21 Wellington Street
The present-day Lyceum Theatre was first built in 1834, though a theatre by the same name has existed in Covent Garden since 1765. One of London’s largest theatre venues, it holds 2,100 seats on 3 levels. Originally designed by Samuel Beazley, it quickly became one of London’s most popular venues, hosting a wide variety of entertainment. Its operas included the premiere of the first modern English opera, The Mountain Sylph in 1834, while other productions included burlesques, pantomimes, and adaptations of Charles Dickens novels including A Tale of Two Cities and Martin Chuzzlewit.
In 1878, popular actor Henry Irving took over management of the theatre and became one of the most influential actor-managers of the era. He immediately hired one of the greatest leading ladies of the day, Ellen Terry, to star opposite him in a variety of productions, including many of the great Shakespearean plays such as Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet, and Much Ado About Nothing. The duo became two of the biggest stars in British theatre, and embarked on a number of American tours. Irving became the first British actor to receive a knighthood in 1895. Author Bram Stoker served as the business manager of the theatre for over twenty years, and he based the title character of his novel Dracula on Irving.
Music Venue Years and Past Shows
The building underwent major renovations in 1904, with a new impressive rococo interior designed by Bertie Crewe. It opened with music hall and vaudevillian acts, but as these were not successful, it returned to presenting drama. The London City Council bought the building in 1939, with plans to demolish it to make way for road improvements, which were luckily abandoned after World War II. It was converted into a ballroom and then a concert venue. In the 60’s, 70’s, and early 80’s it hosted performances by bands such as The Clash, The Grateful Dead, U2, and Queen.
After laying dormant for 10 years from 1986, it was completely refurbished as a theatre once again, and opened its doors to a revival of Jesus Christ Superstar in November 1996. A brief run of the National Theatre’s production of Oklahoma! followed, before Julie Taymor’s acclaimed production of The Lion King opened in 1999. It is the longest-running production in the Lyceum Theatre’s history.
Access and Facilities
- A cloakroom is available
- There are bars on all three levels
- There are male and female toilets located on all three levels
- Wheelchair access is available in the Stalls