Her Majesty’s Theatre
With the exception of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, the site of Her Majesty’s has been associated with a playhouse longer than any other theatre in London.

There have been four different buildings and numerous name changes and its early history as an opera house makes it a fitting home for the longrunning success of The Phantom of the Opera. Listed below are some other highlights of the venue’s rich history.

1705: The first theatre on this site, named The Queen’s with Queen Anne’s permission, opened under the management of John Vanbrugh and William Congreve with an Italian opera called The Loves of Ergasto.

1711: Handel was employed as Composer and conducted his first opera for The Queen’s, Rinaldo, which firmly established the venue as an opera house, presenting top class Italian opera for the first time in this country.

1714: The building was re-named The King’s Theatre on the accession of King George I.

1732: Handel’s Esther was the first oratorio to be heard in England.

1789: The first building was destroyed by fire.

1791: A new King’s Theatre, designed by Michael Novosielski opened under the management of William Taylor.

1806: The first of Mozart’s operas to be heard in London, La Clemenza De Tito, was produced.

1811: Cosi Fan Tutti and The Magic Flute were first heard here.

1816: Madame Vestris sang at The King’s.

1817: The theatre was host to the first performance of Don Giovanni.

1818: The Barber of Seville premiered.

1820-1827 Manager John Ebers presented seasons with the stars of the Parisian Ballet, considerably increasing the popularity of the art form.

1837: On the accession of Queen Victoria, the theatre’s name was changed to Her Majesty’s Theatre, Italian Opera House.

1847: The Swedish Nightingale, Jenny Lind, made her debut in Meyerbeer’s Roberto and sang in Bellini’s Norma for a state visit by Queen Victoria.

1851: Beethoven’s Fidelio was performed for the first time in this country.

1863: The London premiere of Gounod’s Faust was sung in Italian under the management of Colonel John Mapleson.

1867: The theatre was once again destroyed by fire.

1869: A new building designed by Charles Lee was built but stood empty until 1875.

1875: The building was occupied by the Evangelist Meetings of Moody and Sankey.

1878: Bizet’s Carmen was first heard in the building.

1882: The first complete performance of Wagner’s Ring Cycle was given.

1886: Sarah Bernhardt played a season.

1889 The last operatic performance was Rigoletto in May; other attractions included a boxing tournament.

1890: A Christmas pantomime closed the theatre.

1892: Her Majesty’s Theatre was demolished.

1896: Having acquired the site, the actor Herbert Beerbohm Tree laid the foundation stone of his new theatre.

1897: The new Her Majesty’s Theatre, designed by C. J. Phipps, opened with Gilbert Parker’s Seats of the Mighty. During his 18 years of management Tree established the building as a playhouse with more than 46 of his own productions, including Shakespeare, adaptations of novels and melodramas.

1901: The theatre was renamed His Majesty’s with the accession of King Edward VII. Tree appeared as Malvolio in Twelfth Night and Beau Brummell in The Last of the Dandies, and Sarah Bernhardt returned to London in a season of French dramas.

1904: Tree instigated a drama school in the Dome Room at the top of the theatre, which eventually became the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

1905: Oliver Twist with Tree as Fagin.

1910: Tree produced Henry VIII starring Arthur Bouchier and Violet Vanbrugh.

1911: The theatre was the chosen venue for the Coronation Gala Performance for King George V.

1914: George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion was a great success with Mrs Patrick Campbell.

1916: The musical Chu Chin Chow, produced by and starring Oscar Asche, began a record-breaking run of 2,238 performances.

1923: Henry Ainley and Isabel Jeans led the cast in Basil Dean’s production of Hassan.

1929: The original production of Noël Coward’s musical Bitter Sweet, produced by C. B. Cochran, began a two-year run.

1931: J B Priestly’s The Good Companions with John Gielgud as Inigo Jollifant.

1933: Aged 70 years, Lady Tree returned to her husband’s theatre in The Merry Wives of Windsor.

1934: Noël Coward’s Conversation Piece.

1935: The comedian George Robey played Falstaff in Henry IV.

1936: Ivor Novello and Vivien Leigh starred in The Happy Hypocrite and J. M. Barrie’s final play The Boy David was produced.

1945: The theatre became part of the Prince Littler Group.

1947: Robert Morley starred in his own play Edward My Son with Peggy Ashcroft.

1949: Noele Gordon appeared in Brigadoon.

1952: The theatre’s name reverted to Her Majesty’s Theatre with the accession of Queen Elizabeth II.

1953: Bobby Howes and Sally Ann Howes played father and daughter in Lerner and Leowe’s Paint Your Wagon.

1954: The Teahouse of the August Moon introduced Eli Wallach.

1958: Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story with George Chakiris as Riff.

1961: Bye Bye Birdie starred Chita Rivera.

1962: Lock Up Your Daughters by Lionel Bart and Laurie Johnson transferred from Bernard Miles’ Mermaid Theatre.

1967: Fiddler on the Roof with Topol and Miriam Karlin began a run of 2,030 performances.

1974: Judi Dench and John Mills starred in a new musical adaptation of The Good Companions.

1975: Her Majesty’s became a Stoll Moss Theatre. The theatre played host to African dance spectacular Ipi Tombi.

1981: The National Theatre’s Amadeus by Peter Shaffer, with Frank Finlay as Salieri, had an extended run of 15 months.

1983: The first stage version of Bugsy Malone was produced.

1985: Donald Sinden took the lead in a riotous version of The Scarlet Pimpernel from Chichester.

1986: Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical version of The Phantom of the Opera opened. Produced by Cameron Mackintosh, the original cast was led by Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman. Subsequent casting has included Claire Moore, Dave Willetts, Michael Ball, John Barrowman, Peter Straker and Mike Sterling.

1992-1994: The building was completely refurbished, including new lavatories and a replaced roof, all achieved without losing a single performance of The Phantom of the Opera.

2000: Her Majesty’s became a Really Useful Theatre when Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group and Bridgepoint Capital purchased Stoll Moss Theatres Ltd from the Holmes à Court family.

The Phantom of the Opera is still playing to capacity, making it the longest run and most successful production in the theatre’s history.

2005: Since December 2005 Her Majesty’s Theatre has been owned 100% by the Really Useful Group Limited.

Mark Fox, with thanks to George Hoare and the Theatrical Bibliography

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