The Adelphi Theatre London that stands today opened its doors in December 1930, designed by the architect Ernest Schaufelberg. The first production to open in this theatre was Evergreen, a musical by Lorenz Hart and Richard Rodgers. The art deco features created during this time are still apparent today, having been extensively restored in a 1993 renovation. This building is actually the fourth theatre to reside on the site, the first of which opened its doors on 27th November 1806 under the name The Sans Pareil.
The Sans Pareils was built by John Scott, a private businessman who built the theatre for his daughter so that she would have a place to perform and have the experience of managing a theatre. The theatre was refurbished in 1819 and renamed the Adelphi. In this incarnation the theatre became associated with burlettas, a form of entertainment where a straight play was substituted with songs and musical accompaniment to get round legal restrictions on the public performance of legitimate dramas.
Another name change in 1829 to Theatre Royal, Adelphi saw the theatre house a very successful series of stage adaptations of the novels of Charles Dickens, starting with The Pickwick Papers. Come 1858, the theatre had been demolished, rebuilt and renamed the Theatre Royal, New Adelphi. This was changed in 1867 to The Royal Adelphi Theatre.
A new theatre was constructed in 1901, designed by Ernest Runtz, opening as the Century Theatre in September 1901, but reverting to the Royal Adelphi Theatre in 1902. It became home to several musical comedies in the early 20th century, including The Earl and the Girl (1904), The Boy (1917) and Mr. Cinders (1929). Once again, and for the final time, the Royal Adelphi Theatre was knocked down and rebuilt as the structure we see now, but it didn’t receive its current name until 1940 when the ‘Royal’ epithet was dropped.
This house has become heavily associated with musical theatre in the last 40 years, with Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music opening here in 1975, Cameron Mackintosh’s first production of My Fair Lady in 1982, and almost exclusively showing musicals since 1993 upon the renovation of the theatre and the opening of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Sunset Boulevard. The transfer of Chicago from Broadway in 1997 brought the theatre its longest-running tenant, racking up almost nine years of performances before transferring to the Cambridge Theatre in 2006.
Recent shows at the Adelphi Theatre include the Olivier Award-winning production of Kinky Boots, set in a Northamptonshire shoe factory where the owner taps into the world of drag to improve business, ran until January 2019. The Broadway production of Waitress also ran at the Adelphi. The next production is Back to the Future, which will make its West End premiere at the Adelphi Theatre from August 2021.
The auditorium has three levels – Stalls, Dress Circle and Upper Circle. The raking of the seats is not particularly substantial in any part of the theatre.
In the Stalls, the overhang of the Dress Circle affects the view of the top of the stage from the seats in Row P and onwards.
In the Dress Circle, patrons may miss action at the top and front of the stage in Row N due to the shallow rake of the seats in front and the overhang of the Upper Circle.
The Upper Circle is set fairly high in this theatre, though is not as far from the stage as in other theatres.