First Lyceum Theatre, just off the Strand, dates from 1772. Demolished in 1815 to make way for a newly designed theatre.
Second Lyceum Theatre (?1815 – 1830)
Designed by Samuel Beazley
The first theatre in London to be lit by gas.
- 1828 – English premiere of Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte
- 1830 – Theatre destroyed by fire, with no casualties
Current Lyceum Theatre
Dates: July 1834 – present
Capacity: 2,100 across three levels
Designed again by Samuel Beazley
Balcony level overhangs the circle, with no supporting pillars.
The home of Disney’s The Lion King since 1999.
The Lyceum was one of five theatres that were almost demolished due to a plan to redevelop the Covent Garden area by the Greater London Council (GLC), in 1971. The GLC planned to build new theatres to replace them. However, the plan was abandoned in 1973 after a campaign by the Covent Garden Community Association.
Guardian article about the plan which contains fascinating insights into the financial workings of West End theatre in the 1970s.
Past Productions / History
- Julie Taymor’s acclaimed production of The Lion King opened in 1999. It is the longest-running production in the Lyceum Theatre’s history.
- A brief run of the National Theatre’s production of Oklahoma! followed
- 1996: The building was completely refurbished as a theatre once again, at a reported cost of £15 million, and opened its doors to a revival of Jesus Christ Superstar on November 19th 1996.
- 1986-1996: The building was largely unused.
- 1939: Building bought by London City Council, with plans to demolish it to make way for road improvements. These were abandoned after World War II. The venue was used as a ballroom and then as a concert venue. In the 60’s, 70’s, and early 80’s it hosted performances by bands such as The Clash, The Grateful Dead, U2, and Queen.
- 1904: Major renovations, with a new rococo interior designed by Bertie Crew. It opened with music hall & vaudeville acts, but these proved unsuccessful, so it reverted to drama.
- 1878: Actor/Manager Henry Irving took over management of the theatre. Hired Ellen Terry to star opposite him in a variety of productions, including many great Shakespearean plays such as Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet, and Much Ado About Nothing. The duo became two of the biggest stars in British theatre, and embarked on a number of American tours. Irving became the first British actor to receive a knighthood in 1895. Author Bram Stoker served as the business manager of the theatre for over twenty years, and he based the title character of his novel Dracula on Irving.
- The Mountain Sylph (1834) the first modern English opera to be staged.
- July 1834 – Theatre opens