The Lyceum Theatre opened in its current form in 1904 with a design by Bertie Crewe. The façade dates back to 1834, retaining a design by Samuel Beazley. The 1834 theatre opened as the Theatre Royal Lyceum and English Opera House and very much focused on performing English operas, rather than the Italian operas that the theatre had become associated with earlier in the 19th century. The 1840s also saw stage adaptations of Dickens’ novels being performed, including a highly successful production of Martin Chuzzlewit that ran for more than 100 performances. Dickens himself appeared on stage here in 1860 in a stage adaptation of his novel A Tale Of Two Cities.
The 1904 renovation saw the auditorium almost completely rebuilt and adorned in a rococo style of decoration which still exists today. After 25 years of presenting variety acts, Christmas pantomimes and a series of melodramas presented by the Melville Brothers, the building was closed in 1939 facing demolition. Fortunately, it was rescued and reopened in 1951 as the Lyceum Ballroom, a Mecca Ballroom which saw many famous bands perform through the 1970s, including The Who, The Police, Led Zeppelin, U2, Bob Marley and the Wailers. It closed again in 1986 but was restored to theatrical use in 1996, including the addition of an orchestra pit.
Fun Fact – in the theatre’s earlier incarnation it played host to the first London exhibition of Madame Tussaud’s waxworks (in 1802).
The auditorium has three levels – Stalls, Royal Circle and Grand Circle. In the Stalls, the view of the stage is obstructed by the overhang of the Royal Circle from Row T onwards, but the Stalls generally offer a good view of the stage, with a rake from Row C.
In the Royal Circle, the view of the stage is slightly obstructed by the overhang of the Grand Circle from Row P onwards. The Royal Circle is steeply raked, offering good views, but is rather far back from the stage.
The Grand Circle is set very high in this theatre, and very steeply raked, so do take care when taking your seats.