Lyceum Theatre, London

Lyceum Theatre, London

Infobox Theatre
name = Lyceum Theatre

caption = Disney's "The Lion King" at the Lyceum Theatre, 1999 - present
address = Wellington Street
city = Westminster, London
country =
designation = Grade II*
latitude = 51.511556
longitude = -0.11975
architect = Samuel Beazley
owner = Live Nation Theatres
capacity = c. 2,100 on 3 levels
type = West End theatre
opened = 14 July 1834
yearsactive =
rebuilt = 1882–84 C. J. Phipps 1904 Bertie Crewe 1951 Mathew & Sons 1996 Holohan Architects
closed = 1951–1995 Lyceum Ballroom
othernames =
production = Disney's The Lion King
currentuse =
website =

The Lyceum Theatre is a 2,000-seat West End theatre located in the City of Westminster, on Wellington Street, just off the Strand. There has been a theatre with this name in the locality since 1765, and the present site opened on July 14 1834 to a design by Samuel Beazley. [ [ The Victorian Web] ] The building was unique in that it had a balcony overhanging the circle. It was built by the partnership of Peto & Grissell.

The present building retains Beazley's façade and grand portico, but the theatre behind is substantially to the 1904 design of Bertie Crewe, restored to theatrical use in 1996 by Holohan Architects, after a long period of use as a Mecca Ballroom. [Earl and Sells (2000), pp. 123–24]


Early years

The Old Lyceum Theatre was first built in 1765 on an adjacent site, and in the late 18th century, musical entertainments were given by Charles Dibdin. Famed actor David Garrick also performed at the Lyceum. Between 1794 and 1809, the building was used as a circus, brought by Philip Astley when his amphitheatre was burned down at Westminster, and then a chapel, a concert room, and for the first London exhibition of waxworks displayed by Madame Tussaud in 1802. [ [ Summary of the theatre's history] ]

The theatre became a "licensed" house in 1809, and until 1812 it was used for dramatic performances by the Drury Lane Company after the burning of their own theatre, until the erection of the new edifice. In 1816, Samuel Arnold rebuilt the house to a design by Beazley and opened it as "The English Opera House", but it was destroyed by fire in 1830. The house was famous as the first theatre in London to be lit by gas and for hosting the London première of Mozart's opera "Cosi Fan Tutti". [ [ Londontown profile of the theatre] ] During this period, the "Sublime Society of Beef Steaks," [* [ History of the Sublime Society of Beef Steaks] ] which had been founded in 1735 by theatre manager Henry Rich, had its home at the theatre for over 50 years until 1867. The members, who never exceeded twenty-four in number, met every Saturday night to eat beefsteaks and drink port wine. [ [ Information about the Sublime Society of Beefsteaks] ]

Present site

In 1834, the present house opened slightly to the west, with a frontage on Wellington Street, [Wellington Street was a new thoroughfare constructed between Waterloo Bridge and Bow Street. The former site became an unsuccessful arcade, that was demolished to build the Strand Musick Hall (sic), another unsuccessful venture. In 1868, the auditorium was rebuilt and it reopened as the Gaiety Theatre.] under the name "Theatre Royal Lyceum and English Opera House". The theatre was again designed by Beazley and cost £40,000. Composer John Barnett produced a number of works in the first few years of the theatre, including "The Mountain Sylph" (1834), credited as the first modern English opera (it was completely sung, with no spoken passages); It was followed by "Fair Rosamund" in 1837, "Farinelli" in 1839 and "Blanche of Jersey" in 1840. In 1841–43, composer Michael Balfe managed the theatre and produced National Opera here, but the venture was ultimately unsuccessful. The house then became associated with adaptations of Charles Dickens's novels and Christmas books. [ [ Summary of the theatre's history] ] For instance, an adaptation of Dickens' "Martin Chuzzlewit" ran for over 100 performances from 1844–45 here, a long run for the time.

The Lyceum was later managed by Madame Lucia Elizabeth Vestris and Charles James Mathews from 1847–55, who produced James Planché's " [fairy] extravaganzas" featuring spectacular stage effects. Tom Taylor's adaptation of "A Tale of Two Cities", with Dickens himself as consultant, played in 1860, shortly after end of its serialisation and volume publication. Charles Fechter, who managed the theatre from 1863–67 also favored spectacular productions. In 1866, Dion Boucicault's "The Long Strike" (his adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's Manchester novels "Mary Barton" and "Lizzie Leigh") was produced here. Ethel Lavenu, the mother and grandmother of actors Tyrone Power, Sr. and Tyrone Power performed in a number pieces at the theatre in the 1860s. W. S. Gilbert produced three plays here. In 1863, his first professional play, "Uncle Baby", premièred. In 1867, he presented his Christmas pantomime, called "Harlequin Cock Robin and Jenny Wren...", and in 1884, he produced the drama "Comedy and Tragedy".

