Prince Edward Theatre
Prince Edward Theatre in 2008
|Address||Old Compton Street
|Public transit||Leicester Square; Tottenham Court Road|
|Owner||Delfont Mackintosh Theatres|
|Type||West End theatre|
|Rebuilt||1946 (T. & B. Braddock)
1978 (RHWL Architects)
|Prince Edward Theatre website at Delfont Mackintosh Theatres|
The theatre was designed in 1930 by Edward A. Stone, with an interior designed by Marc-Henri Levy and Gaston Laverdet. Named after Prince Edward (then the Prince of Wales, briefly Edward VIII and later Duke of Windsor), it opened on 3 April 1930 with a performance of the musical Rio Rita. Other notable events in its opening years included the London debut of famed cabaret artiste Josephine Baker, who performed her famous 'Bananas Dance'.
In 1935, Stone converted the theatre to a dance and cabaret hall, being renamed the "London Casino".
As the London Casino, it was badly damaged and all its windows lost in London's worst air raid of WWII on 10 May 1941. All neighbouring buildings directly across Greek Street were destroyed.
In 1942, stage alterations were undertaken by Thomas Braddock, re-opening as the "Queensberry All Services Club" in 1942 – a club for servicemen where the shows were broadcast on the BBC. After the war, the architects T. and E. Braddock restored the building to theatrical use, becoming the "London Casino" once again — when the King of Yiddish Music Leo Fuld was a major attraction.
The three projector, very wide screen Cinerama process had made its debut in New York in September 1952 with This Is Cinerama, a spectacular travelogue designed to make the most of the process and an enormous box office success. For the UK debut of the system, the Cinerama Corporation chose the Casino Theatre and in 1954 architects Frank Baessler and T. and E. Braddock drew up plans for the conversion, which required the installation of three separate projection boxes at stalls level and a 65ft wide by 26ft high deeply curved screen in front of the proscenium. Five speakers behind the screen and others around the auditorium supported the system's seven track stereophonic sound. Many front stalls seats were removed and others were lost by the installation of the projection boxes. The sightlines from the upper circle would have been too poor and it was taken out of use. Seating capacity was reduced to 1,337.
The premiere of This Is Cinerama took place on 30 September 1954. Like all subsequent presentations, the film was shown on a theatrical basis, with reserved seats and an intermission (required to load the spools for the second half onto the single projectors in each box). Unlike future "roadshow" practice there were three shows a day and the film ran until 28 January 1956. From 3 February 1956 the second Cinerama film Cinerama Holiday was presented, running until 22 February 1958. From 25 February 1958, the third Cinerama travelogue Seven Wonders of the World played, running until 31 October 1959 before being replaced by South Seas Adventure from 3 November 1959 to 4 March 1961. The final Cinerama travelogue presentation was Search for Paradise from 8 March 1961 to 27 October 1962. The Casino was chosen for the World Premiere of How the West Was Won, the second (and final) narrative film in the three strip Cinerama process. The premiere took place on 2 November 1962 and the film ran for 123 weeks, closing on 13 March 1965. This was the final three strip presentation at the Casino as the Cinerama corporation had in 1963 adopted 70mm "single lens" Cinerama as the future standard. The two outer projection boxes at the Casino were taken out of use and the centre box enlarged to take two Philips DP70 projectors capable of 35mm and 70mm projection. The single strip system had made its debut in the UK at the Coliseum Cinerama at the end of 1963 and the first film in the process at the Casino was The Greatest Story Ever Told, which ran from 8 April – 28 July 1965. The Casino now entered into a period of large scale 70mm "presented in Cinerama" roadshow runs:-
- The Hallelujah Trail (29 July – 15 December 1965)
- Battle of the Bulge (17 December 1965 – 8 June 1966)
- Khartoum (9 June 1966 – 8 March 1967) Royal World Premiere in the presence of HRH Princess Margaret
- Grand Prix (9 March 1967 – 8 November 1967)
- Custer of the West (9 November 1967 – 30 April 1968)
- 2001 A Space Odyssey (1 May 1968 – 25 March 1969)
- Ice Station Zebra (27 March – 8 October 1969)
- Winning (9 October – 1 December 1969) a 35mm blow up
- Ben-Hur (26 December 1969 – 6 May 1970)
- Patton (7 May – 14 October 1970)
- Two Mules for Sister Sara (15 October – 9 December 1970) a 35mm blow up
- Song of Norway (10 December 1970 – 2 February 1972) Royal Premiere in the presence of HRH Princess Alexandra
For the next two years the Casino found the going increasingly tough, with revivals of old films and premieres of not very good new ones. The final presentation "in Cinerama" was the feeble Run, Run, Joe! and Cinerama vacated the Casino in May 1974.
