Theatre Royal Drury Lane History and Timeline
The first theatre on the site, Theatre Royal, Brydges Street opened

The first theatre on the site, Theatre Royal, Brydges Street opened

1663-01-01

The Theatre Royal Drury Lane is the oldest theatre in England that is still in use. The first venue on the site was known as the Theatre Royal, Brydges Street. The auditorium could seat over 2,188 audience members and was known for its popular entertainment. The venue was forced to close in 1666 during the plague, when public buildings were outlawed. It closed again after the Great Fire of London and was damaged in 1672.   

Sir Christopher Wren designs the new Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Sir Christopher Wren designs the new Theatre Royal Drury Lane

1674-01-01

The new building was opened in 1674 as the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. It was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, and featured a spectacular auditorium with over 2000 seats. The venue continued to hold popular performances, but closed numerous times throughout the 1700s.

The theatre reopens with its present structure

The theatre reopens with its present structure

1812-01-01

In 1794 the theatre was rebuilt after being damaged by the Gordon Riots. The third theatre opened in 1794, but burnt to the ground in 1809. In 1812 the theatre was reopened in its present structure and continued to be refurbished throughout the 1800s.

The Bohemian Girl opens

The Bohemian Girl opens

1843-11-27

The Bohemian Girl is an opera composed by Michael William Balfe with a libretto by Alfred Bunn, loosely based on a Cervantes tale, La Gitanilla. It was first performed at the Theatre Royal Dryrt Lane in 1843, running for over 100 performances, before transferring to New York, Dublin and Madrid. It features the popular aria "I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls".

Cinderella opens

Cinderella opens

1919-12-26

A brand new production of the classic fairy tale played at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, written by Glover, Dix & Collins. The show starred Marie Blanche, Harry Claff, Arthur Conquest, Will Evans and Lily Long, and featured an original score including 'Love in Lilac Time', 'I Found You', and 'Love Sends a Little Gift of Roses'.

Show Boat has its London Premiere

Show Boat has its London Premiere

1928-05-03

The original London production of Jerome Kern's 'Showboat' opened in May 1928 at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. The show featured Cedric Hardwicke as Captain Andy, Edith Day as Magnolia, Paul Robeson as Joe, and Alberta Hunter as Queenie. The production was staged by Oscar Hammerstein II with choreography by Sammy Lee. Featuring a string of hits including 'Bill', 'Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man' and 'Ol' Man River', the show continues to be revived all over the world.

The Kern and Hammerstein musical 'Three Sisters' opens

The Kern and Hammerstein musical 'Three Sisters' opens

1934-04-09

Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein's final collaboration 'Three Sisters' held the record for the shortest run in Drury Lane Theatre history, closing after just two months. Set at the beginning of World War I, the family drama starred  Victoria Hopper, Stanley Holloway, Adele Dixon, Esmond Knight, and Charlotte Greenwood. The score featured 'I Won't Dance', 'Lonely Feet' and 'Now I Have Springtime', and was not produced on Broadway.

Oklahoma! opens, marking the start of the Rodgers and Hammerstein era

Oklahoma! opens, marking the start of the Rodgers and Hammerstein era

1947-04-29

The age of the new Broadway musical began with Rodgers and Hammerstein's 'Oklahoma' which ran at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane from 29th April 1947 - 27th May 1950. The theatre became the home of each of their shows, transferring in from Broadway over the next 9 years. 'Carousel' followed next, running from 7th June 1950 to 13th October 1951, with 'South Pacific' playing from 1st November 1951 to 26th September 1953. Their final hit at the theatre during this period was 'The King and I', which played from 8th October 1953 - 14th January 1956. This was described by many as 'the golden age' of Broadway musicals, and the Theatre Royal was lucky enough to have back to back hits throughout the post-war period.

My Fair Lady has its London Premiere

My Fair Lady has its London Premiere

1958-04-30

Based on Bernard Shaw's play 'Pygmalion', 'My Fair Lady' features a score by Alan J Lerner and Fredrick Loewe. The show set the record for the longest running show at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, where it ran for five and a half years, 2,281 performances. Following a successful stint on Broadway, the West End production featured Rex Harrison as Henry Higgins,  alongside Julie Andrews as Eliza Doolittle and Stanley Holloway as Alfred Doolittle.

