THE APOLLO THEATRE, LONDON
The Apollo Theatre: History and Information
The West End's Apollo Theatre is a Grade II listed theatre, on Shaftesbury Avenue in the City of Westminster, London. Designed by architect Lewin Sharp for owner Henry Lowenfield, it was the fourth legitimate theatre to be constructed on the street. The Apollo's doors opened on 21 February 1901 with the American musical comedy The Belle of Bohemia. The production was followed by John Martin-Harvey's season, including A Cigarette Maker's Romance and The Only Way, an adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities.
The Apollo Theatre was the first in London to be built in the Edwardian period, it was renovated by Schaufelberg in 1932, and a private foyer and ante room were installed to the Royal Box. The sculpted work on the stone fascia is by T. Simpson, the building is of plain brick to the neighbouring streets. The Apollo Theater has a first floor central loggia, inside there is a three galleried auditorium with elaborate plasterwork.The theatre seats 796, and the balcony on the 3rd tier is considered the steepest in London.
The Stoll Moss Group purchased the Apollo Theatre in 1975 and sold it to Andrew Lloyd-Webber's Really Useful Group and Bridgepoint Capital in 2000. Nica Burns and Max Weitzenhoffer purchased the theatre and several others in 2005, creating Nimax Theatres, which still owns the venue.
Apollo Theatre: Production history
The West End's Apollo Theatre has a rich and varied production history. George Edwards produced a series of successful Edwardian musical comedies, including Kitty Grey (1901), Three Little Maids and The Girl from Kays (1902). An English version of André Messager's light opera Véronique became a hit in 1904, starring with Ruth Vincent, who also starred in Edward German's Tom Jones in 1907. Between 1908 and 1912, the theatre hosted H. G. Pelissier's The Follies. After this, the theatre hosted a variety of works, including seasons of plays by Charles Hawtrey in 1913, 1914 and 1924, and Harold Brighouse's Hobson's Choice in 1916. Gilbert Dayle's What Would a Gentleman Do? played in 1918.
George Grossmith, Jr. and Edward Laurillard managed The Apollo Theatre from 1920 to 1923, presenting a series of plays and revivals, including Such a Nice Young Man by H.F. Maltby (1920) and the stage version of George Du Maurier's novel Trilby (1922). They had produced The Only Girl here in 1916 and Tilly of Bloomsbury in 1919. The Fake was produced in 1924, starring Godfrey Tearle. 1927 saw Abie's Irish Rose and Whispering Wires, with Henry Daniel. The next year, Laurence Olivier starred in R. C. Sherriff's Journey's End. Sean O'Casey's The Silver Tassie and Ivor Novello's A Symphony in Two Flats both played in 1929. Diana Wynyard starred as Charlotte Brontë in Clemence Dane's Wild Decembers in 1932, and Raymond Massey starred in Robert Sherwood's Pulitzer Prize-winning Idiot's Delight in 1938. Patrick Hamilton's play Gaslight held the stage in 1939, and Terence Rattigan's Flare Path played in 1942.
The Apollo Theatre was transferred to Prince Littler in 1944. John Clements and Kay Hammond starred in Noël Coward's Private Lives, and Margaret Rutherford starred in The Happiest Days of Your Life in 1948, followed by Sybil Thorndike and Lewis Casson in Treasure Hunt, directed by John Gielgud in 1949. After this, Seagulls Over Sorrento ran for over three years beginning in 1950. The Apollo's longest run was the comedy Boeing Boeing, starring Patrick Cargill and David Tomlinson, which opened in 1962 and transferred to the Duchess Theatre in 1965. In 1968, Gielgud starred in Alan Bennett's Forty Years On and in 1969, he returned in David Storey's Home, with Ralph Richardson. He returned to the Apollo Theatre London in 1988, at the age of 83, for the production Best of Friends by Hugh Whitemore.
A number of hit comedies transferred to or from The Apollo in the 1970s and 1980s, and other important plays at the theatre during this period included Rattigan's Separate Tables, with John Mills in 1976, Orphans in 1986 with Albert Finney, I'm Not Rappaport the same year, with Paul Scofield, and Dorothy Tutin, Eileen Atkins and Siân Phillips in Thursday's Ladies in 1987. Driving Miss Daisy played in 1988, starring Wendy Hiller, and 1989 saw Zoe Wanamaker in Mrs Klein, Vanessa Redgrave in A Mad house in Goa, and Peter O'Toole in Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell. Penelope Wilton starred in Rattigan's The Deep Blue Sea in 1993, and In Praise of Love played in 1995, with Peter Bowles. Mark Little starred in the Laurence Olivier Award-winning one-man show, Defending the Caveman in 1999.