Noël Coward Theatre in 2009
|Address||St. Martin's Lane
|Public transit||Leicester Square|
|Operator||Delfont Mackintosh Theatres|
|Designation||Grade II listed|
|Type||West End theatre|
|Capacity||872 on 4 levels|
|Architect||W. G. R. Sprague|
|Official website at Delfont Mackintosh Theatres|
The Noël Coward Theatre, formerly known as the Albery Theatre, is a West End theatre on St. Martin's Lane in the City of Westminster, London. It opened on 12 March 1903 as the New Theatre and was built by Sir Charles Wyndham behind Wyndham's Theatre which was completed in 1899. The building was designed by architect W. G. R. Sprague with an exterior in the classical style and an interior in the Rococo style.
In 1973 it was renamed the Albery Theatre in tribute to Sir Bronson Albery who had presided as its manager for many years. Since September 2005, the theatre has been owned by Delfont-Mackintosh Ltd. It underwent major refurbishment in 2006, and was renamed the Noël Coward Theatre when it re-opened for the London premiere of Avenue Q on 1 June 2006. Noël Coward, one of Britain's greatest playwrights and actors, appeared in his own play, I'll Leave It To You, at the then New Theatre in 1920, the first West End production of one of his plays.
The theatre seats 872 patrons on four levels. The building is now a Grade II Listed structure.
After opening in 1903 with a production of Rosemary starring Charles Wyndham and his wife, Mary Moore (3 July 1861 – 6 April 1931), the Noël Coward Theatre has hosted a number productions. I'll Leave it to You, in 1920, was Coward's first play. George Bernard Shaw's St. Joan with an acclaimed performance by actress Sybil Thorndike ran in 1924.
The 1930s saw the greatest commercial success of John Gielgud's career, Richard of Bordeaux (1933). Gielgud followed up this triumph with a legendary production of Hamlet in which he both played the title role and directed a company that included Jessica Tandy, Jack Hawkins and a young Alec Guinness in one of his first professional roles as Osric. Gielgud also appeared with Laurence Olivier, Peggy Ashcroft and Edith Evans in Romeo and Juliet. With the Blitz came the destruction of the theatres that were home to the Old Vic and Sadler's Wells Theatre Companies. Both companies made the New Theatre home until their respective theatres were rebuilt in the 1950s. One of the most successful shows to play the New Theatre opened 30 June 1960, it was Lionel Bart's musical retelling of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, Oliver!. It ran for 2,618 performances.
A 1970 Royal Shakespeare Company production of Dion Boucicault's London Assurance, directed by Ronald Eyre, with Donald Sinden as Sir Harcourt Courtly, (for which he received the 1975 Drama Desk Special Award) Roger Rees as Charles, Judi Dench as Grace and Dinsdale Landen as Dazzle, transferred to the New Theatre in 1972 for a year, prior to its 1974 run in New York.
In 1981, Children of a Lesser God won Olivier Awards for Best New Play and for actors Trevor Eve and Elizabeth Quinn. Among some of the 1980s productions is the 1994 revival of Turgenev's A Month in the Country starring Helen Mirren and John Hurt.
In the 2000s the theatre has played host to several Shakespeare productions including a production of Twelfth Night set in India with an entirely Asian cast. The production played to packed houses and only closed as the Royal Shakespeare Company themselves had exclusive rights to perform their annual London season of Tragedies there. Between December 2004 and April 2005, they presented Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth, King Lear and a brand new production of Euripides' Hecuba starring Vanessa Redgrave.
On 8 June 2005, Dion Boucicault's Victorian melodrama The Shaughraun opened; however, its success at the Dublin Gate Theatre was not repeated in London and it closed on 30 July. A dark period of around three months followed before the theatre was transferred to the ownership of Delfont Mackintosh Limited and reopened in October 2005 with The Right Size's new production Ducktastic!. Once again this failed to live up to expectations and closed just three weeks after opening on 19 November 2005. A short Christmas season of Patrick Stewart's one-man version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol played from 6 to 31 December 2005, before the theatre hosted the Edinburgh International Festival hit drama Blackbird starring Roger Allam. The award-winning play Enron (directed by Rupert Goold, starring Samuel West and Tim Pigott-Smith) transferred here after a sellout run at the Royal Court. The European premiere of the Broadway hit, Avenue Q, started previewing on 2 June 2006 and had its opening night on 28 June 2006, finally closing on 28 March 2009 prior to transferring to the Gielgud Theatre.
Following a production of Deathtrap, directed by Matthew Warchus and starring Simon Russell Beale and Jonathan Groff, the theatre became the home of jukebox musical Million Dollar Quartet in February 2011. The show recently had its booking period at the theatre extended until November 2012.
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