Prince Edward Theatre
Designed by Edward A. Stone and opening in 1930, the Prince Edward Theatre was named after the then Prince of Wales, who went on to become Edward VIII. The interior of the theatre was lavishly decorated in an art deco style by Marc Henri and Laverdet, using gold and shades of warm fuchsia. By 1935, Edward A. Stone had converted the space into a dance and cabaret hall, and the name was changed to “London Casino”. The casino proved to be a great commercial success, but was badly damaged in an awful World War II air raid in May 1941, which saw the building lose all of its windows.
By 1954, the theatre had been adapted into a cinema, using the latest innovation from New York, the Cinerama. The architects Frank Baessler and T. & E. Braddock designed the interior changes to incorporate three large projectors in the Stalls which were projected onto a curved screen. The way that the cinema was designed meant that the view of the screen from the Upper Circle would not have been good, and that level of the theatre was closed, reducing the seating capacity to 1337. Famous films shown at the cinema include 2001 A Space Odyssey (1968) and Ben-Hur (1969).
Demand for Cinerama fell off in the 1970s, and by 1978 RHWL Architects were in the process of converting the building back into theatrical use, with the name of Prince Edward Theatre being reinstated. The theatre reopened on 21st June 1978 with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s new musical, Evita, making a star of its leading lady, Elaine Paige. The 8 year run of Evita was followed by Tim Rice’s next musical, Chess, written with the men from ABBA, Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, and also starring Elaine Paige. Miss Paige returned to the same theatre again in 1989 with a revival of Cole Porter’s Anything Goes.
Now that the theatre was firmly established as a house for musicals, the building was completely refurbished in 1992. Bernard Delfont and Cameron Mackintosh now owned the theatre, and spent over £3 million on remodelling the auditorium, improving the acoustics and increasing the size of the stage. The new Prince Edward Theatre was unveiled in March 1993 with the opening of Crazy for You, a Gershwin musical transferring from Broadway.
Musicals have played consistently here since, including the hugely successful Mamma Mia! (1999), Mackintosh’s own production of Mary Poppins (2004), the 2014 revival of Boublil and Schönberg’s Miss Saigon, Aladdin and the theatre’s current tenant, Mary Poppins.
Delfont Mackintosh Theatres Ltd. continue to renovate the theatre between productions, making the facilities exemplary and one of the most desirable spaces in the West End.
The auditorium has three levels – the Stalls, Dress Circle and Grand Circle. In the Stalls, patrons will find excellent legroom throughout, and a gentle rake throughout the auditorium allows for excellent views. The overhang of the Dress Circle will affect the view of the top of the stage from Row S and onwards.
The Dress Circle does not offer the same level of legroom, but again offers great views. The last five rows will have their view obstructed by the overhang of the Grand Circle.The Dress Circle loges are a unique feature to this theatre – they take on the form of individual, tiered boxes but with a direct view of the stage rather than the side-on view usually associated with box seats.
The Grand Circle offers excellent sightlines as the seats are fairly steeply raked, but this rake may induce vertigo in sufferers. Please note that it is quite a walk up to the Grand Circle from the foyer.