. ^ a b Christopher Innes, "West End" in The Cambridge Guide to Theatre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), pp. 1194–1195, ISBN 0-521-43437-8
  2. ^ Singh, Anita (8 July 2008). "TV talent shows help West End shows to record audience". Telegraph. Retrieved 17 January 2010. 
  3. ^ "London's Vibrant West End Theatre SCENE". Retrieved 17 January 2010. 
  4. ^ a b "London pub trivia – Ten oldest London theatres". Timeout London. 12 December 2006. Retrieved 17 January 2010. 
  5. ^ "London's Lost Tea-Gardens: I". Story of London. Retrieved 17 January 2010. 
  6. ^ "Sadler's Wells Theatre". Retrieved 17 January 2010. 
  7. ^ "Two famous London theatres get Opera Glasses in time for new productions". Theatre Views Newsletter. Summer 2009. Retrieved 9 May 2012. 
  8. ^ a b "1.8 million views of Lion King". Theatre Views Newsletter. October 2011. Retrieved 9 May 2012. 
  9. ^ Michael Billington "Snooty about musicals? Sheila Hancock should change her tune", (blog), 16 March 2001
  10. ^ Giles Worsley "Falling Houses",, 6 December 2003
  11. ^ Michael Billington "Crisis in the West End", The Guardian, 2 August 2007
  12. ^ Sarah Jane Griffiths "How safe is London's Theatreland?", BBC News, 20 December 2013
  13. ^ At the Theatre Royal Haymarket in 2004, 15 people were injured when part of the ceiling fell on to them, see the Sarah Jane Griffiths article above.
  14. ^ Alice Philipson, and Andrew Marszal "Apollo Theatre ceiling in London's West End collapses: scores injured",, 20 December
  15. ^
  16. ^ "West End audiences hit record high thanks to Twitter". The Telegraph. 29 January 2014. Retrieved 29 January 2014. 
  17. ^ "West End Theatre Ticket Sales At Record High". Sky News. 29 January 2014. Retrieved 29 January 2014. 
  18. ^ "West End Has Another Record Year, With Increases in Both Attendance and Revenue". Playbill. 29 January 2014. Retrieved 29 January 2014. 
  19. ^ "The Mousetrap London theatre tickets and information". Retrieved 17 January 2010. 
  20. ^ "Les Miserables – information on the show". Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  21. ^ "Phantom of The Opera London – information on the theatre show". Retrieved 17 January 2010. 
  22. ^ "The Woman in Black – information on the show". Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  23. ^ "Blood Brothers London – information on the show". Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  24. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Long Runs – Broadway, Off Broadway, London, Toronto & Other Major Cities". Retrieved 16 March 2014. 
  25. ^ "Mamma Mia! – information on the theatre show". Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  26. ^ "Disney's The Lion King – information on the theatre show". Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  27. ^ "Stomp – information on the show". Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  28. ^ "We Will Rock You – information on the show". Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  29. ^ "Billy Elliot The Musical – information on the show". Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  30. ^ "The 39 Steps – information on the show". Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  31. ^ "Wicked – information on the show". Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  32. ^ "Jersey Boys – information on the show". Retrieved 15 May 2013. 
  33. ^ "Thriller Live – information on the show". Retrieved 20 January 2014. 
  34. ^ "War Horse – information on the show". Retrieved 6 April 2014. 
  35. ^ "Kinky Boots musical comes to London". BBC News. 6 February 2015. Retrieved 6 February 2015. 
  36. ^ "Carole King Musical Beautiful opens in West End in 2015". WhatsOnStage. 5 September 2014. Retrieved 5 September 2014. 
  37. ^ "Kristin Scott Thomas plays Queen in West End Audience revival". WhatsOnStage. 31 October 2014. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
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  39. ^ "West End transfer for Bad Jews - Arts Theatre". London Theatre. 23 February 2015. Retrieved 23 February 2015. 
  40. ^ "Arts Theatre". Arts Theatre. Retrieved 2 July 2013. 
