Her Majesty's Theatre
This incarnation of Her Majesty’s Theatre opened in 1897, the project of Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree who wished to have a theatre to house productions of Shakespeare’s work and literary adaptations. But there have been four theatres on this site since 1705, the first being named The Queen’s Theatre with permission from Queen Anne. It became associated with operatic productions until it was destroyed by a fire in 1789.
The new theatre opened in 1791, named the King’s Theatre, and at the time was the largest theatre in England. This venue saw the London debut of Mozart opera, hosting the premiere of La Clemenza de Tito in 1806, as well as premieres of Cosi Fan Tutti, The Magic Flute and Don Giovanni. It was Queen Victoria’s accession to the throne in 1837 that brought about the name change to Her Majesty’s Theatre. Opera continued to play a large role in the theatre’s repertoire, with the famous Swedish singer Jenny Lind making her debut here in a production of Roberto by Meyerbeer in 1847, and she also performed for Queen Victoria in Bellini’s Norma. Beethoven’s Fidelio made its British premiere here in 1851, and Faust by Gounod also premiered here, in Italian, in 1853. This building succumbed to fire in 1867.
The third theatre was designed by Charles Lee and completed two years after the fire of 1867, but did not house any acts until 1875 – the Evangelist Meetings of Moody and Sankey took place here. When opera did return to Her Majesty’s, the British premiere of Carmen by Bizet took place in 1878, as well as a complete performance of the Ring Cycle by Wagner in 1882. The theatre closed in 1890 to be demolished in 1892.
Today’s building was designed by C J Phipps and commissioned by the actor Herbert Beerbohm Tree, who had a flat built into the design for the theatre – a flat for himself that in 1904 he would repurpose as a drama school, now known as the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art – RADA. Tree’s management of Her Majesty’s Theatre saw the venue become known as a playhouse rather than an operatic house, with productions of Shakespeare’s works as well as adaptations of novels.
The auditorium, designed in the style of Louis XIV, is appropriately scaled to house musicals as well as straight plays, and throughout the 20th century a host of musicals have played here, including Brigadoon, Paint Your Wagon, Bye Bye Birdie, West Side Story, On The Twentieth Century, Fiddler on the Roof, Bugsy Malone and the theatre’s current tenant, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera, which opened in October 1986 and is the theatre’s longest running production.
Her Majesty's Theatre is currently owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Theatres Group.
The auditorium has four levels – Stalls, Royal Circle, Grand Circle and Balcony.
Views from the Stalls are very good, though pillars in Row N to obstruct the view from certain seats. Other than the front row, the legroom is good throughout the Stalls.
The Royal Circle generally offers good views of the stage, though pillars supporting the Grand Circle do restrict views from certain seats, which are priced reflectively. The overhang of the Grand Circle will affect the view from seats in Row E onwards.
Whilst the legroom in the Grand Circle really isn’t great, the Balcony is set behind the Grand Circle meaning that the view of the stage is not obstructed by an overhang.
The Balcony does feel quite a long way from the stage, and the legroom is slim, but the sharp rake of the seating ensures good views.