Return to theatrical use
The theatre was acquired by EMI, and refurbished at a cost of £150,000. The Cinerama screen was removed and replaced with a conventional one within the proscenium and the 70mm projectors were removed and replaced with a single 35mm projector and non-rewind system. The Casino Theatre continued in use as a cinema until, after the final film run of a revival of Lady Sings the Blues and Mahogany which ended on 8 April 1978, it was converted back to a theatre by RHWL Architects and given its original name, reopening with the world première of the musical Evita on 21 June 1978. Further renovations were undertaken by RHWL in 1992–93, increasing the size of the stage, reopening 3 March 1993 with a revival of Crazy for You. The ABBA musical, Mamma Mia! premièred here on 6 April 1999, transferring to the Prince of Wales Theatre, after a five-year run.
Owned by the Delfont Mackintosh Group, and with a capacity of 1,618, it formerly hosted Mary Poppins until 12 January 2008, before the show toured the UK. Jersey Boys opened on 18 March 2008 and moved to the Piccadilly Theatre in March 2014, A revival of Miss Saigon opened at the Prince Edward Theatre in May 2014.
Recent and present productions
- Evita (21 June 1978 – 8 February 1986) by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, starring Elaine Paige and David Essex
- Chess (14 May 1986 – 8 April 1989) by Tim Rice, Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, starring Elaine Paige, Tommy Körberg and Murray Head
- Anything Goes (4 July 1989 – 25 August 1990) by Cole Porter, starring Elaine Paige, John Barrowman and Louise Gold
- Children of Eden (8 January 1991 – 6 April 1991) by Stephen Schwartz and John Caird
- The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber (14 May 1991 – 25 May 1991), starring Sarah Brightman
- The Hunting of the Snark (24 October 1991 – 14 December 1991) by Mike Batt
- Some Like It Hot (19 March 1992 – 20 June 1992) by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill, starring Tommy Steele
- Crazy for You (3 March 1993 – 24 February 1996) by George and Ira Gershwin and Ken Ludwig, starring Ruthie Henshall and Kirby Ward
- Martin Guerre (10 July 1996 – 28 February 1998) by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil and Stephen Clarke
- Show Boat (28 April 1998 – 19 September 1998) by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II
- West Side Story (6 October 1998 – 9 January 1999) by Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein and Arthur Laurents
- Mamma Mia! (6 April 1999 – 27 May 2004) by Catherine Johnson and Björn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson, starring Siobhán McCarthy, Louise Plowright and Jenny Galloway
- Mary Poppins (15 December 2004 – 12 January 2008) by Richard M. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman, George Stiles, Anthony Drewe and Julian Fellowes starring Laura Michelle Kelly, Scarlett Strallen, Gavin Lee and Gavin Creel
- Jersey Boys (18 March 2008 – 9 March 2014) by Bob Gaudio based on the music of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons
- Miss Saigon (21 May 2014 – 27 February 2016) by Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg
- Aladdin (9 June 2016 – ) by Alan Menken, Chad Beguelin, Tim Rice and Howard Ashman
- The exterior of the theatre was based on Stone's "Streatham Astoria Cinema"
- Earl and Sell (2000) pp. 132
- Prince Edward Theatre (Arthur Lloyd Theatre History) accessed 11 June 2008
- "West End's Jersey Boys to Move Home from Prince Edward to Piccadilly Theatre". Playbill. 14 June 2013. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
- BREAKING NEWS: It's Finally Official! MISS SAIGON to Return to West End in May 2014 at Prince Edward Theatre! broadwayworld.com Retrieved 19 June 2013
- "A Whole New World! Disney's ALADDIN Confirms Summer 2016 Premiere in the West End, Starring Trevor Dion Nicholas as Genie!". Broadway World. 2015-10-15. Retrieved 2015-10-15.
- Guide to British Theatres 1750–1950, John Earl and Michael Sell pp. 132 (Theatres Trust, 2000) ISBN 0-7136-5688-3
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