The Gielgud Theatre opened on 27th December 1906 as the Hicks Theatre. Designed by W. G. R. Sprague in the style of Louis XVI, it was built as a pair with the Queen’s Theatre which opened 10 months later in October 1907. The theatre was decorated with impressive gold leaf work in the auditorium and has a beautiful circular staircase in the foyer, leading up to an oval gallery. These features were all restored in a 1987 refurbishment. The Gielgud was refurbished again in 2008 by Cameron Mackintosh, who reinstalled the boxes at the back of the Dress Circle which had previously been removed in another renovation.
The Hicks Theatre was built for Seymour Hicks who co-wrote the first production to play at the venue, a musical called The Beauty of Bath. He followed this up in 1907 with another musical, My Darling. The house was renamed the Globe Theatre in 1909 by its new manager, Charles Frohman from America. It was known as the Globe Theatre for the next 85 years until a 1994 name change to avoid confusion with Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on the South Bank. It was then that the theatre received its current name, the Gielgud.
Hit shows at the Gielgud Theatre include 1966’s There’s a Girl in my Soup, the hugely successful Daisy Pulls It Off in 1983 and Peter Shaffer’s Lettice and Lovage opened in 1987 starring Maggie Smith. Other stars to have graced the stage include Michael Gambon, Penelope Keith, Rachel Weisz, Daniel Radcliffe, Patrick Stewart and Helen Mirren.
Musicals have found relative success at the Gielgud Theatre too, with Broadway transfers of Avenue Q and Hair, plus Andrew Lloyd Webber’s reworking of Tell Me On A Sunday starring Denise Van Outen.
The Gielgud played host to Simon Stephens' The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time from June 2014 to July 2017, before Jez Butterworth's The Ferryman transferred from the Royal Court in September of that year. In 2018, Stephen Sondheim's musical Company opened at the Gielgud starring Patti LuPone and Rosalie Craig in the first version of the show that will gender-swap the story's central character. In 2021, the West End premiere of To Kill A Mockingbird will open.
The Gielgud Theatre is owned by Delfont Mackintosh Theatres.
The auditorium has three levels – Stalls, Dress Circle and Grand Circle.
The Stalls offers very good sightlines with each row being offset from the one in front. The overhang of the Dress Circle becomes apparent from Row R onwards, obstructing the top of the stage.
The Dress Circle doesn’t have a particularly strong rake which may cause viewing issues, but the stage is not obstructed by the overhang of the Upper Circle.
The Upper Circle has had new seats installed in the most recent renovation which has helped the amount of legroom at this level. The seats curve inwards towards the stage.