Prince of Wales Theatre History and Timeline

The first theatre on the site opens

The first theatre on the site opens

1884-01-01

C.J. Phipps built the Prince's Theatre, the first theatre venue on the site for actor-manager Edgar Bruce. The original building seated just over 1,000 people on three levels. It was renamed the Prince of Wales Theatre in 1886 after the future Edward VII.

Lillie Langtry opens the season

Lillie Langtry opens the season

1885-01-01

Celebrated performer Lillie Langtry appears in Princess George and The School for Scandal at the Princes’ Theatre. This opened a season of work featuring numerous celebrities of the day.

The theatre re-named the Prince of Wales

The theatre re-named the Prince of Wales

1886-10-04

The Theatre is renamed the Prince of Wales Theatre two years after it opens, with a production of the comic opera La Bearnaise.

L'Enfant Prodigue

L'Enfant Prodigue

1891-01-01

L'Enfant Prodigue premiered in 1891, a wordless play told through mime.

In Town, one of the first English musical comedies opened

In Town, one of the first English musical comedies opened

1892-01-01

The first English musical comedy was performed at the Prince of Wales Theatre. Produced by George Edwardes, 'In Town' was written by Adrian Ross and James T Tanner, and was a backstage drama combined with society intrigue. It was similar in style to the operas of Gilbert and Sullivan but had the feel of a Victorian burlesque.

A Gaiety Girl

A Gaiety Girl

1893-01-01

George Edwardes presents a second musical comedy, A Gaiety Girl. It is even more successful than his first production the year before, setting it up for many years of success as a venue that presented this style of production.

Joe the Hansom Cabby

Joe the Hansom Cabby

1895-01-01

Musical farce Gentleman Joe the Hansom Cabby by Walter Slaughter and a libretto by Basil Hood opens at the Prince of Wales Theatre starring the so-called ‘low comedian’ Arthur Roberts as Gentleman Joe. Though it received poor reviews, it proved popular and rant for nearly 400 performance before productions opened in New Jersey and New York.

A Pierrot's Life

A Pierrot's Life

1897-01-01

Another mime performance, A Pierrot's Life, was so popular that mime troupes gain respectability throughout Britain.

Pelléas et Mélisande

Pelléas et Mélisande

1898-01-01

Though still presenting musical comedies, the theatre moved into presenting straight plays as well with Maeterlinck's tragic Pelléas et Mélisande. The story of two doomed lovers features references to Greek mythology and the symbolism of water. It was later adapted into an opera by Claude Debussy.

English Nell and Peg Woffington

English Nell and Peg Woffington

1900-01-01

Marie Tempest starred in the play English Nell about Nell Gwynn, a dramatisation of a novel by Charles Reade and an adaptation of Thackeray's Vanity Fair. Tempest subsequently appeared as the title role in Peg Woffington at the same theatre.

The theatre returns to staging comedies

The theatre returns to staging comedies

1907-01-01

The Prince of Wales Theatre returns its focus back to musical comedies with Miss Hook of Holland by Paul Rubens and Austen Hurgon. Frank Curzon and Isabel Jay star in this story set in a cheese market and distillery in Holland. A children’s version of the show was performed in the afternoons.

King of Cadonia

King of Cadonia

1908-01-01

King of Cadonia by Frederick Lonsdale, lyrics by Adrian Ross and Arthur Wimperis and music by Sidney Jones and Frederick Rosse, runs for 333 performances at the Prince of Wales Theatre. Set in the mythical kingdom of Cadonia, this love story between a reluctant ruler and a princess from a neighbouring kingdom starred Isabel Jay and Huntley Wright.

The Balkan Princess

The Balkan Princess

1910-02-19

The Balkan Princess opens, a new musical by Frederick Lonsdale and Frank Curzon, with lyrics by Paul Rubens and Arthur Wimperis, and music by Paul Rubens. The production’s large chorus and spectacular design tells the story of an anti-royalist who falls in love with a disguised princess.

The theatre in wartime

The theatre in wartime

1914-01-01

During WWI, the theatre stayed open and presented a series of entertaining shows, including Broadway Jones in 1914, Carminetta and Yes, Uncle! In 1917, and Avery Hopwood's farce Fair and Warmer in 1918.

Musical revues draw crowds

Musical revues draw crowds

1921-01-01

The Prince of Wales Theatre presents a series of popular musical revues, including A to Z in 1921, Co-Optimists in 1923, and Charlot's Revue in 1924.

