Her Majesty's Theatre Archive

Current Show: The legendary stage musical adaptation of Gaston Leroux's The Phantom of the Opera with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and original direction by Hal Prince.

Opening at May 1983 at Her Majesty's Theatre was Alan Parker's musical Bugsy Malone featuring songs from the film by Paul Williams and adapted and directed for the stage by Micky Dolenz of The Monkees fame. Featuring a huge cast of children the production's claim to fame in hindsight was the inclusion of a young Catherine Zeta-Jones in the cast playing the role of 'Tallulah'. Running for just over eight months, the show went through a number of cast ages due the legal limitations on child performers before the musical closed in early February 1984.

The original West End production of the Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim musical West Side Story had opened here at Her Majesty's Theatre in December 1958 when the production enjoyed an 18 month run so it was fitting that, some 26 years later, it was here that the first West End revival opened in May 1984. For this revival which featured Steven Pacey and Jan Hartley as the ill-fated lovers 'Tony' and 'Maria' along with Lee Robinson as 'Anita', Jerome Robbins' choreography was re-staged by Tom Abbott who had played the Jet 'Gee-Tar' in the original Broadway production as well as in the 1961 film version. Tom Abbott said: "I never change a single step of Jerome Robbins's work. Nowadays of course people have video recorders to preserve choreography on tape, but when I started out I learnt every single step of West Side Story and Fiddler on the Roof so that I could always do them from memory. I know what every dancer on that stage has to be doing at every moment." Regarding how he came to be cast in the original production he said: "Jerome Robbins had been teaching in my ballet school, so he knew my work and he took me on as a Jet. In rehearsal I worked harder than I ever had in my life; it was my first Broadway show and I was terrified of getting the sack. There were a lot of big names around - not only Robbins but Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents, who wrote the book, and of course Leonard Bernstein, and I think they all knew that they were on to something special and different from the musicals that had gone before. We felt in rehearsal that it had to be the biggest hit or the biggest flop in town - it sure wasn't going to be mediocre. We opened in Philadelphia, made some minor changes, and then began to realize what we'd got: a show in which, for the first time ever, singing and dancing and acting came together in one dramatic unity. It was only with West Side Story that the director and the choreographer began to be one and the same person, and that the dances stopped being interruptions to the action and became the action. Robbins was the first legit ballet man to take over a musical. Agnes de Mille had done Oklahoma!, but only as choreographer; Robbins was the director, and he paved the way for Bob Fosse and Gower Champion in the Sixties." This revival finally closed in September 1985 after a sixteen month run. After a successful Summer season at the Chichester Festival Theatre, Nicholas Hytner's production of Baroness Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel transferred here in December 1985. Adapted for the stage by Beverley Cross the production starred Donald Sinden as 'Sir Percy Blakeney' and run for four month before closing in April.

The next production here at Her Majesty's Theatre - and the theatre's longest running show - The Phantom of the Opera then opened in October 1986. Adapted from the novel by Gaston Leroux by Richard Stilgoe and featuring music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, the musical had lyrics written by the then unknown Charles Hart. It was when Charles Hart had just left the Guildhall School of Music of Drama in London that he first came to the notice Andrew Lloyd Webber and Cameron Mackintosh when they were judging the Vivian Ellis awards. Hart said at the time: "I'd based a musical on Moll Flanders and put in a couple of the songs from that, which got me into the finals and then we all met for a drink and vaguely talked about my working with Andrew. After that nothing happened for twelve months, so I thought they must have gone of the idea, and I went to work as an assistant musical director on shows like The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole and Blockheads. Then suddenly I got a tape of music in the post from Andrew and the suggestion that I might like to put some words to it, though he still didn't tell me it was for the Phantom. So I sent back some lyrics and I think what really appealed to Andrew was that I happened to have the same kind of typewriter as Tim Rice. Then Andrew suggested a meeting and I said I thought he would be too busy with the Phantom and he said it was for the Phantom that he wanted the lyrics and I did them in about three months. This is much more of a 'book' show than some of the earlier rock operas, closer to Sweeney Todd than Evita or Superstar, and if it works I think it will get us back to the traditional values of melodrama without being old-fashioned," adding that "What we have here is a Gothic tale with some remarkable sleight-of-hand devices and, thanks to Hal Prince, some revolutionary lighting and staging tricks. How well they will merge with this rather creaky plot is the final test of whether the Phantom actually works, but one thing is certain: this is not going to be another of the robot shows where the sound is amplified out of recognition and all you really have to applaud is the set."

Although production problems caused the first preview performance to be delayed by three days, The Phantom of the Opera opened as scheduled on Thursday 9 October 1986 and has played here without break ever since. At the matinee performance on Saturday 23 October 2010 the production celebrated its 10,000th performance when composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and original star Michael Crawford cut a cake at the end.