Irving years

Beginning in 1871, under manager Hezekiah Linthicum Bateman and his wife, Henry Irving appeared at the theatre in, among other things, many Shakespeare works. Irving began with the French melodrama "The Bells", an instant hit in which he played the ghost-haunted burgomaster. The piece ran to sell-out crowds for 150 nights, which was an unusually long run at the time. "Charles I", in 1872 was another hit, running for 180 nights. In 1874, Irving played "Hamlet" at the theatre, perhaps his greatest triumph, running for 200 nights. In 1878, after Bateman's death, Irving took over management of the theatre from his widow. "The Builder", September 28 1878 reported that there was a difference between Irving and Mrs. Bateman regarding the personnel of the company at the Lyceum. "Mr. Irving is said to have told Mrs. Bateman that he was resolved to have actors to act with him, and not dolls, otherwise he would no longer play at the Lyceum. The result was that Mrs. Bateman threw up the management of the theatre, and Mr. Irving takes her place." Mrs. Bateman became the manager of Sadler's Wells Theatre. [ [ Description of ownership of the Lyceum] ]

". Stoker hoped that Irving, with his dramatic, sweeping gestures, gentlemanly mannerisms, and speciality in playing villain roles, would play Dracula in the stage adaptation of his novel. However, Irving never agreed to appear in the stage version, although the play was produced at the Lyceum.

Irving and Terry began with "Hamlet" in 1878. Their 1879 production of "The Merchant of Venice" ran for an unusual 250 nights, and success followed success in the Shakespeare canon as well as in other major plays. [ [ Information from] ] Other celebrated productions included "Much Ado About Nothing", [ [ Information from] ] "The Lady of Lyons" by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton (1878), "Romeo and Juliet", "King Lear", "The Lyons Mail" by Charles Reade (1883), the immensely popular "Faust" by William Gorman Wills (1885, which even drew applications for reserved seats from foreigners), "Macbeth" (1888, with incidental music by Sir Arthur Sullivan), "Henry VII" (1892), [ [ Review and drawings of "Henry VIII"] ] "Becket" by Alfred Tennyson (1893), "King Arthur" by J. Comyns Carr, with incidental music by Sir Arthur Sullivan (1895), [ [ Information about "King Arthur" including an image of the program] ] "Cymbeline" (1896) and Victorien Sardou and Émile Moreau's play "Madame Sans-Gêne" (1897).

When Irving and Terry toured America, as they did several times beginning in 1883, the theatre played works with many famous actors including John Forbes-Robertson, Mrs. Patrick Campbell, Sarah Bernhardt and Eleanora Duse. Martin Harvey, a pupil of Irving's played a season there in 1899. Benoît-Constant Coquelin appeared as Cyrano de Bergerac in the summer of 1898.

Later years

In 1904, the theatre was rebuilt and richly ornamented in rococo style by Bertie Crewe, retaining only the façade and portico of the original building. The theatre presented music hall and variety, in an attempt to compete with the Palace Theatre and the London Coliseum, but this was not a success, and the theatre soon returned to presenting drama. From 1909–38 the Melville Brothers ran a successful series of spectacular melodramas. [ [ Profile of the theatre] ] In 1919, additional minor alterations to the theatre were made by Edward Jones. Between the wars, dramas played at the theatre for ten months each year, followed by Christmas pantomimes, including "Queen of Hearts" in 1938. The Lyceum was the last London theatre to continue the early practise of concluding pantomimes with a harlequinade, a free standing entertainment of slapstick clowning, juggling and tumbling. The tradition ended with the closure of the theatre in 1939. [ [ "The Development of Pantomime" (It's Behind You!)] accessed 17 Oct 2007]

In 1939, the London City Council bought the building, with plans to demolish it to make room for road improvement. The theatre closed that year with a landmark performance of "Hamlet" directed by Sir John Gielgud (Ellen Terry's great nephew). [cite news|title=Lyceum Theatre - 'Hamlet' by William Shakespeare|publisher=The Times|date=1939-06-29|page=12] The road improvement plans collapsed, and after the war, in 1951, it was converted to a huge ballroom and reopened by Matthews and Sons, as the "Lyceum Ballroom". Many big bands played here, including the Oscar Rabin Band which performed frequently. In the 1960s and 1970s, the theatre was used as a pop concert venue and for television broadcasts. The Grateful Dead, Bob Marley, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Emerson Lake and Palmer, U2, and Culture Club all played here. [ [ Londontown profile of the theatre] ] Genesis recorded and filmed there in May 1980 for broadcast on the "Old Grey Whistle Test". The footage also appeared on the 2007 CD/DVD re-release of their 1980 album "Duke".