The Rat opens

The Rat opens

1924-06-01

Ivor Novello’s first play, The Rat, opened at the Prince of Wales Theatre. He co-wrote, produced and starred in the successful production.

Journey's End

Journey's End

1929-01-01

R C Sherriff’s Journey’s End transfers to The Prince of Wales Theatre from the Apollo Theatre and runs for 2 years. The WWI play initially starred a young Laurence Olivier and was eventually adapted into a film.

Edith Evans becomes the Theatre Manager

Edith Evans becomes the Theatre Manager

1930-01-01

English actress Edith Evans became the manager of the venue, and turned it around to feature risqué Follies style revues. Shows such as 'Voila! Les Dames' and 'Encore les Dames' were very successful, and provided the theatre with enough money to refurbish.

The new Prince of Wales Theatre opens

The new Prince of Wales Theatre opens

1937-10-27

The theatre was rebuilt to include more seats in a new Art Deco inspired style. It had a larger stage, with 1,100 seats and a 14 metre long bar. The venue was used as a home for musical comedies, revues and even cinema screenings, and Charlie Chaplin's 'The Great Dictator' was shown despite being banned in Europe.

Present Arms

Present Arms

1940-01-01

Musical comedy Present Arms was presented during the start of WWII. The military show from 1928 proved popular with audiences in a new time of war.

The Great Dictator

The Great Dictator

1941-01-01

The theatre screened the Charlie Chaplin film The Great Dictator. It had been banned in much of Europe at the time, including the UK. The theatre’s owner, Alfred Esdaile, received a fine for showing the film.

Sid Field is a success

Sid Field is a success

1943-01-01

Birmingham-born, variety performer Sid Field made his London debut in Strike a New Note and garnered so much acclaim that he returned to the theatre for two more shows: Strike it Again and Piccadilly Hayride, which ran for 778 performances.

Mae West performs at the Prince of Wales

Mae West performs at the Prince of Wales

1948-01-01

Hollywood actor and playwright Mae West treads the boards of the Prince of Wales Theatre in Diamond Lil, her popular 1928 play, revived for post-war audiences.

Harvey is a hit

Harvey is a hit

1949-01-01

Mary Coyle Chase’s comedy about an imaginary rabbit, Harvey, was a huge success after transferring from America. Sid Field returned to the theatre to play the lead role. In 1950, it was made into a film starring James Stewart.

Stars tread the boards

Stars tread the boards

1950-01-01

The Prince of Wales theatre focused on presenting variety shows and reviews featuring a long list of stars. Performers such as Peter Sellers, Norman Wisdom, Bob Hope, Morcambe and Wise, and Benny Hill were just a few of the names that treated audiences over the course of the decade.

The World of Susie Wong

The World of Susie Wong

1959-11-01

Paul Osborn’s adaptation of the novel The World of Susie Wong runs for nearly two years. The story of a young, British artist in Hong Kong who befriends a local prostitute was very popular with London theatre audiences.

Come Blow Your Horn

Come Blow Your Horn

1962-01-01

Neil Simon’s play Come Blow Your Horn opens starring Michael Crawford. This was the playwright’s first play and had opened on Broadway the year before to a great review from the New York Times.

Do Re Mi opens

Do Re Mi opens

1961-10-12

Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green's musical had its original London production at the Prince of Wales Theatre in 1961, running for 169 performances. It starred Max Bygraves, Maggie Fitzgibbon, Steve Arlen and Jan Waters.

Martha Graham's Circe

Martha Graham's Circe

1963-01-01

Dancer and choreographer Martha Graham premiered her newest ballet, Circe, at the Prince of Wales Theatre. Alan Hovhaness composed the music with design by Isamu Noguchi. This was part of a longer season of her work, performed by the Martha Graham Dance Company.

On the Town opens at the Prince of Wales

On the Town opens at the Prince of Wales

1963-05-30

Bernstein's 'On the Town' had its original London production at the Prince of Wales Theatre, but only ran for 63 performances. Due to the 60s cultural revolution in the UK, musicals were becoming less popular in the West End. The production was directed and choreographed by Joe Layton and starred Elliott Gould and Don McKay.  

The Beatles perform

The Beatles perform

1963-11-04

The Beatles appeared in the Royal Variety Show, performing hit songs She Loves You, From Me to You, Twist and Shout, and Till There Was You for the Queen Mother.

Funny Girl has its London premiere

Funny Girl has its London premiere

1966-04-13

Barbara Streisand made her West End debut in the London production of 'Funny Girl' which ran for 109 performances at the Prince of Wales Theatre. Lawrence Kasha directed the production which also featured Michael Craig, Kay Medford and Lee Allen. Striesand became pregnant during the run and was taken over by her understudy Lisa Shane. The show was later turned into a successful film, for which Streisand won the Academy Award for Best Actress.

