Shaftesbury Avenue is located in the heart of London’s West End. It was built in the late 19th century and was named after the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, Anthony Ashley Cooper.
Interestingly, this street was the birthplace of British singer/songwriter Cat Stevens, and, if you’re a Harry Potter fan, you might also recognise it from scenes in ‘Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows’.
What Shaftesbury Avenue is truly famous for though, is its theatres; at one point it housed seven different theatres. However, the Saville Theatre was recently transformed into a cinema leaving 6 theatres remaining, which still stand to this day, each producing a variety of different shows.
Opening in 1888, the Lyric Theatre is the oldest theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue. It has 915 seats over 4 levels, and welcomes thousands of visitors every month. As well as the main auditorium, there are two bars and a VIP room, which is perfect for small, private functions.
It was originally built as a theatre for operetta, but has since hosted musicals, comedy and drama productions. Some notable shows include stand-up comedian, ‘Al Murray, The Pub Landlord’ as well as the Michael Jackson musical ‘Thriller’.
The Apollo Theatre is named after the Greek God of the arts and leader of the muses, as it was built as a musical entertainment venue. It opened in 1901 and has seen many stars perform on its stage including the likes of Felicity Kendal, John Mills and Vanessa Redgrave.
It seats 775 audience members, and is often sold out. With the Bakerloo and Piccadilly Tube stops less than 5 minute’s walk away, getting to and from the Apollo Theatre is very easy.
Originally known as the ‘Hicks Theatre’, after Seymour Hicks, for whom it was built, the Gielgud theatre opened in 1906. In 1909 the theatre was taken over and renamed the ‘Globe Theatre’; it retained this name for 85 years, before being renamed again to the ‘Gielgud Theatre’ in 1994.
This theatre hosts a variety of productions, including musicals and plays. Previous musical productions include: ‘Tell Me on a Sunday’ by Andrew Lloyd Webber and starring Denise Van Outen, ‘Avenue Q’, and ‘Chariots of Fire’.
The Gielgud Theatre has also welcomed many Royal Shakespeare Company productions, including ‘All’s Well That Ends Well’ starring Dame Judi Dench, ‘The Crucible’ and ‘The Canterbury Tales’.
Designed by the same architect, as a twin to the Hicks Theatre (now the Gielgud Theatre), Queen’s Theatre opened in 1907, 10 months after the Gielgud Theatre.
During World War II, a German bomb directly hit the theatre, resulting in severe damage to the façade and lobby area. The theatre then remained closed for 19 years until a £250,000 renovation took place; the theatre subsequently re-opened in 1959.
Since April 2004, Queen’s Theatre has housed the longest running musical of all time, ‘Les Miserables’, which transferred from the nearby Palace Theatre.
The Palace Theatre is at the intersection of Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road; its red brick façade dominates the street. Capable of seating 1,400 people, the Palace Theatre opened as the ‘Royal English Opera House’ in 1891. Within a year it was sold, converted into a music hall, and renamed ‘The Palace Theatre of Varieties’.
Two of the most notable and exceptional productions that have taken place at the Palace Theatre include ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ which ran for 2,258 performances, and ‘Les Miserables’, which played at this theatre for 19 years before moving to the nearby Queen’s Theatre.
The Shaftesbury Theatre is named after the street upon which it is located, Shaftesbury Avenue. This theatre opened in 1911 and was the last one to be built in Shaftesbury Avenue.
In 2006 this 1,400 seater theatre saw a huge renovation, and since then has hosted a large number of revivals and new shows including ‘Hairspray’, which ran from 2007-2010, ‘West Side Story’ and ‘Flashdance, The Musical’.
Shaftesbury Theatre has also housed other performances as well as musicals and plays, including the infamous Derren Brown and his very popular magic and psychology show ‘Svengali’ in 2011.
There’s no doubt that Shaftesbury Avenue is the perfect spot for any theatre lovers. With 6 theatres, you truly have a variety of shows to choose from!