The modern theatre is built on the site of previous taverns and music hall theatres, where a place of entertainment has been located site since Elizabethan times. Nell Gwynn was associated with the tavern, which became known as the Great Mogul by the end of the 17th century, and presented entertainments in an adjoining hall, including "glee clubs" and "sing-songs". The Mogul Saloon was built on the site in 1847, which was sometimes known as the "Turkish Saloon or the "Mogul Music Hall." In 1851, it became the Middlesex Music Hall, known as The Old Mo. This in turn was rebuilt as the New Middlesex Theatre of Varieties, in 1911 by Frank Matcham for Oswald Stoll.
In 1919, the theatre was sold to George Grossmith, Jr. and Edward Laurillard, refurbished and reopened as the Winter Garden Theatre. They produced Kissing Time (1919, with a book by P. G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton and music by Ivan Caryll), followed by A Night Out (1920; book by Arthur Miller, music by Willie Redstone and lyrics by Clifford Grey). Grossmith and Laurillard also became managers of the Apollo Theatre in 1920. But expanding their operation caused Grossmith and Laurillard to end their partnership, with Grossmith retaining control of the Winter Garden.
Grossmith then partnered with George Edwardes's former associate, Pat Malone, to produce a series of mostly adaptations of imported shows at the Winter Garden between 1920 and 1926: Sally (1921), The Cabaret Girl (1922, with book by Wodehouse and music by Jerome Kern, The Beauty Prize (1923, with Wodehouse and Kern), a revival of Tonight's the Night (1923), Primrose (1924, with music by George Gershwin), Tell Me More (1925, with words by Thompson and music by George Gershwin) and Kid Boots (1926 with music by Harry Tierney), many of them featuring Leslie Henson. Grossmith co-wrote some of the Winter Garden pieces, directed many of his own productions and starred in several, notably as Otis in Sally. Several of the later productions lost money, and Grossmith and Malone ended the partnership.
The Vagabond King was produced at the theatre in 1927, and in 1929, Fred and Adele Astaire starred in Funny Face. In 1930, Sophie Tucker played in the Vivian Ellis musical Follow a Star, and in 1923, Gracie Fields appeared here in Walk This Way. In 1933, the theatre hosted Lewis Casson in George Bernard Shaw's On the Rocks, followed in 1935 by Love on the Dole, starring Wendy Hiller. The theatre closed in the late 1930s, reopening in 1942. In 1945, it hosted a Donald Wolfit season, and in 1953, Agatha Christie's Witness for the Prosecution played. 1956 saw The Water Gypsies by Vivian Ellis and A P Herbert; Hotel Paradiso starring Alec Guinness, Douglas Byng, Irene Worth and Billie Whitelaw; and Tyrone Power starred in Shaw's The Devil Disciple. 1958 included The Iceman Cometh.
The theatre closed permanently in 1959 when it was sold by the Rank Organisation to a developer. It was then gutted and remained vacant until 1965 to be replaced in 1973 by the current building.
New London Theatre, London
Designed by Paul Tvrtkovic and seating 960 on 2 levels, the theatre's auditorium first opened with a television recording of Marlene Dietrich's one-woman show. The theatre officially opened on January 2, 1973 with a production of The Unknown Soldier and His Wife starring Peter Ustinov. It then hosted Grease, starring Richard Gere as Danny. Beginning in 1977, the theatre was used as a television studio for several years and then returned to use as a theatre. The theatre's biggest hit was the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Trevor Nunn musical Cats, which premièred in the theatre on 11 May 1981. Closing in 2002, this production became the longest running musical in West End history.
The theatre also hosted the 1977 BBC Sports Personality of the Year and the Masters snooker between 1976 and 1978. Also in 1977, the theatre hosted the BBC's A Song For Europe contest, the preliminary heat to choose the UK entry for the Eurovision Song Contest. However, the show was blacked out on TV due to a last minute strike by technicians. Another great fact, the famous video clip for the song We Are The Champions by the band Queen was shot there on October 1977, which folowed a minor 70-min. concert.
Between 2003 and 2005 the theatre hosted Bill Kenwright's revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. This closed after a two and a half year run on 3 September 2005. Most recently, the venue played host to the London transfer of the off-Broadway production, Blue Man Group, which closed in June 2007, to make way for the Royal Shakespeare Company's repertory productions of The Seagull and King Lear, starring Ian McKellen. In Spring 2008, a new musical adaptation of Gone With The Wind ran for only two month. New musical Imagine This closed after only being open for one month. The current production is a transfer of the National Theatre's War Horse. The theatre has been owned since 1991 by Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Theatres. The theatre building also contains an underground car park, a cabaret venue, a basement nightclub, shops and a residential tower. In November 2007, Really Useful Theatres Ltd announced that the New London is to be put up for sale and they are now inviting offers. The RSC confirmed in a January issue of The Stage, that they would not buy the theatre as they are concentrating on refurbishment of their existing venues in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Covent Garden, Holborn
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We went to the heart of the theatre district to find out why you think London's West End is so great.
The feel-good factor to be had from a night out in the city of the big sparkly smoke is pretty unparalleled. Soak up the buzz and see London at its best, with its best.