The original London production of 'Camelot' opens

The original London production of 'Camelot' opens

1964-09-19

Lerner and Loewe's musical 'Camelot' opened in the West End following a successful Broadway premiere and US National tour. Based on the Arthurian legends, the musical told the story of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. The London production featured Laurence Harvey as Arthur, alongside Elizabeth Larner as Guenevere and Barry Kent as Lancelot. The production ran for 518 performances, before it was made into a film in 1967 starring Richard Harris.

Hello, Dolly! has its London Premiere

Hello, Dolly! has its London Premiere

1965-12-02

The West End premiere of 'Hello Dolly! opened at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 1965, running for 794 performances. The production starred Mary Martin in the title role of Dolly, alongside Loring Smith as Horace, Johnny Beecher as Barnaby, Garrett Lewis as Cornelius, and Mark Alden as Ambrose Kemper. Gower Champion directed and choreographed the show, which was produced once again by David Merrick.

The original London production of 'Mame' opens

The original London production of 'Mame' opens

1969-02-20

After opening on Broadway in 1966, 'Mame' the musical transferred to the West End starring Ginger Rogers in the title role. The production was once again directed by Gene Saks, with choreography by Onna White. The production ran for 14 months and was enjoyed by Queen Elizabeth II in a special royal performance.

Gone With The Wind opens

Gone With The Wind opens

1972-05-03

The first musical adaptation of Margaret Mitchell's novel featured a score by Harold Rome and Japanese book by Kazuo Kikuta. The production was directed by Joe Layton, and first presented in Tokyo, before opening at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 1972. Despite some changes, the show was still 4 hours long and received criticism for expecting the audience to have a good knowledge of the characters prior to seeing the show.

The original London production of 'A Chorus Line' opens

The original London production of 'A Chorus Line' opens

1976-07-22

Michael Bennett's iconic musical 'A Chorus Line' featured an impressive score by Marvin Hamlisch. After opening initially off-Broadway in 1975, the West End production opened at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in 1976. It won the Olivier Award for Best Musical in the inaugural Olivier Award ceremony. The production starred Jane Summerhays and Geraldine Gardner and played for two and a half years.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street opens

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street opens

1980-07-02

Stephen Sondheim's musical was written as a 'love letter to London'. After premiering on Broadway in 1979, the first London production opened at the Theatre Royal in 1980, but only ran for 157 performances. The production starred Denis Quilley in the title role, with Sheila Hancock as Mrs Lovett. The production was directed by Hal Prince with choreography by Larry Fuller. The show went on to win the Olivier Award for Best New Musical in 1980, despite mixed reviews.

42nd Street opens

42nd Street opens

1984-08-08

The original West End production of '42nd Street' opened in August 1984 after a record breaking Broadway production produced by David Merrick. It won the 1984 Olivier Award for Best Musical and has been enjoyed by audiences around the UK. The London production starred a young Catherine Zeta Jones, who stepped into the role of Peggy Sawyer and happened to be seen by one of the chief producers who helped launch her career.

Miss Saigon opens

Miss Saigon opens

1990-08-09

Boublil and Schonberg's epic musical love story 'Miss Saigon' broke records at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane as it become the longest running show at the venue. Running for over 10 years and 4,264 performances the show was seen by thousands of theatre goers and has since been transported around the world. Nicholas Hytner directed the original production, which featured stage designs by John Napier. Based on the opera Madame Butterfly, the musical relocates the action to the Vietnam War. Jonathan Pryce played the original Engineer, alongside newcomer Lea Salonga who played Kim. The production is to be revived at the Prince Edward Theatre in May 2014.