The original London production of Sweet Charity

The original London production of Sweet Charity

1967-10-11

Bob Fosse's production of the CY Coleman and Dorothy Fields musical 'Sweet Charity' transferred from Broadway to the Prince of Wales Theatre, where it played for 484 performances. Juliet Prowse starred as Charity Hope Valentine, alongside Rod McLennan and Josephine Blake. The show had a famous score which included 'If They Could See Me Now', 'The Rhythm of Life' and 'Big Spender'.  

The original London production of Promises Promises

The original London production of Promises Promises

1969-10-02

Neil Simon and Burt Bacharach's musical 'Promises, Promises' opened at the Prince of Wales Theatre in 1967, running for 560 performances. Following the success of the Broadway production which was directed by Robert Moore and featured musical staging by Michael Bennett, the cast was led by Anthony Roberts and Betty Buckley. Donna McKechnie recreated the iconic 'Turkey Lurkey Time' dance in London.

The Threepenny Opera is revived at the Prince of Wales

The Threepenny Opera is revived at the Prince of Wales

1972-02-10

Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's dark musical 'The Threepenny Opera' originally opened in Germany in 1928. This new London production opened at the Prince of Wales Theatre in February 1972 and was directed by Tony Richardson. Vanessa Redgrave starred as Polly Peachum, alongside Barbara Windsor as Lucy Brown.

Same Time Next Year

Same Time Next Year

1976-01-01

Bernard Slade’s romantic comedy Same Time Next Year opens starring Michael Crawford and Frances Cuka. In the play, George and Doris meet once a year for 24 years to have a passionate affair whilst being married to other people.

Paul Daniels' show It's Magic

Paul Daniels' show It's Magic

1980-12-10

Magician Paul Daniels brings his stage show It’s Magic to the West End in what would become one of the longest running magic shows of its time. He went on to marry his then-assistant Debbie McGee, who had been working with him since 1979.

Underneath the Arches

Underneath the Arches

1982-03-04

Underneath the Arches opens. The musical comedy tells the story of two of the UK’s most popular entertainers, Bud Flanagan and Chesney Allen. The production ran for over a year.

South Pacific

South Pacific

1988-01-20

The Rogers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific is revived. This production is directed by Roger Redfern and featured Gemma Craven, Emile Belcourt and Bertice Reading.

Aspects of Love has its West End premiere

Aspects of Love has its West End premiere

1989-04-17

The first West End production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's 'Aspects of Love' opened at the Prince of Wales Theatre in 1989 where it continued to play for 1,325 performances. Directed by Trevor Nunn with choreography by Gillian Lynne the original cast featured Ann Crumb, Michael Ball, Kevin Colson and Sarah Brightman. Roger Moore was originally scheduled to star as George, but left the production two weeks before opening. The song 'Love Changes Everything' became a chart success for Michael Ball.

Annie Get Your Gun

Annie Get Your Gun

1992-11-01

Annie Get Your Gun opens starring Kim Crisswell in the title role for a limited run. Crisswell had recently made a studio recording of the popular musical.

Barry Manilow's Copacabana opens

Barry Manilow's Copacabana opens

1994-06-23

Originally based on a TV musical, Barry Manilow's Copacabana expanded into a $3million stage show. Originally opening at the Theatre Royal Plymouth, it opened at the Prince of Wales in 1994 where it played for over two years. The production was directed by Roger Redfarn with choreography by Dorian Sanchez and had a cast which included Gary Wilmot, Nicola Dawn, Richard Lyndon, Anna Nicholas, Howard Attfield and Jenny Logan.

Smokey Joe's Cafe

Smokey Joe's Cafe

1996-10-01

Songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller are celebrated in the musical revue Smokey Joe’s Café runs at the Prince of Wales. Several of the original Broadway cast appeared in this production and first premiered in Los Angeles.

West Side Story London Revival opens

West Side Story London Revival opens

1999-01-22

This revival production began life as a UK national tour in 1997. The production starred David Habbin as Tony, Kate Knight Adams as Maria and Anna Jane Casey as Anita. Due to its success on tour, it transferred to the Prince Edward Theatre, and later the Prince of Wales Theatre before embarking on a second UK tour.

Fosse

Fosse

2000-02-08

Ann Reinking’s revue showcasing the work of choreographer Bob Fosse transfers from Broadway. Fosse went on to win the Olivier Award for Best Choreographer.

