UK – London – Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Dates: 1812 – present

Official website:

The largest stage in the West End, and a superbly rich theatrical legacy makes this venue a very special place to visit. During the run of a show, check out the Drury Lane Tours which are packed with backstage exploration and tell some of the incredible stories associated with the space. (The tours are not available during fit-ups or technical rehearsals).

Past Productions

  • 42nd Street (Previews from 20 March 2017. To close in January 2019)
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (May 2013 to January 2017)
  • Shrek (May 2011 – February 2013)
  • Oliver! (December 2008 – January 2011)
  • The Lord of the Rings (June 19, 2007 – July 19, 2008)
  • Since December 2005 the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, has been owned 100% by the Really Useful Group Limited.
  • The Producers (2004 – 2006)
  • Anything Goes (7 October 2003 – ?) Trevor Nunn’s National Theatre production
  • The Stars of the Bolshoi (2001)
  • The League of Gentlemen (2001)
  • My Fair Lady (2001) Cameron Mackintosh’s revival, from the National Theatre, starring Jonathan Pryce
  • The Witches of Eastwick (26 May 2000 – 24 February 2001) transferred to Prince of Wales Theatre
  • Miss Saigon (Previews September 4 1989, Opened September 20 1989, Closed 1999) A total of 4263 performances.
  • Back with a Vengence (March 9 1989, 31 performances) starring Barry Humphries (aka Dame Edna Everage / Sir Les Patterson)
  • 42nd Street (8 August 1984 – 7 January 1989)
  • Dancin’ (Previews 11 November 1983, Opens 14 November 1983, closed 28 January 1984) directed by Bob Fosse, Lighting by Jules Fisher. Limited run.
  • The Pirates of Penzance [Broadway version] (26 May 1982 – 29 October 1983)
  • The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1981)
  • Sweeney Todd (1980) starring Dennis Quilley and Shiela Hancock
  • A Chorus Line (1976 – 1979)
  • Billy (1974 – 1976) starring Michael Crawford, followed by Roy Castle
  • Gone with the Wind (1972) Musical version, produced by Harold Fielding
  • The Great Waltz (9 July 1970 – 1972) produced by Harold Fielding – 605 performances
  • Mame (1969) starring Ginger Rogers
  • Hello, Dolly! (1965 – 1967) starring Mary Martin (to 1966) then Dora Bryan (1966-67)
  • Camelot (1964 – 1965)
  • The Boys from Syracuse (1963) revival starring Bob Monkhouse & Ronnie Corbett
  • My Fair Lady (1958 – 1963) starring Julie Andrews, Rex Harrison & Stanley Holloway in Cecil Beaton’s costumes
  • The King and I (1953 – 1956) starring Valerie Hobson and Herbert Lom
  • South Pacific (1951 – 1953) starring Mary Martin
  • Carousel (1950 – 1951)
  • Oklahoma! (1947 – 1950) originally starring Howard Keel
  • The Dancing Years (1939) Ivor Novello
  • Careless Rapture (1936) Ivor Novello
  • Glamorous Night (1935) Ivor Novello
  • Cavalcade (1931) Noel Coward
  • Showboat (1928) – original London production starring Paul Robeson, Edith Day, Cedric Hardwicke and Alberta Hunter.
  • The Desert Song (1927) – original London production
  • Rose Marie (1925) – original London production
  • The Whip (1909 – 1910)
  • The Marriages of Mayfair (Autumn 1908) The stage and roof were swiftly rebuilt and the theatre opened in the Autumn of 1908.
  • March 25 1908 A fire destroyed the stage and backstage areas. The auditorium and front of house was saved by the safety curtain and a fast response from firemen.
  • Ben-Hur (April 3 1902 – ?)
  • The Great Ruby (1898)
  • Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (1812)


1971 (from The Stage Guide)
Electrics: Strand Light Console SL. Dimmers – 216 (1500W +/- 1/3); presets – 24 + 10 memories. Circuits – FOH 26; Flies 158; Stage dips 32. Socket type – 15A BESA (Strand 25A in stage dips). Total capacity available – 400A on each of 3 phases. Special effects supply – 100A on 3 phases. Follow spots – 4 x 100A arcs in back of Gallery.  Footlights can be covered. 

