Aldwych Theatre Archive

Current show: La Soirée from 24 November 2017 through to 3 February 2018; followed by Tina - The Tina Turner Musical from 21 March 2018

A hit at the National Theatre, Sam Mendes' production of Jim Cartwright's play with songs The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice transferred here in October 1992 with the original cast of Alison Steadman, Jane Horrocks and Pete Postlethwaite for a four month run. The next three productions here had a common link - the accomplished (and busy!) actress Margaret Tyzack appeared in all three! First in February 1993 was Nicholas Hytner's five month revival of Noel Coward's comedy The Importance Of Being Earnest starring Maggie Smith as 'Lady Bracknell' with Margaret Tyzack playing 'Miss Prism'; then in August 1993 it was the transfer here from the National Theatre of Stephen Daldry's 'ground-breaking' revival of JB Priestly's An Inspector Calls featuring designs by Ian MacNeil. Margaret Tyzack joined the cast for the West End transfer playing 'Mrs Birling' - the production itself played a succesful 17 month run here at the Aldwych Theatre before it transferred again, this time to the smaller Garrick Theatre in January 1995. Next up in February 1995 was a 'new' play by Tom Stoppard called Indian Ink in which Margaret Tyzack played the sister of the lead character played firstly by Felicity Kendall and then, later in the ten month run, by Niamh Cusack.

When Tom Stoppard's play Indian Ink opened much was made in the press of the play's story requiring Felicity Kendall to (very briefly) disrobe in her first stage nude scene. Based on the same background material and story arc as his 1991 radio play In the Native State, one scene common to both, was a description of a series of extraordinary vintage cars which are unseen on stage, but are heard. But this brought complaints from Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, the founder of the National Motor Museum: "When I saw the preview, the sounds did not always match the models. It was a bit irritating, so I offered to match them if Tom changed some of the names." Hence the cars used - a Bentley, a Daimler, an Isotta Fraschini and a Hispano-Suiza - all sounded authentic.

January 1996 saw the arrival from America of the new musical The Fields of Ambrosia. Adapted from Garrie Bateson's 1970 film The Traveling Executioner which starred Stacy Keach, this stage musical version featured music by Martin Silvestri and book and lyrics by Joel Higgins, who also starred. Now recognised as one of the West End's 'Top Ten' musical flops of modern times - the Daily Telegraph said: "The show is clearly doomed but you would be a fool to miss it. It is one of the all-time great bad musicals." - the show run for 9 previews and 14 performances before quickly closing. The prolific theatre impresario Bill Kenwright then brought in a hastily mounted revival of Noel Coward's Present Laughter using a pre-existing set from a previous revival of the comedy seen at the Gielgud Theatre in 1993, though with a new cast cast and director. After an eight week run here the production, starring Peter Bowles, transferred to the Wyndham's Theatre for a further eight weeks.

James Goldman's new docu-history play Tolstoy, about the relationship between the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy and his wife during the last couple of weeks of his life, opened here in April 1996. The production, which marked the West End debut of F Murray Abraham in the title role, was unfortunately poor received - in The Independent Paul Taylor complained that it was a "woefully bitty and unfocused play... It's just a mess, like the design. The last new piece at the Aldwych was Fields of Ambrosia; this, another American try-out, is Fields of Ripe Corn," and John Peter in The Sunday Times moaned that "this bland, banal and mind-bendingly tedious play by James Goldman is chiefly remarkable for having absolutely nothing to say about its subject." A hoped for minimum three month run was cut short to just three weeks and the Aldwych Theatre went dark for five months over summer.

After a sell-out run at the Almeida Theatre, Howard Davis' acclaimed revival of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? - starring Diana Rigg and David Suchet - transferred here at the end of October 1996 for a successful four month season. This was then immediately followed by Stephen Churchett's debut full length play Tom and Clem. This history play focused on an imagined meeting in 1945 Postdam between the newly elected British Labout Prime Minister Clement Attlee and the Labour MP Tom Dribreg, played by Alec McCowen and Michael Gambon respectively.