Rent Revival

Rent Revival

2002-10-04

The original production of Jonathan Larson's Pulitzer Prize winning musical 'Rent' opened in 1998 at the Shaftesbury Theatre. This revival played two runs at the Prince of Wales, following successful UK regional productions. Adam Rickett starred as Mark in the Prince of Wales revival, alongside Caprice as Maureen.

The Witches of Eastwick Transfers

The Witches of Eastwick Transfers

2001-07-17

After opening originally at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Cameron Mackintosh's production of 'The Witches of Eastwick' downsized to the Prince of Wales Theatre after a year, where it continued for three more months. The original production was directed by Eric Schaeffer with choreography by Bob Avian and Stephen Mear. Joanna Riding transferred with the production, reprising her role as Jane.

The Full Monty

The Full Monty

2002-03-01

The Full Monty premieres in the West End at the Prince of Wales after its 2000 opening on Broadway. The American adaptation of the British film is a touching and funny look at a group of unemployed steel workers who decide it’s time to get their kits off to pay the bills.

Cliff the Musical

Cliff the Musical

2003-03-12

This short lived production at the Prince of Wales was a jukebox tribute show based on the life of Sir Cliff Richard. Written by Mike Read and Trevor Payne, the show received exceptionally poor notices and ran for just over two months. Four different actors played the part of Cliff through the ages: Ricky Aron, Miles Guerrini, Jimmy Jemain and Mike Read.

Mamma Mia! opens at the Prince of Wales

Mamma Mia! opens at the Prince of Wales

2004-05-23

The original London production of Mamma Mia! opened at the Prince Edward Theatre, but transferred to the Prince of Wales in 2004, before moving again to the Novello Theatre. This smash hit ABBA musical was directed by Phyllida Lloyd with choreography by Anthony Van Laast. It continued to be one of the most popular shows in the West End, performing to sell out crowds of tourists and ABBA fans from around the world.

Let It Be

Let It Be

2012-09-14

Let It Be, the Beatles musical/concert runs at The Prince of Wales before transferring to the Savoy Theatre. Beginning with the Beatles performing at The Cavern Club in 1962, it follows their rise to fame and eventual break up in 1970. Critics’ lukewarm reception had little impact on the rest of the run, the show’s subsequent UK tour and return to the West End.

The Book of Mormon opens

The Book of Mormon opens

2013-03-21

The eagerly anticipated London production of Broadway smash hit 'The Book of Mormon' opens at the Prince of Wales to sell out audiences. This audacious musical delighted and shocked audiences, with its original book and score penned by the creators of 'South Park'. The show quickly became one of the hottest tickets in town, with premium seats reaching £157, breaking West End records.

Best New Musical

Best New Musical

2014-04-14

Book of Mormon wins Best New Musical at this year’s Olivier Awards.

Bobby Lopez receives EGOT

Bobby Lopez receives EGOT

2014-03-03

Composer Bobby Lopez wins the Oscar for Best Original Song in Book of Mormon, becoming one of only 12 people to have ever received an EGOT: an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award.

The Book of Mormon wins WhatsOnStage Awards

The Book of Mormon wins WhatsOnStage Awards

2014-02-23

The Book of Mormon wins 4 awards at the annual WhatsOnStage Awards: Best New Musical, Best Actor in a Musical, Best Supporting Actor in a Musical and Best Supporting Actress in a Musical.

Book of Mormon cast change

Book of Mormon cast change

2016-05-30

American actor Alexandra Ncube begins playing Nabulungi in The Book of Mormon. She joins KJ Hippensteel and Brian Sears as Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, and the rest of the current cast: Delroy Atkinson, Tyrone Huntley, Richard Lloyd-King, Dean Maynard, Kelly Agbowu, Philip Catchpole, Joseph Davenport, Jonathan Dudley, Harry Francis, Lydia Fraser, Reece Kerridge, Alex Lodge, Joshua Lovell, Brianna Ogunbawo, Stephen Rolley, Jacade Simpson, Ellena Vincent, Rodney Vubya, T’Shan Williams, Oliver Ormson, Christopher Copeland, Brendan Cull, Tania Mathurin, David McMullan, Sean Parkins, David O’Reilly, Rhys Taylor and Kayi Ushe.

The Book of Mormon extends

The Book of Mormon extends

2018-01-08

The Book of Mormon has once again extended its booking period through 28 April 2018. The extension of this hilariously offensive show about a pair of naïve Mormon missionaries in Uganda means it will celebrate its 5th West End anniversary in March.