Archive equipment related to Theatre Royal Drury Lane over the years

  • Light Console (Strand)
  • MMS (Strand)
  • Documents

    Theatre Royal Drury Lane - Arthur Lloyd 
    [External Website]
    From Arthur Lloyd website
    My Fair Lady - Joe Davis
    My Fair Lady - Joe Davis (August 1957)
    [LX Plan - click on the thumbnail]
    From David W. Kidd Collection
    The Great Waltz - Michael Northen
    The Great Waltz - Michael Northen (July 1970)
    [LX Plan - click on the thumbnail]
    From David W. Kidd Collection
    Gone with the Wind - Richard Pilbrow
    Gone with the Wind - Richard Pilbrow (March 1972)
    [LX Plan - click on the thumbnail]
    From David W. Kidd Collection
    No No Nanette - Joe Davis
    No No Nanette - Joe Davis (April 1973)
    [LX Plan - click on the thumbnail]
    From David W. Kidd Collection
    Hello Dolly (Original Plan) - Joe Davis
    Hello Dolly (Original Plan) - Joe Davis (August 1979)
    [LX Plan - click on the thumbnail]
    From David W. Kidd Collection
    Hello Dolly (Working Plan) - Joe Davis
    Hello Dolly (Working Plan) - Joe Davis (August 1979)
    [LX Plan - click on the thumbnail]
    From David W. Kidd Collection
    Sweeney Todd - Ken Billington
    Sweeney Todd - Ken Billington (June 1980)
    [LX Plan - click on the thumbnail]
    From David W. Kidd Collection
    Sweeney Todd - Ken Billington
    Sweeney Todd - Ken Billington (July 1980)
    [LX Plan - click on the thumbnail]
    From David W. Kidd Collection
    The Pirates of Penzance - Jennifer Tipton
    The Pirates of Penzance - Jennifer Tipton (April 1982)
    [LX Plan - click on the thumbnail]
    From David W. Kidd Collection
    Dancin - Jules Fisher
    Dancin - Jules Fisher (December 1983)
    [LX Plan - click on the thumbnail]
    From David W. Kidd Collection
    Back with a Vengeance - Durham Marenghi
    Back with a Vengeance - Durham Marenghi (March 1989)
    [LX Plan - click on the thumbnail]
    From David W. Kidd Collection

    LSI: Miss Saigon (October 1989)
    [6.33Mb PDF]
    From Lighting & Sound International
    Miss Saigon - David Hersey
    Miss Saigon - David Hersey (May 1991)
    [LX Plan - click on the thumbnail]
    From David W. Kidd Collection

    LSI: The Witches of Eastwick (August 2000)
    [852kb PDF]
    From Lighting & Sound International

    LSI: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (July 2013)
    [2.61Mb PDF]
    From Lighting & Sound International

    Mentions of Theatre Royal Drury Lane in indexed journals

    Exhibits in the Backstage Heritage Collection

  • Hydraulic Bridges
  • Light Console, Theatre Royal Drury Lane (1950)
  • Location

    View in Google Maps

    Theatre Machinery

    The stage is around 80 feet deep, and allows plenty of space for huge shows to store large sets. There’s another world underneath the stage, however. Here are the Theatre Royal Drury Lane Hydraulic Victorian Bridges in Action!
    Installed in the theatre second hand after the Vienna Opera House no longer had use for them they still exist and work in the theatre today and are protected by English Heritage. If a show requires the stage to be automated, or requires a large amount of space sub-stage, the machinery is painstakingly decommissioned and removed to safe storage. Once the show closes, the production must cover the costs of the reinstatement and testing of the equipment, before the next show moves into the venue.

    Recent Tradition


    Bell hanging in the stage left wing (15 July 2008)

    A large prop bell is hung in the stage left wing, high up above the stage, left over from the long running Miss Saigon. The bell is rung with the applause at the end of the final performance of a show’s run at the theatre. 

    Theatre Ghosts

    Drury Lane has been called one of the world’s most haunted theatres. The appearance of almost any one of the hundreds of ghosts that are said to frequent the theatre signals good luck for an actor or production. The most famous ghost is the “Man in Grey”, who appears dressed as a nobleman of the late 18th century: powdered hair beneath a tricorne hat, a dress jacket and cloak or cape, riding boots and a sword. The man appears in a particular seat in the upper circle (D1) and stands up and makes his way across the area, before disappearing through a wall. In 1848, the theatre was remodelled and a wall was removed, revealing (according to legend) the skeleton of a man stabbed with a knife, wearing a grey hat, in the exact spot where the ghostly figure disappeared.


