Aldwych Theatre in 2006
|Public transit||Covent Garden|
|Type||West End theatre|
|Architect||W. G. R. Sprague|
The theatre was constructed in the newly built Aldwych as a pair with the Waldorf Theatre, now known as the Novello Theatre. Both buildings were designed in the Edwardian Baroque style by W. G. R. Sprague. The Aldwych Theatre was funded by Seymour Hicks in association with the American impresario Charles Frohman, and built by Walter Wallis of Balham.
The theatre opened on 23 December 1905 with a production of Blue Bell, a new version of Hicks's popular pantomime Bluebell in Fairyland. In 1906, Hicks's The Beauty of Bath, followed in 1907 by The Gay Gordons, played at the theatre. In February 1913 the theatre was used by Serge Diaghilev and Vaslav Nijinsky for the first rehearsals of Le Sacre du Printemps before its première in Paris during May. In 1920, Basil Rathbone played Major Wharton in The Unknown.
From 1923 to 1933, the theatre was the home of the series of twelve farces, known as the Aldwych farces, most of which were written by Ben Travers. Members of the regular company for these farces included Ralph Lynn, Tom Walls, Ethel Coleridge, Gordon James, Mary Brough, Winifred Shotter and Robertson Hare. In 1933, Richard Tauber presented and starred in a new version of Das Dreimäderlhaus at the Aldwych under the title Lilac Time. From the mid-1930s until about 1960, the theatre was owned by the Abrahams family.
In 1949 Laurence Olivier directed the first London production of Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire at the Aldwych Theatre. Starring as Blanche DuBois was Olivier's wife Vivien Leigh, who later won an Academy Award for the role in the 1951 film of Williams's play. Bonar Colleano co-starred as Stanley.
On 15 December 1960, after intense speculation, it was announced that the Royal Shakespeare Company, headquartered in Stratford-upon-Avon and under the directorship of Peter Hall (director) was to make the Aldwych Theatre its base in London for the next three years. In the event the company stayed for over 20 years, finally moving to the Barbican Arts Centre in 1982. The theatre was sold to the Nederlander Organization immediately afterwards. Among numerous RSC productions staged at this venue were The Wars of the Roses, "Ondine" with Peter Hall's wife Leslie Caron, The Greeks, and Nicholas Nickleby, as well as the transfer of most of the Shakespeare productions that were first staged at the RSC's Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford. During absences of the RSC, the theatre hosted the annual World Theatre Seasons, foreign plays in their original productions, invited to London by the theatre impresario Peter Daubeny, annually from 1964 to 1973 and finally in 1975. For his involvement with these Aldwych seasons, run without Arts Council or other official support, Daubeny won the Evening Standard special award in 1972.
In 1990-91, Joan Collins starred in a revival of Private Lives at the Aldwych. The theatre is referred to in Julio Cortázar's short story Instructions for John Howell (Instrucciones para John Howell) in the anthology All Fires the Fire (Todos los fuegos el fuego).
Since 2000, the theatre has hosted a mixture of plays, comedies and musical theatre productions. Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Whistle Down the Wind played until 2001, and Fame enjoyed an extended run from 2002 to 2006. From 2006 to 2011, it was the home to the British musical version of Dirty Dancing.Beautiful: The Carole King Musical ran from 2015 to 2017.
In March 2018, the theatre opened the world premiere of Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.