Apollo Victoria Theatre

The Apollo Victoria Theatre is a West End theatre on Wilton Road in the Westminster district of London, across from London Victoria Station. (The theatre also has an entrance on Vauxhall Bridge Road.) Opened in 1930 as a cinema and variety theatre, the Apollo Victoria became a venue for musical theatre, beginning with The Sound of Music in 1981, and including the long-running Starlight Express, from 1984 to 2002. The theatre is now the home of the musical Wicked, which has played for ten years at the venue as of 2016

History

Architecture

The theatre was built by architects Ernest Wamsley Lewis and William Edward Trent in 1929 for Provincial Cinematograph Theatres, a part of the Gaumont British chain. The theatre was built with two identical façades on Wilton and Vauxhall Bridge Roads. Construction is principally of concrete, with strong horizontal banding along the exterior sides of the auditorium. By contrast the entrances feature a cantilevered canopy, and are framed by vertical channelling, with two black marble columns rising to the roof line. The entrance is simple, making use of chrome trimmings, this leads to a nautical themed interior in the original Art Deco style that makes extensive use of concealed lighting, decorated with scallop shells and columns that burst into sculptured fountains at the ceiling.

The theatre had a 74 feet (22.6 m) by 24 feet (7.3 m) stage and was equipped with 10 dressing rooms and two suites for principals. The theatre was Grade II* listed on 28 June 1972.

Cinema and variety

The theatre opened as the New Victoria Cinema on 15 October 1930 with a film starring George Arlis in Old English, based on a stage play by John Galsworthy. It was equipped with a Compton 3 manual 15 rank theatre organ, played on the opening night by Reginald Foort. and the theatre also staged variety shows. The first show played also during the opening was Hoop-La.

Variety quickly gave way to a specialisation in film performances, with occasional performances by big bands. In June 1939, the cinema was one of the three London sites chosen to present a live relay of The Epsom Derby from the pre-war BBC experimental transmissions, utilising Baird equipment to project onto a screen 15 feet by 12 (4.6 by 3.7 m) in sepia. From September 1940 to May 1941, the theatre was closed due to World War II, but no serious damage was sustained and it reopened quickly. Plans were made for demolition in the 1950s, but it was saved and presented a mixture of ballet, live shows and films. The last films were shown in November 1975, a double bill of Peter Cushing in Legend of the Werewolf (1975) and Adrienne Corri in Vampire Circus (1972), though the theatre remained open until 1976, after which it closed for five years. It reopened in 1981 as the Apollo Victoria Theatre with a Shirley Bassey concert.

Musical theatre

Musicals, including The Sound of Music, Camelot and Fiddler on the Roof played at the theatre in the early 1980s. In 1984, the interior was extensively modified by the introduction of a 'race track' that ran through the audience, for the show Starlight Express with performers on roller skates. The show premièred on 27 March, composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and directed by Trevor Nunn and ran for 7,406 performances, over 18 years. With the removal of the 'tracks', the interior was extensively restored by architects Jaques Muir and Partners. This included the removal of 3,500 incandescent lamps that had become difficult to maintain and consumed a considerable amount of power. These were replaced by 88,000 low power LEDs specially designed for the theatre, creating the first auditorium completely lit in this way. Another Lloyd Webber production followed, Bombay Dreams premièred on 19 June 2002. It was created by A. R. Rahman with lyrics by Don Black and was directed by Steven Pimlott, closing after 1,500 performances on 13 June 2004. This was followed by the return to the West End of the Bee Gee's musical Saturday Night Fever on 6 July 2004, closing 22 October 2005 to tour. This was followed on 10 April 2006 by the jukebox musical Movin' Out, featuring the music of Billy Joel. This starred James Fox but ran for only two months.

The Broadway musical Wicked received its London première at the venue on 27 September 2006 with a cast featuring Idina Menzel as Elphaba, Helen Dallimore as Glinda, Nigel Planer as The Wizard, Adam Garcia as Fiyero and Miriam Margolyes as Madame Morrible. Wicked has been seen by over 7 million people in London.

The show claimed a record-breaking £761,000 taken at the box office, during its first eight performances and to date has grossed £150 million in London alone.

On 10 October 2010 the theatre celebrated its 80th birthday with a Gala Performance, featuring stars of productions past and present, including a reunion of Starlight Express performers.

On Tuesday 27 September 2011, Wicked celebrated its fifth anniversary in the West End with a curtain call reunion of former cast members.

On 14 May 2016, Wicked had the premiere of its first Autism-Friendly performance.

Recent and present productions

  • The Sound of Music (August 17, 1981 – September 18, 1982)
  • Camelot (November 23, 1982 – February 5, 1983)
  • Fiddler on the Roof (June 28, 1983 – October 29, 1983)
  • Starlight Express (March 27, 1984 – January 12, 2002) by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Richard Stilgoe
  • Bombay Dreams (June 19, 2002 – June 13, 2004) by A. R. Rahman, Don Black and Meera Syal
  • Saturday Night Fever (July 2, 2004 – February 18, 2006) by The Bee Gees and Nan Knighton
  • Movin' Out (March 28, 2006 – May 22, 2006) by Twyla Tharp and Billy Joel
  • Wicked (September 27, 2006 – Current), by Stephen Schwartz and Winnie Holzman – stars Jennifer DiNoia, Savannah Stevenson, Jeremy Taylor, Sam Lupton, Katie Rowley Jones, Emma Hatton, Sophie Linder-Lee
  • Cliff Richard performed at the theater for 33 nights between 3 November and 10 December 1983 as part of his 25th anniversary concerts on the Silver tour. Audiences totaled nearly 80,000.

Nearby Transport

  • London Victoria Station
  • Victoria Tube Station (Victoria, Circle and District lines)
  • Victoria Coach Station
  • Numerous local bus services

References

  • Guide to British Theatres 1750–1950, John Earl and Michael Sell pp. 99 (Theatres Trust, 2000) ISBN 0-7136-5688-3

External links

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Dim Beer
22 January 2018
Wicked:amazing all the way through;music,performance, the screen play,everything.the only thing that may be a problem is that music is too loud so if you are not a native speaker you lose some lyrics.
Dim Beer
22 January 2018
Wicked:amazing all the way through;music,performance, the screen play,everything.the only thing that may be a problem is that music is too loud so if you are not a native speaker you lose some lyrics.
Yazeed Alalami
28 February 2016
Front row seats are extremely tight taking into consideration English men are mostly tall. I recommend booking back rows for better seating and viewing
Victoria Kinney
12 September 2013
Choose the right part of Stalls (seats 1,2,3,etc) if you plan to buy cheaper side seats. If you choose seats 30+ you are to miss more scenes because of the scenery at the left part of the stage.
Michiel
31 August 2018
The show Wicked is Great! The Theatre also, but the staff continiusly passed by during the show, visitors who came late were allowed in and that was very disturbing. Also bad: No MasterCard payment
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Lee Mi Hyun, Maria Kalinina and 17,746 more people have been here
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17 Wilton Rd, Pimlico, London SW1V 1LG, UK Get directions
Mon-Sun 7:30 AM–10:20 PM

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