In August 1997 Simon Gray's new play Life Support, starring Alan Bates, opened and played over the summer months before closing on October. Following a run at the fringe King's Head Theatre in Islington, North London during September 1997, Kenneth Elliott's revival of Mart Crowley's 1968 play The Boys in the Band transferred here at the end of October for a limited ten week season, though the season was cut short by two weeks and closed just before Christmas. In January 1998 Richard Eyre's production of David Hare's new play Amy's View starring Judi Dench and Samantha Bond - which had enjoyed a well received run at the National Theatre's Lyttleton Theatre the previous year, transferred here for a strictly limited 13 week run, which was extended by one week following the cancellation of a couple of performances in March to allow Judi Dench to go to the Oscars where she had been nominated for her role in the film Mrs Brown.

The 1990s were seen out at the Aldwych Theatre by the arrival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's latest musical Whistle Down The Wind. Adapted from the Mary Hayley Bell novel and Bryan Forbes movie, the action was moved from the North of England to Louisiana in 1959. The musical had had a try-out, directed by Harold Prince, at the National Theatre in Washington DC in December 1996 prior to a hoped for transfer to Broadway. Unfortunately poor notices caused the transfer to be cancelled. Instead the show was re-worked with a new director Gale Edwards including the additional of four new songs, and it finally opened in London in July 1998. The set in London was on two levels including a moving platform, and some early performances - including the first four previews - needed to be cancelled or delayed due to problems with the rigging and stage machinery - thankfully though these problems where sorted out and the show went on to play for some two-and-a-half years up to January 2001. Prior to opening in London a concept album of the musical was released, with the songs being covered by various stars, including 'No Matter What' performed by Boyzone which, when it was released in August 1998 as a single went on to reach No.1 in the UK, becoming the most successful single from a stage musical - and no doubt helping the popularity of Whistle Down The Wind on stage.

The next show was the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of the musical The Secret Garden which transferred to London in February 2001 following a Christmas holiday season in Stratford. The musical, based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett adapted for the stage by Marsha Norman, featured lyrics by Marsha Norman and music by Lucy Simon and had already enjoyed a near two year run on Broadway in the early 1990s. Unfortunately the RSC's new production opened to rather mixed notices and closed early, after just over four months in June that year. This left the Aldwych Theatre dark until the next production - Ronald Harwood's Mahler's Conversion starring Anthony Sher - which opened in September 2001. Based on the Jewish composer Gustav Mahler (played by Antony Sher) who converted to Catholicism in order to join the Vienna Court Opera, the play opened to poor notices and failed to 'convert audiences' - closing within seven weeks.

Having already enjoyed a good run of some three months the previous year at the Playhouse Theatre, Andrew Dawson and Gavin Robertson's revival of their 'entertainment' Thunderbirds FAB returned for a four week Christmas season at the Aldwych Theatre in December 2001. Based on the 1960's supermarionated adventure series devised by Gerry Anderson - performed by Dawson and Robertson, the first half featured 'Space Panorama', telling the tale of the Apollo 11 lunar landing in 1969 - all in mime. January 2002 saw the arrival of the Twentieth Anniversary Production of Caryl Churchill's 1982 play Top Girls for a limited four week season directed by Thea Sharrock. This was quickly followed by a transfer from the National Theatre's Lyttelton Theatre of Mark Ravenhill's new play Mother Clap's Molly House. Featuring songs by Mark Ravenhill and Matthew Scott and directed by Nicholas Hytner, the production had been a well-received hit at the National Theatre the previous year, but struggled to find an audience in the West End - reports at the time indicated it was getting nightly audiences around the 100 mark - and closed after a run of six weeks.

