Dates: 1905 – present
Phillip Sheridan was a theatre electrician here when in 1914 he teamed up with Arthur Earnshaw (Duke of Yorks Theatre) to found Strand Electric in 1914. The theatre was renamed The Strand Theatre in 1913, and the company name was taken from that.
May 1905: Waldorf Theatre (named after the hotel, adjacent to the theatre)
1909: Renamed The Strand Theatre
1911: Renamed the Whitney Theatre
1913: Renamed the Strand Theatre
December 2005: Renamed The Novello Theatre (after Ivor Novello, who lived in a flat above the theatre from 1913 to 1951)
Selection of Past Productions:
- Mamma Mia (September 2012 – March 2020; paused due to coronavirus; resumed 25 August 2021)
- Derren Brown: Svengali Tour (9 July 2012 – 11 August 2012)
- Noises Off (24 March 2012 – 30 June 2012)
- Crazy for You (8 October 2011 – 17 March 2012)
- Betty Blue Eyes (19 March 2011 – 24 September 2011)
- Onassis (12 October 2010 – 8 January 2011)
- Tap Dogs (15 June 2010 – 5 September 2010)
- Grumpy Old Women Live 2 – Chin Up Britain (14 April – 5 June 2010)
- Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (12 December 2009 – 10 April 2010) transferred from Broadway. Directed by Debbie Allen.
- An Inspector Calls (22 September 2009 – 14 November 2009)
- Spring Awakening (21 March 2009 – 30 May 2009)
- RSC: The Taming of the Shrew (12 February 2009 – 7 March 2009)
- RSC: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (15 January 2009 – 7 February 2009)
- RSC: Hamlet (3 December 2008 – 10 January 2009)
- Eurobeat: Almost Eurovision (9 September 2008 – 1 November 2008)
- Into the Hoods (Previews from 14 March 2008, opened 26 March 2008, closed 30 August 2008)
- Shadowlands (21 December 2007 – 25 February 2008) transferred from the Wyndhams Theatre.
- Desperately Seeking Susan (16 October 2007 previews / 15 November 2007 opened / 15 December 2007 closed, losing over £3.5 million)
- The Drowsy Chaperone (6 June 2007 – 4 August 2007)
- RSC: The Tempest (22 February 2007 – 24 March 2007)
- RSC: Antony and Cleopatra (11 January 2007 – 17 February 2007)
- RSC: Much Ado About Nothing (7 December 2006 – 6 January 2007)
- Footloose (8 April 2006 – 11 November 2006)
- RSC: As You Like It (2 March 2006 – 25 March 2006)
- RSC: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2 February 2006 – 25 February 2006)
- RSC: The Comedy of Errors (6 January 2006 – 28 January 2006)
- RSC: Twelfth Night (8 December 2005 – 31 December 2005)
- 2005 The theatre closed for a major six-month, £4.5 million refurbishment to celebrate its centenary. It re-opened on 8 December 2005 under its new name of the Novello Theatre.
- The Rat Pack – Live from Las Vegas (1 July 2003 – 28 May 2005) transfer from Theatre Royal Haymarket (Filmed for DVD during the run)
- Mrs Warren’s Profession (2 October 2002 – 18 January 2003) starring Brenda Blethyn. Directed by Peter Hall.
- Buddy (7 October 1995 – 3 March 2002) Alan Janes’s musical about the life of Buddy Holly, had audiences dancing in the aisles for seven years. Transfer from the Victoria Palace Theatre.
- Leonardo the Musical: A Portrait of Love (3 June 1993 – 10 July 1993)
- Lost in Yonkers (previews 10 November 1992, opened 12 November 1992) starring Maureen Lipman. Following UK Tour.
- Someone Like You (22 March 1990 – 26 April 1990)
- Ivanov ((April 2-22 1989) / Much Ado About Nothing (April 26 – 20 May 1989) starring Alan Bates, Felicity Kendal, Peter Sallis, Frank Thornton, Nicky Henson, Sheila Steafel. Directed by Elijah Moshinsky
- The Woman in Black (15 February 1989 – limited season) starring Charles Kay & John Duttine – transferred to the Playhouse on 19 April 1989 then The Fortune Theatre
- Can-Can (Previews from 14 October 1988, Opened 26 October 1988, closed ?January 1989) starring Donna McKechnie, Milo O’Shea, Bernard Alane
- And Then There Were None (1 August 1988 – 8 October 1988)
- Barry Humphries – Back With A Vengeance! (Previews from November 10 1987, opened 17 November 1987, closed 9 July 1988)
Barry Humphries, alias the gladdie-throwing Edna Everage, set new box office records with over 200 sold-out performances of Back with a Vengeance!
- Corpse! (opened 14 July 1987, closed 24 October 1987) starring Colin Baker and Jack Watling.
- Cabaret (previews July 10 1986, opened July 17 1986, closed 4 May 1987) starring Wayne Sleep. Directed & Choreographed by Gillian Lynne.