The Witches of Eastwick opens

The Witches of Eastwick opens

2001-06-07

The world premiere of this exciting musical opened to mixed reviews at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Based on the John Updike novel and the film of the same name, this musical by Dana P Rowe and John Dempsy was led by Maria Friedman, Joanna Riding and Lucie Arnaz as the three witches. The production later downsized to the Prince of Wales Theatre where it closed in October 2001.

The National Theatre's 'My Fair Lady' transfers

The National Theatre's 'My Fair Lady' transfers

2002-09-07

Cameron Mackintosh co-produced a revival of 'My Fair Lady' which original opened at the Lyttleton Theatre in March 2001, directed by Trevor Nunn with choreography by Matthew Bourne. The production transferred to the Theatre Royal in the West End where it continued to be a commercial success. The revival starred Jonathan Pryce as Henry Higgins, alongside Dennis Waterman as Alfred Doolittle. Eastenders star Martine McCutcheon played the central role of Eliza Doolittle, winning the Olivier Award despite missing over half of her performances due to sickness. The production won the Olivier for Outstanding Musical Production.

The National Theatre's 'Anything Goes' transfers

The National Theatre's 'Anything Goes' transfers

2003-07-10

The National Theatre's production of Cole Porter's 'Anything Goes' original opened at the Olivier Theatre in December 2002. The production was such as success it transferred to the West End, in a similar vein to 'My Fair Lady'. Trevor Nunn directed the revival, which starred Sally Ann Triplett as Reno Sweeny and John Barrowman as Billy Crocker.

The Producers opens

The Producers opens

2004-09-11

The West End production of Broadway sensation 'The Producers' enjoyed a successful run at the Theatre Royal, playing for 920 performances. The original production saw Nathan Lane reprise his role as Max Bialystock at the last minute as Richard Dreyfuss was 'let go' by producers four days before opening. Lee Evans starred as Leo alongside Leigh Zimmerman as Ulla. The show was an excellent box office success, and continued to have strong ticket sales with replacement stars such as Brad Oscar, Cory English and Reece Shearsmith.

Lord of the Rings the Musical opens

Lord of the Rings the Musical opens

2008-07-06

The highly ambitious musical re-telling of the epic 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy ran for 492 performances at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. After a run in Toronto, the 3 hour production featured over 50 actors and cost over £12million - the most expensive musical produced in the UK. Making full use of the size and scale of the theatre, Rob Howell provided set and costume designs that were universally praised by critics. The show had a mixed response, and many saw it as overly ambitious.

Cameron Mackintosh's revival of 'Oliver!' opens

Cameron Mackintosh's revival of 'Oliver!' opens

2009-01-14

The new production of Lionel Bart's British musical was heavily based on the 1994 Palladium version, but featured direction by Rupert Goold. Rowan Atkinson starred as Fagin, alongside the winner of the BBC's TV talent search Jodie Prenger as Nancy. The production was an instant sell out throughout Atkinson's run, and continued to play to packed houses throughout the replacement casts which included Russ Abbot, Omid Djalili, and Kerry Ellis in the lead roles.

Shrek the Musical opens

Shrek the Musical opens

2012-02-06

Jeanine Tesori's musical based on the 2001 DreamWorks film had its European premiere at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. The production was based on the 2008 Broadway, but was revamped with new sets and alterations to the book and score. The original London production starred Nigel Lindsay as the green ogre, with Nigel Harman as Lord Farquaad. It was nominated for four Olivier Awards, and went on to run for 715 performances, with a UK tour planned in 2014.   

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Opens

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Opens

2013-05-17

This musical adaptation of the beloved Roald Dahl classic opened in October 2013. The production is directed by Sam Mendes and features choreography by Peter Darling. The show was adapted for the stage by David Greig and the story of a young boy who wins a golden ticket that will take him inside the world’s most famous chocolate factory is brought up to date.

42nd Street Opens

42nd Street Opens

2017-04-04

Tony Award winning musical 42nd Street returns to the West End, directed by Mark Bramble who co-authored the book for the original Broadway production. This classic American dream fable follows the life of Peggy Sawyer, who tries her luck in Broadway as an actress and blossoms into a star of the stage.

Past Shows at Theatre Royal Drury Lane