The Apollo Theatre opened on 21st February 1901 and was designed by Lewin Sharp for Henry Lowenfield. It was constructed from plain London brick in keeping with the buildings of the neighbouring streets, with the façade fashioned in the Renaissance style by T. Simpson. This was the first theatre in London to be built during the Edwardian period. Named after the god of the arts, the Apollo Theatre was specifically designed to house musical theatre, and opened with an American musical comedy, The Belle of Bohemia. This was followed by a series of Edwardian musical comedies produced by George Edwards. These didn’t find much success, and the theatre was taken over by impresario Tom B. Davis, who brought a number of variety acts and plays to the theatre during his tenure. But for a theatre that had been designed for musicals, its full potential was not being met.
A 1932 renovation saw the addition of a private foyer and an ante room installed to the Royal Box, but musicals remained elusive. Plays came and went, including the theatre’s biggest success to date - Ian Hay’s Housemaster, which ran for 662 performances from 1936. Even with a change of hands in 1944 to Prince Littler the trend of plays at the Apollo continued, with a revival of Noël Coward’s Private Lives and a new play, Treasure Hunt, directed by John Gielgud in 1949. The Housemaster lost its claim to the longest running play when Seagulls Over Sorrento played for three years from 1950, a feat beaten again in 1962 by the comedy Boeing Boeing.
The 1970s and 1980s saw a number of comedies play at the Apollo Theatre, and there were a number of high profile performers gracing the stage, including John Mills (Separate Tables, 1976), Albert Finney (Orphans, 1986), Zoe Wanamaker (Mrs Klein, 1989), Vanessa Redgrave (A Madhouse in God, 1989) and Peter O’Toole, who enjoyed great success with Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell.
Whilst musicals have remained very scarce at the Apollo, with The Last Five Years giving a one off performance in 2007, and Urinetown in 2014, it is currently playing host to a new British musical, The Go-Between, which opened in May 2016 starring Michael Crawford.
Ceiling collapse – The Apollo Theatre was thrust into national news on 19th December 2013 when during a performance of the Olivier Award winning play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time a large section of the ceiling collapsed, potentially caused by the heavy rain London had experienced that week. 88 people were injured. The theatre reopened in March 2014 and is currently home to the musical Everybody's Talking About Jamie, written by Doctor Who writer Tom MacRae and The Feeling frontman Dan Gillespie Sells.
The Apollo Theatre is currently owned by Nimax Theatres.
The auditorium has three levels – Stalls, Dress Circle and Grand Circle. The seats in the Stalls offer excellent views of the stage, with only the outermost seats having their view slightly hindered by the overhang of the Dress Circle.
The Dress Circle seats are slightly more problematic, with little legroom and very little raking in the seating. The last two rows of seats sit on a higher level and offer better views than those in front.
The Grand Circle, again, has poor legroom and a shallow rake. The last two rows of seats are also built up higher which, whilst good for viewing, might induce vertigo in those who suffer.