New London Theatre
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Although the New London is a modern building, there has been a place of entertainment on the site since Elizabethan times.
New London Theatre

Nell Gwynne, mistress of Charles II, was associated with the tavern here, which by the end of the 17th century was called the Great Mogul. In the early 18th century it was a meeting place for Glee Clubs and ‘sing-songs’ were held in the adjoining hall.

1847: The Mogul Saloon was built and, over the next four years, was renamed the Turkish Saloon and the Mogul Music Hall.

1851: The building was named the Middlesex Music Hall.

1872 and 1892: Reconstruction work took place to house larger audiences.

1911: A completely new building was erected under the auspices of Oswald Stoll and renamed the New Middlesex Theatre of Varieties.

1919: Acquired by George Grossmith and Edward Laurillard, the interior was completely redecorated and the building given another new name – the Winter Garden.

1921: The Jerome Kern musical Sally.

1922: The Cabaret Girl, again by Kern.

1923: A Kern hat trick with The Beauty Prize.

1927: The Vagabond King.

1929: Fred and Adele Astaire starred in Funny Face.

1930: Sophie Tucker in the Vivian Ellis musical Follow a Star.

1932: Gracie Fields in Walk This Way.

1933: Lewis Casson in George Bernard Shaw’s On the Rocks.

1935: Love on the Dole, starring Wendy Hiller.

1945: A Donald Wolfit season.

1953: Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution.

1956: The Water Gypsies by Vivian Ellis and A. P. Herbert; Hotel Paradiso starring

Alec Guinness, Douglas Byng, Irene Worth and featuring Billie Whitelaw as a maid; Tyrone Power in Shaw’s The Devil’s Disciple.

1958: The Iceman Cometh.

1959: The theatre closed when the Rank Organisation sold it to a Property Developer. The Winter Garden was stripped and stood idle for many years whilst different plans for the site came and went. The building as it stands today consists of an underground car park, a cabaret venue, the New London Theatre, a basement nightclub/bar, several shops and a residential tower.

1972: The New London’s auditorium first opened under the supervision of Bernard Delfont with a television recording of Marlene Dietrich’s one-woman show.

1973: The official opening was in January with The Unknown Soldier and His Wife, written by and starring Peter Ustinov and featuring his daughter Tamara Ustinov and Brian Bedford; Grease followed with Richard Gere as Danny Zuko.

1974: Sheila Hancock and George Cole starred in Deja Revue, directed by Victor Spinetti.

1975: Bruce Forsyth had a successful run with his one-man show; various short seasons included Kwazulu, Africa’s Musical Explosion and John Hanson in Ivor Novello’s Glamorous Night.

1976: Leave Him to Heaven, a rock and roll musical starring Brian Protheroe heading a cast that featured Steven Pacey and Anita Dobson. Bernard Miles starred in his Mermaid Theatre production of Treasure Island.

1977: Lionel, a musical created from the works of Lionel Bart with a cast that included Avis Bunnage, Marion Montgomery, Clarke Peters and a very young Todd Carty. Steven Berkoff directed and appeared in his own adaptation of Kafka’s Metamorphosis.

1978: Berkoff’s East and The Fall of the House of Usher.

1977-1980: The auditorium was used as a television studio, including early broadcasts of championship snooker. The whole building was occasionally put to use as a conference centre as had been intended in the building’s revolutionary design.

1981: The opening of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Cats starring Elaine Paige, Brian Blessed, Wayne Sleep, Paul Nicholas, Sarah Brightman and Bonnie Langford. Direction was by Trevor Nunn with choreography by Gillian Lynne.

1991: The building was purchased by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group and, in turn, the year 2000 saw it become part of Really Useful Theatres when Andrew Lloyd Webber and Bridgepoint Capital purchased Stoll Moss Theatres.

2002: January heard the announcement that Cats, the longest running musical in West End and Broadway history, was to close. The show ended the first of its nine lives, on its 21st birthday, 11th May 2002. The final performance was also broadcast on a large screen in the Covent Garden Piazza. Prior to the opening of Umoja – The Spirit of Togetherness, the building underwent an extensive programme of work to reinstate the original stage machinery and auditorium features which made it so versatile that on its opening in 1976 it was hailed as ‘Europe’s revolutionary new entertainment venue’. Given the opportunity of designing a ‘theatre for the future’, the architects (Paul Tvrtkovic in association with Sean Kenny, famous for his original Oliver! set, Chew and Percival) incorporated many revolutionary features, notably the stunning 60’-wide revolve which includes the stage, orchestra pit and part of the seating.

2003: Bill Kenwright’s new production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat starring Stephen Gately.

2005: The Blue Man Group brought a whole new theatrical experience to London.

2007: Ian McKellen leads the RSC ensemble casts of King Lear and The Seagull.

2008: The premiere of a new musical production of Gone with the Wind directed by Trevor Nunn.

Since December 2005 the New London has been owned 100% by the Really Useful Group Limited.

Mark Fox, with thanks to Graeme Cruikshank

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