- Judy (previews from March 17 1986, opened March 26 1986, closed 24 May 1986) starring Lesley Mackie. Written by Terry Wale.
- Look No Hans! (Opened September 4 1985, closed March 8 1986 due to David Jason’s TV committments) starring David Jason, Richard Vernon, Lynda Bellingham. Written by John Chapman & Michael Pertwee. Directed by Mike Ockrent.
- Why Me (opened March 5 1985, closed August 3 1985) starring Richard Briers, Diane Fletcher, Polly Hemingway. Written by Stanley Price with Liz Smith. Directed by Robert Chetwyn
- The Real Thing (previews from 3 November 1982, opened 15 November 1982, closed 16 February 1985) Premiere cast Felicity Kendall, Roger Rees, Polly Adams, Jeremy Clyde. Directed by Peter Wood. Written by Tom Stoppard. Cast change mid 1983 to Susan Penhaligon, Paul Shelley, Judy Green, Richard Warwick
- The Understanding (Previews from 20 April 1982, opened 27 April 1982, closed 5 June 1982) starring Ralph Richardson & Celia Johnson (followed by Joan Greenwood). Written by Angela Huth.
- Murder in Mind (Previews 1 & 2 February, Opened 3 February 1982 – 17 April 1982) starring Nyree Dawn Porter & Roy Dotrice
- No Sex Please, We’re British (3 June 1971 – 18 January 1982) transferred to the Garrick Theatre
The theatre’s most successful show to date. It finally closed in 1982 after a record 6,671 performances. Stars who had appeared in it included Michael Crawford, David Jason and Andrew Sachs.
- A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1963 – 1965) Stephen Sondheim’s third Broadway show received its UK premiere at the Strand with Frankie Howerd as the saucy slave Pseudolus.
- 1960 Comedy and farce were what the Strand was principally known for but there were exeptions. One such was Ionesco’s Rhinoceros. This famous production was staged and designed by Orson Welles and transferred from the Royal Court and starred Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith, Michael Gough and Peter Sallis.
- 1958 The novelist William Golding adapted his first and only play for the theatre in Brass Butterfly; a comedy set in Roman times that starred Alastair Sim and George Cole.
- Sailor Beware! (1955 – ?) – 1231 performances. A comedy by Philip King and Falkland Cary, made a star of Peggy Mount as Emma Hornett, ‘the mother-in-law to outrival all mothers-in-law’. It was an immediate success and the film rights were bought four days after the first night.
- 1951 And So to Bed about the life of Samuel Pepys transferred to the Strand. Vivien Ellis composed it as a period piece with sarabandes and madrigals. The musical director was Mantovani and when it the cast included Leslie Henson, Keith Michell and Denis Quilley.
- 1943 Her Majesty the Queen (then Princess Elizabeth) made her first visit to the theatre, to see Arsenic & Old Lace.
- Arsenic and Old Lace (1942 – March 1946) – 1337 performances. New comedy by Joseph Kesselring,
- 1940 The theatre was bombed during the Blitz however, under the auspices of Donald Wolfit, the show went on once again; lunchtime performances of Shakespeare were given with the artists picking their way to the stage over the rubble.
- 1930 The comedian Leslie Henson and his business partner Firth Shephard co-leased the theatre and presented the first in a series of farces. It’s a Boy! was swiftly followed by It’s a Girl! and in 1936 Aren’t Men Beasts! starred a young John Mills who was learning a few tricks of the trade from Strand stalwart Robertson Hare.
- 1923 The new owners put on Anna Christie, the first Eugene O’Neill play to be seen in the West End; it caused a sensation. They literally lived over the shop in one of the flats above the theatre, another flat being occupied by the composer, actor and darling of the times Ivor Novello, after whom the theatre is now named.
- 1917 The actor and actress Arthur Bourchier and Kyrle Bellew acquired the lease to the Strand.
- 1915 The First World War saw the theatre under the management of the husband and wife team of Julia Neilson and Fred Terry (youngest brother of the famous actress Ellen Terry). On 13 October the entrance to the theatre pit was bombed during a heavy Zeppelin raid when 19 bombs fell on the Strand. The performance that night was of The Scarlet Pimpernel, with Fred Terry as Sir Percy Blakeney, the Pimpernel. In spite of the destruction going on all around he managed to calm the audience and in true theatrical tradition ‘the show went on’.
- Mr Wu (?1913) starring the matinee idol Matheson Lang as Wu Li Chang. Long-running. It was to become his most famous role on both stage and screen.
- 1913 – Named The Strand Theatre
- 1905 The Novello Theatre, known as the Waldorf Theatre opened on 22 May 1905 with an eight-week season of opera and drama starring the actress Eleanora Duse and the well-known opera singers Emma Calve and Edouard de Reszke.
Links to information about equipment at Novello Theatre over the years
Gemini in use at the Strand Theatre, London (May 1985)
Click on thumbnail to enlarge
From Alan Luxford Collection