  41. ^ "Technical Overview". Criterion Theatre. Retrieved 2 July 2013. 
  42. ^ "Lord of the Dance transfers to Dominion for six month run". Whats On Stage. 24 October 2014. Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  43. ^ "The Play That Goes Wrong at Duchess Theatre from Sept". London Theatre. 24 April 2014. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
  44. ^ "Duchess Theatre". Duchess Theatre. Retrieved 2 July 2013. 
  45. ^ "U.K. Stage & Screen Star Felicity Kendal Will Headline Hay Fever in London's West End". January 15, 2015. Retrieved January 16, 2015. 
  46. ^ "Let It Be returns to the West End from 28 Feb 2015". London Theatre. 8 December 2014. Retrieved 8 December 2014. 
  47. ^ "Garrick Theatre". Garrick Theatre. Retrieved 2 July 2013. 
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  49. ^ "A Sunny Afternoon for London's West End! Dates Announced for Kinks Bio-Musical". 26 June 2014. Retrieved 26 June 2014. 
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  57. ^ "Bend it Like Beckham musical comes to the West End in 2015". WhatsOnStage. 31 October 2014. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  58. ^ "West End's Jersey Boys to Move Home from Prince Edward to Piccadilly Theatre". Playbill. 14 June 2013. Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  59. ^ "1984 returns to the Playhouse for limited run Theatre". London Theatre. 29 April 2015. Retrieved 29 April 2015. 
  60. ^ "Miss Saigon to return to West End in 2014". BBC News. 20 June 2013. Retrieved 27 June 2013. 
  61. ^ "Gypsy transfers to London's Savoy Theatre". London Theatre. 18 December 2014. Retrieved 18 December 2014. 
  62. ^ "Memphis premieres at Shaftesbury Theatre in October, Beverley Knight stars". Whats On Stage. 21 February 2014. Retrieved 21 February 2014. 
  63. ^ "Oscar Nominee Bradley Cooper Reveals Dates & Theater for West End Transfer of The Elephant Man". 7 January 2015. Retrieved 7 January 2015. 
  64. ^ "STOP! ... The Play - new comedy at Trafalgar Studios 2". London Theatre. 30 April 2015. Retrieved 1 May 2015. 
  65. ^ "Just Jim Dale at the Vaudeville Theatre". London Theatre. 23 January 2015. Retrieved 23 January 2015. 
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  68. ^ "American Buffalo with Damian Lewis - Wyndham's". London Theatre. 12 December 2014. Retrieved 12 December 2014. 
  69. ^ "Green Day's American Idiot starring Amelia Lily at Arts". London Theatre. 1 May 2015. Retrieved 1 May 2015. 
  70. ^ "Cats returns to the London Palladium from October". London Theatre. 24 April 2015. Retrieved 25 April 2015. 
  71. ^ "Elf Goes to London! Stage Adaptation of Hit Film to Play Limited West End Christmas Engagement". 6 February 2015. Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  72. ^ "Sinatra at the London Palladium from July 2015". London Theatre. 30 January 2015. Retrieved 30 January 2015. 
  73. ^ "Motown the Musical Sets West End Dates and Theatre". Playbill. 15 May 2015. Retrieved 23 May 2015. 
  74. ^ "Dawn French's 30 Million Minutes at the Vaudeville". London Theatre. 23 April 2015. Retrieved 25 April 2015. 
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  76. ^ "Farinelli and the King transfers to the West End". London Theatre. 6 March 2015. Retrieved 7 March 2015. 
  77. ^ "Nicole Kidman to return to London stage after 17 years". BBC News. 23 April 2015. Retrieved 23 April 2015. 
  78. ^ "David Suchet stars in The Importance of Being Earnest". London Theatre. 23 January 2015. Retrieved 24 January 2015. 
  79. ^ "The Mentalists with Stephen Merchant - Wyndham's". London Theatre. 25 February 2015. Retrieved 27 February 2015. 

External links

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