To honour Stephen Sondheim’s 90th birthday next March, the Queen’s Theatre is to be renamed the Sondheim Theatre. This makes him the only living artist to have a theatre named in his honour both in the West End and on Broadway.
Following the renovation of wartime bomb damage and a major restoration of the auditorium and the complete backstage, the newly named Sondheim Theatre will continue as the home of world’s longest running musical Les Misérables as it enters its 35th year.
Stephen Sondheim said: “I have loved British Theatre since I saw my first play here in 1958. I have treasured Cameron Mackintosh’s support and friendship ever since he produced Side by Side by Sondheim in 1976. Cameron is synonymous with British Theatre, so the confluence on this occasion is truly exhilarating. I am chuffed, as you say in British English, to a degree I wouldn’t have imagined. Or as we say in American English, it’s awesome.”
The Queen’s Theatre originally opened on 8 October 1907 with The Sugar Bowl, a comedy by Madeleine Lucette Ryley and was designed by architect W.G.R. Sprague as a pair with the adjoining corner of Shaftesbury Avenue. On 8 July 1959 the theatre reopened with John Gielgud’s Shakespearean recital Ages of Man. Architects Westwood Sons & Partners reconstructed the building at a cost of £250,000, with Sir Hugh Casson acting as consultant on the décor. On 13 July 2019 the theatre will close for four months of rebuilding work both backstage and in the auditorium. This work will also restore W.G.R. Sprague’s original boxes and loges which, along with the entire front of house, were destroyed by a bomb in 1940 and caused the theatre to be closed for 20 years. The restored theatre will be returned to its pre-war splendour, reopening on 18 December 2019 as the Sondheim Theatre.
Produced on stage by Mackintosh, Les Misérables is the world’s longest running musical now in its 35th year in London. Produced on screen also by Mackintosh (along with Working Title and Universal), Les Misérables is now the most successful movie of an original stage musical. From 10 August – 30 November 2019 a spectacular staging of Les Misérables in concert with a company of over 65 will run at the intimate Gielgud Theatre next door, for which most performances are sold out. The new production of Les Misérables, with a separate company, is currently on a sold-out international tour which has recently been extended to Autumn 2020.
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