Lyric Theatre

A guide to the Lyric Theatre in London's West End

Opening in 1888, the second theatre to do so on Shaftesbury Avenue, the heart of London's theatreland, the Lyric is a venue rich in history and an ideal location from which to begin, or end, a visit being close to many popular restaurants and pubs, making it ideal for pre- or post-theatre drinks or a theatre meal deal.

Located just a few minutes from Leicester Square tube station, and a short walk from Piccadilly Circus and Tottenham Court Road, the venue has a capacity of 967 over four levels, most of them (507) in the stalls and circle. The fact that the interior retains many of its original period features is unusual in that it stands behind the facade of an 18th-century house and used water power to operate its iron stage curtain.

Originally designed to stage light operetta the venue has gone on to stage comedies, classic drama and musicals.

The history

The Lyric Theatre is the oldest theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue and opened in 1888 with a transfer of the comic opera Dorothy. Designed by the architect C J Phipps, the theatre has a long and illustrious history and its productions have included The Mountebanks (1892), a comic opera by W S Gilbert; Frou-Frou (1898), which starred the famous French actress Sarah Bernhardt; The Gold Diggers (1926) featuring Tallulah Bankhead; Berkeley Square (1929), which starred a young Lesley Howard and Eugene O'Neill's Strange Interlude (1931).

Other notable performances have included The Winslow Boy (1946) by Terence Rattigan; Noel Coward's South Sea Bubble (1955) starring Vivien Leigh; Habeas Corpus (1972) by Alan
Bennett and starring Alec Guinness; Willy Russell's Blood Brothers (1983) featuring Barbara Dickson; and Kenneth Branagh in John Osborne's Look Back in Anger and Loot (1984) by Joe Orton starring Leonard Rossiter who died on stage.

More recently, John Malkovich appeared in Burn This (1990); the musical Five Guys Named Moe began a five-year run (1990); Brendan Fraser starred in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (2001) while in 2003 Al Murray, Pub Landlord, began a short run with Who Dares Wines and Sir Ian McKellen starred in Strindberg's Dance of Death. And, in 2006, Woody Harrelson and Clare Higgins were in Tennessee William's Night of the Iguana, while Eddie Izzard brought Stripped (2008) and 2009 saw Thriller based on the songs of Michael Jackson.

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