    Auditorium (15 July 2008)

    The ghosts of actor Charles Macklin and clown Joseph Grimaldi are supposed to haunt the theatre. Macklin appears backstage, wandering the corridor which now stands in the spot where, in 1735, he killed fellow actor Thomas Hallam in an argument over a wig (“Goddamn you for a blackguard, scrub, rascal!” he shouted, thrusting a cane into Hallam’s face and piercing his left eye). Grimaldi is reported to be a helpful apparition, purportedly guiding nervous actors skilfully about the stage on more than one occasion, and occasionally kicking lazy performers in the rear.
    The comedian Stanley Lupino claimed to have seen the ghost of Dan Leno in a dressing room.

    History (from the official website)

    1663 – The first Theatre Royal at Drury Lane is erected by Thomas Killigrew, on request from King Charles II. The theatre building was around the size of the current stage.

    1665 – Nell Gwynne made her debut on the stage, and was first seen there by King Charles II. Samuel Pepys also visited the theatre.

    1672 – The theatre was destroyed by fire.

    1674 – Thomas Killigrew rebuilt the theatre, which opened in 1674 and remained in operation for 117 years. This building witnessed the triumphs of Thomas Betterton who played Hamlet when he was over 70, Charles Macklin who murdered a fellow actor in the Green Room and lived to be over 100, Peg Woffington, Mrs Jordan, Sarah Siddons and Charles Kemble.

    1747 – David Garrick became the manager of the theatre, and introduced many reforms which have shaped modern theatre.

    1776 – Richard Brinsley Sheridan took over running the theatre.

    1777 – Sheridan’s The School for Scandal received it’s premiere performance at the theatre.

    1794 – Sheridan oversaw the demolition of the ageing building and its replacement by a larger theatre to seat 3,600 people, designed by Henry Holland. It opened in March with a performance of sacred music by Handel because theatrical performances were banned during Lent.

    1809? – Despite having the world’s first safety curtain, the theatre burned down only 15 years later, bringing Sheridan’s management, and personal fortune, to the ground along with it.

    1812 – The fourth and present building opened in 1812. It was designed by Benjamin Wyatt and the front of house areas today are much as they were at the first performance. The building was financed by a ‘Committee of Renters’ recruited by the brewer Samuel Whitbread, and Lord Byron was Chairman of the board. It was here that Edmund Kean became a star overnight with his performance of Shylock, where the great clown Joseph Grimaldi gave his farewell benefit performance and where Dan Leno and Herbert Campbell triumphed in a series of spectacular pantomimes. Drury Lane became famous throughout the rest of the 19th and early 20th centuries for producing spectacles under the guidance of its adventurous managers, most notably F.B. Chatterton, Augustus Harris, Arthur Collins and Alfred Butt. Scenes staged included chariot races in Ben Hur, the Derby and an earthquake in The Hope, the Battle of Rorke’s Drift in Youth, a train crash in The Whip, sinking ships, air balloons, underwater fights, the Chelsea Flower Show, Madame Tussaud’s Chamber of Horrors, the flooding of Paris and Alpine avalanches.

    1920s – Rose Marie introduced the American singer and actress Edith Day (1924-1927) who went on to head the casts of The Desert Song (1927-1928), in which Anna Neagle also made her stage debut, and Show Boat (1928) with Cedric Hardwicke and Paul Robeson. The New Moon (1929) starred Evelyn Laye who received ‘torrents of applause’ and included a blazing pirate ship as one of its scenic attractions.

    1930s – Noël Coward had a major success with Cavalcade (1931). Produced by C.B. Cochrane, the cast of 400 included a young John Mills and set-pieces included a troopship setting sail, the relief of Mafeking and Queen Victoria’s funeral. Coward’s post-war musical Pacific 1860 (1946) starred Mary Martin but did not tap into the public psyche so well and closed after four months.

    Drury Lane also hosted most of Ivor Novello’s major successes. Glamorous Night (1935), Careless Rapture (1936),Crest of the Wave (1937) and The Dancing Years (1939) all had audiences flocking to the theatre. Novello starred in all of the productions and in true Drury Lane fashion introduced as many major scenic effects as possible, including sinking ships, a fair on Hampstead Heath, a train crash and an earthquake.

    War Years – During the Second World War the theatre was the home base for ENSA and received a direct hit from a gas bomb which, fortunately, did not explode but did destroy the rear of the auditorium.


    More Information