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Vaudeville Theatre

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

The original Vaudeville Theatre opened on Charing Cross in 1870 with the aim, as the name suggests, of showcasing vaudeville and musical revues. 

The venue saw both the first conspicuous success by the great Shakespearean actor Henry Irving and the return to the stage of Macaulay Culkin in 2000. In recent times it has staged a variety of productions including musicals, comedies, stand-up comedy and serious drama.

The theatre is located in the heart of the West End close to attractions including Covent Garden and Leicester Square with its galleries. It’s also within easy walking distance of popular restaurants and pubs making it ideally placed if you're looking to combine your visit with pre- or post-theatre drinks or a meal.

It’s a short walk from Covent Garden tube station, and from Embankment and Charing Cross. The venue has a capacity of 690 accommodated across three levels: stalls, dress and upper circle.

The history

The current Vaudeville Theatre is the third to stand on the site. Sir Henry Irving enjoyed his first success in 1870 as Digby Grant in James Albery's Two Roses, which ran for 300 performances a feat then unheard of. It was surpassed, however, by the comedy Our Boys by H J Byron which ran for 1,000 shows from 1875. It was so unprecedented that bus conductors would shout 'our boys' when approaching the theatre rather than the name of the theatre when arriving at the stop outside the theatre. Ibsen's Hedda Gabler appeared in 1875.

In 1882 the theatre was refurbished and passed into the hands of the Gatti family, who owned the Adelphi, in 1892. A string of very successful musical comedies began shortly after. The theatre closed in 1925 when it was completely reconstructed to designs by Robert Atkins. The auditorium was changed from a horseshoe shape to its current rectangular layout. Notable productions included William Somerset Maugham's comedy The Breadwinner in 1930, the hit musical Salad Days which premièred at Bristol Old Vic in 1954 and Arnold Wesker's Chips with Everything in 1959. The theatre was threatened with demolition under redevelopment plans put forward by the Greater London Council (GLC) in 1968 but was saved after a public campaign.

More recent productions have included Caught in the Net – Run for Your Wife by Ray Cooney, Sonic Waffle with Ross Noble, Swimming with Sharks starring Christian Slater and Piaf by Pam Gems with Elena Roger. Others include Private Lives by Noel Coward with Kim Cattrall and Matthew McFadden, Ed Byrne: Different Class, The Importance of Being Earnest starring Penelope Keith and God Only Knows by Hugh Whitemore

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