In April 2002 Loveday Ingram's revival of Alan Ayckbourn's comedy Bedroom Farce opened with June Whitfield and Richard Briers leading the cast. The production, which came into London's West End following a short regional tour, enjoyed a three month season before closing at the end of June. Next was a very successful transfer from the Cambridge Theatre in September 2002 of the 'much travelled' production of Fame The Musical, the stage musical that told the 'inspiring story of the kids from New York's School for the Performing Arts', it was based around the characters in the 1980s television series. The musical had originally opened in London in June 1995 since when it had had five 'season' in London totalling some three-and-a-half years - which was beaten by its three years and eight month continuous run at the Aldwych Theatre - making it one this this theatre's longest running shows. It was replaced in April 2006 by another transfer from the Cambridge Theatre, this time of the 'jukebox' musical Dancing in the Streets. Re-creating the energy, style and music of the stars of the Motown stable, the show enjoyed a three month fill-in at this theatre before it transferred again to the Playhouse Theatre - to make way for the eagerly anticipated stage musical adaptation of a classic 1980s movie.

Five months before opening, the producers of the new stage musical Dirty Dancing announced that the show had already sold over £3 million worth of tickets within the first six weeks of tickets going on sale. By the time of the first preview in September 2006, some £11 million worth of tickets had been sold - making it the fastest-selling show in London's West End history by time it opened at the Aldwych Theatre in October 2006. Though it received mixed notices from the critics, audiences flocked to the show - so-much-so that, by the time it finally closed in July 2011 after a run of just under five years, it had become the longest running show at this theatre in recent years.

After a run of musicals, 2011 saw two plays open - in September 2011 a production of Donn Pearce's Cool Hand Luke, in a new stage adaptation by Emma Reeves, opened starring Marc Warren. The hard-hitting story of a World War II veteran turned convict and rebel, had been memorably made into a film starring Paul Newman in 1967. Unfortunately the stage version was not so well received and the production closed after seven weeks to be replaced by a transfer from the Riverside Studios in West London of Jane Juska's A Round-Heeled Woman. Based around her experiences after placing an ad in The New York Review of Books which said "Before I turn 67 - next March - I would like to have a lot of sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope works for me", the novel was adapted for the stage and was directed by Jane Prowse and starred Sharon Gless in the 'title-role' of Jane Juska. The title of the play is Victorian slang for a street prostitute who has her heels worn down by walking on cobbles. The production enjoyed an eight week run over the Christmas holiday period.

In January 2012 dance musicals returned to the Aldwych Theatre - firstly with two of the professional dance stars from BBC's Strictly Come Dancing - Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace - presented their show Midnight Tango for a two month season. This was then followed in May 2012 by Irving Berlin's Top Hat the Musical. The production, which had toured the UK extensively prior to coming into London's West End, opened to good notices, though unfortunately it only managed a run of 18 months before closing in October 2013. The next production opening in December 2012 was the new Andrew Lloyd show Stephen Ward the Musical about one of the figures involved in the 1963 'Profumo Affair' - featuring book and lyrics by Don Black and Christopher Hampton, it therefore reunited the writers behind the musical Sunset Boulevard. Sadly Stephen Ward the Musical struggled to attract an audience and closed after barely three months.

The next productions here at the Aldwych Theatre where Mike Poulton's acclaimed stage adaptations of Hilary Mantel's prize-winning novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies which played together in repertory. Presented by the Royal Shakespeare Company, the productions transferred from Stratford, and in London they played for an extended five month season from May to October 2014 during which time they played to packed, sell-out audiences. This was then followed by the return to London's West End of Vincent Simone and Flavia Cacace in their brand new show Dance Til Dawn for a ten week season from October 2014 to January 2015 which was then followed by the eagerly awaited West End transfer of the Broadway hit musical Beautiful which features the story of songs of Carole King which began performances here at the Aldwych Theatre in February 2015 before closing in August 2017. This was then followed by the 'circus entertainment' La Soirée that played a Christmas holiday season before the 'Tina Turner' musical Tina opened here in March 2018.