Apollo Victoria Theatre
The Apollo Victoria Theatre was opened in 1930 as a cinema. Built by Ernest Wamsley Lewis and William Edward Trent, the interior was decorated in a nautical Art Deco theme with scallop shells and sculpted fountains ordaining the walls and ceilings. This theme still exists today, though it has been lit in a manner to highlight the green tones of the decoration – a nod to the Emerald City of the theatre’s current tenant, the hit musical Wicked. The theatre also contains a theatre organ that used to be play before the showings of films. The pipes of the organ are incorporated into the set design for Wicked and can be seen above the proscenium.
Named the New Victoria Cinema, films would show regularly but there was also the option to house variety acts and big bands on the theatre’s stage, which offered London audiences an eclectic mix of entertainment possibilities in one venue.
Closing during World War II though not sustaining any serious damage, the theatre reopened in May 1941 and continued to entertain well into the 1970s, finally closing in 1976. The theatre went dark for five years, reopening in 1981 as a fully-fledged theatre. Shirley Bassey was the headline act in a celebratory concert to mark the reopening of the newly named Apollo Victoria Theatre. Since then, musicals have reigned supreme, starting in 1981 with a production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music starring Petula Clark.
1984 saw the arrival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s latest smash hit, Starlight Express. The auditorium had to be completely redesigned to incorporate the production’s set design, which included race tracks through the audience and a split-level skating rink on the stage. The show was a huge success, running for 18 years. Upon its closure, the interior was restored by the architects Jaques Muir and Partners.
The auditorium has two levels - Stalls and Dress Circle. This is a very wide auditorium, and those at the extreme sides may suffer with sightlines, but the price of the tickets for these seats does reflect the quality. The overhang of the Dress Circle will affect the view of the top of the stage from seats in Row Y and onwards.
The Dress Circle in this theatre is very deep, and as such the last few rows of seats do feel rather removed from the action, though the view is still excellent and the spectacle of the current production is still very much apparent from these seats. The legroom is also generally very good.