Gillian Lynne Theatre formerly known as the New London
The Gillian Lynne Theatre, formerly known as the New London Theatre before it was renamed after the legendary West End choreographer, is currently home to the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical School of Rock.
The New London Theatre originally opened in 1847 as the Mogul Music Hall, and from 1919 to 1965 it was named the Winter Garden Theatre. It was renovated and reopened in 1973 as the New London Theatre, and was home to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, which was the longest-running musical in West End history when it closed in 2002. It was also used as a television studio, and was the home of Masters Snooker for two years in the 70s.
Since the closure of Cats, the theatre has hosted productions of Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and musical adaptation of the 2003 film School of Rock. It has also hosted the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of King Lear, starring Sir Ian McKellen directed by Trevor Nunn, and the transfer of the National Theatre’s hugely successful production of War Horse, based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo.
In 2018, Andrew Lloyd Webber, whose Really Useful Group have owned the building since 1991, announced the theatre would be renamed the Gillian Lynne Theatre, the first London theatre to be named after a woman.
Dame Gillian Lynne started her dancing career as a ballerina, joining the Sadler’s Wells Ballet during the Second World War, and performing her first major solo at the opening of London’s Royal Opera House on her 20th birthday. She went on to join the Royal Ballet, and became a dancer in the West End, appearing as a star dancer at the London Palladium, and major productions such as Can Can at the London Coliseum.
Lynne quickly became renowned as a choreographer and director, working on productions with the English National Opera, Royal Shakespeare Company and many West End and Broadway shows. She may be best-known for her collaborations with Andrew Lloyd Webber: she choreographed the musicals Cats (which opened at the New London Theatre in 1981), The Phantom of the Opera (the second-longest running West End musical) and Aspects of Love (which ran in the West End and Broadway).
Lynne received a Special Award at the 2013 Olivier Awards for her continued services to theatre, and in 2014, she was made a Dame in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list.
Fun Fact – Whilst Cats opened at the New London Theatre, the building had previously been called the Winter Garden. In New York, there is a theatre named the Winter Garden on Broadway which in 1982 saw the opening of a transfer from the West End – the new Lloyd Webber musical Cats