A proposed redevelopment of Covent Garden by the GLC in 1968 saw the theatre under threat, together with the nearby Vaudeville, Garrick, Adelphi and Duchess theatres. An active campaign by Equity, the Musicians' Union, and theatre owners under the auspices of the "Save London Theatres Campaign" led to the abandonment of the scheme. [ Vaudeville Theatre] accessed 28 Mar 2007] In 1973, the theatre gained protection and was Grade II* listed as "Interior despite adaptation and alteration for present ballroom use retains [a] substantial part of Crewe's work". [ [ English Heritage listing details] accessed 27 Mar 2007]

The theatre went dark in 1986, after the National Theatre's promenade performances (in 1985) of Bill Bryden's adaptation of the "Mysteries" trilogy. Brent Walker leased the theatre during this time but later gave up his lease, and in 1996 it was restored and reconverted into a theatre for large scale musicals or opera (with a suitably large orchestra pit) by Holohan Architects.

The theatre has been home to the musical version of "The Lion King" since 1999.

Recent and present productions

* "Jesus Christ Superstar" (November 19 1996March 28 1998)
* "Oklahoma!" (February 1999 – June 1999)
* "The Lion King" (September 24 1999 – )


The nearest London Underground station is Covent Garden.


; Sources consulted

* Cite book
author = Dickens, Charles, Jr
origyear = 1888, 1879
year = 2001
chapter = [ Lyceum Theatre entry]
title = Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1888
edition = facsimile
location = Devon
publisher = Old House Books
pages =
id = ISBN 1873590040
– A guide to London written by the novelist's son.
* Earl, John & Michael Sell, "The Theatres Trust Guide to British Theatres 1750–1950" pp. 123-4 (Theatres Trust, 2000) ISBN 0-7136-5688-3
* [ History of the Lyceum]
* [ Profile of the theatre]
* [ Another profile of the theatre with images]
* [ Article on the theatre]

; Endnotes

External links

* [ Lyceum Theatre] – Official website
* [ The Bram Stoker Collection (on his collaboration with Henry Irving at the Lyceum)]
* [ Statistical information about the theatre]
* [ Architectural information about the theatre]
* [ Information about productions at the theatre] at the Victorian Web
* [ A cogent summary of the theatre's history]
* [ Research article about the ownership (lessor) of the theatre, with information about the Irving era]
* [ History of the Sublime Society of Beef Steaks]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Lyceum Theatre (London) — Das Lyceum Theatre 2006 bei einer Aufführung des Musicals Der König der Löwen Das Lyceum Theatre ist ein Theater in London. Es befindet sich im Theaterviertel West End. Geschichte Das Theater wurde 1765 von James Payne für die Society of Artists… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Lyceum Theatre — may refer to:* Lyceum Theatre, London, a 2,000 seat West End theatre located in the City of Westminster * Lyceum Theatre (New York), a legitimate Broadway theatre located at 149 West 45th Street in midtown Manhattan * Lyceum Theatre (Crewe), an… …   Wikipedia

  • Lyceum Theatre — bezeichnet mehrere Theater: Lyceum Theatre (London), ein 2000 Sitzplätze Theater im Londoner West End Lyceum Theatre (Crewe), ein Theater in Crewe aus Edwardischer Zeit Lyceum Theatre (Sheffield), ein Theater mit 1068 Sitzplätzen in Sheffield… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Lyceum Theatre — ▪ theatre, Westminster, London, United Kingdom       playhouse on Wellington Street, just north of the Strand, in the Greater London borough of Westminster (Westminster, City of).       A hall called the Lyceum was built near the site in 1771. A… …   Universalium

  • Lyceum Theatre (Sheffield) — The Lyceum is a 1068 seat theatre in the City of Sheffield, England. HistoryBuilt in 1897 to a traditional proscenium arch design, it is the only surviving theatre outside of London designed by the famous theatre architect W.G.R. Sprague and the… …   Wikipedia

  • Gaiety Theatre, London — Infobox Theatre name = Gaiety Theatre caption = The Gaiety Theatre, c. 1905 address = Aldwych city = Westminster, London country = designation = Demolished 1956 latitude = 51.513056 longitude = 0.1175 architect = Bassett and Keeling owner =… …   Wikipedia

  • Theatre Royal, Drury Lane — Coordinates: 51°30′46″N 0°07′14″W …   Wikipedia

  • theatre — /thee euh teuhr, theeeu /, n. theater. * * * I Building or space in which performances are given before an audience. It contains an auditorium and stage. In ancient Greece, where Western theatre began (5th century BC), theatres were constructed… …   Universalium

  • theatre, Western — ▪ art Introduction       history of the Western theatre from its origins in pre Classical antiquity to the present.       For a discussion of drama as a literary form, see dramatic literature and the articles on individual national literatures.… …   Universalium

  • London — Die Buchstaben und Zahlen zwischen den Linien | H6 | bezeichnen die Quadrate des Planes. Abbeyfield RoadH6 Abbey RoadA1, 2 – StreetG2, 3; G5 Abercorn PlaceA2 Acacia RoadAB1, 2 AchillesB5 Acton StreetDE2 Adam StreetH5 Addington SquareF7 Adelaide… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon