Prince of Wales Theatre
The Prince of Wales Theatre that stands today opened on 27th October 1937. It was designed by Robert Cromie, with an interior design in an Art Deco style. There has been a theatre on this site since January 1884 – Edgar Bruce, an actor, had commissioned C. J. Phipps to build a theatre to be named the Prince’s Theatre. The name was change in 1886 to the Prince of Wales Theatre for the current Prince, the future Edward VII. The first show produced at this theatre was a revival of The Palace of Truth by W. S. Gilbert. The first hit show at this theatre was the comic opera Dorothy starring Marie Tempest. Such was the success of the show that the authors were able to build the nearby Lyric Theatre with the profits they had made. They then moved the show to their new theatre in 1888. In the 1890s the theatre began to house straight plays before making a move back to musical comedies in 1903, with successes including Broadway Jones in 1914 and Yes, Uncle! In 1917. The biggest change for the theatre came in 1932 when, under the new management of Edith Evans, the type of show hosted changed to the risqué Folies-style revues. Whilst controversial, the shows proved to be a huge success and the profits made funded the demolition of the theatre and the construction of the new building.
The new theatre increased the seating capacity to 1,100 and the stage was larger, able to accommodate bigger productions. Front of house spaces were also improved. The new theatre carried on the trend of showing the Folies shows for its first three years, when musical comedy arrived in the form of Rodgers and Hart’s Present Arms. In 1941 the theatre played host to the Uk premiere of The Great Dictator, Charlie Chaplin’s film that had been banned across most of Europe and the theatre’s own, Alfred Esdaile, incurred a fine for allowing the film to be shown.
The theatre has played host to several successful productions, as well as many notable actors and performers. A series of variety and revues in the 1950s saw the likes of Peter Sellers, Bob Hope, Morecambe and Wise and Gracie Fields grace the stage. The Beatles also performed at the theatre in 1963 at the Royal Variety Performance for The Queen Mother. Barbra Streisand made her West End debut in Funny Girl in 1966, and musicals such as Sweet Charity, Promises, Promises and Aspects of Love have also played at the Prince of Wales Theatre.
The theatre is currently owned by Delfont Mackintosh Theatres and was extensively renovated in 2004 in order to increase the seating capacity and update the theatre’s facilities.
The auditorium has two levels - Stalls and Dress Circle.
The overhang of the Dress Circle affects the view of the stage from the Stalls in Row N onwards, and significantly from Row T, though it isn't necessarily a problem for the current production. But otherwise, the seating is very comfortable and does offer good views of the stage due to a noticable rake in the seating and offset seating, meaning no seat is placed directly behind another.
The Dress Circle offers excellent views of the stage due to the steep rake in the seating. But do take care when entering this level - it is high and the steep setting can be an issue.