Prince Edward Theatre Archive

Current Show: Disney's Aladdin the Musical.

Opening in July 1996 here at the Prince Edward Theatre was Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil's new musical Martin Guerre. Set during the turbulent times of the French religious wars the story centred around Martin Guerre who, soon after marrying Bertrande, flees to join runs away to fight in the religious wars, only to return seven years later - but is it Martin who has returned? Opening to disappointing reviews the show closed after barely four months and re-opened in a newly revised format, running for a further 16 months before closing at the end of February 1998. Harold Prince's huge revial of Show Boat arrived here in April 1998 having enjoyed a run of just over two years on Broadway when it won five Tony Awards including for 'Best Revival of a Musical', 'Best Choreography' for Susan Stroman and 'Best Direction of a Musical' for Harold Prince. In London the production played for a strictly limited five month season.

In October 1998 the theatre welcomed Alan Johnson's faithful restaging of Jerome Robbins' West Side Story which played here for three months before transferring to the Prince of Wales Theatre in January 1999. This was then followed by the new musical Mamma Mia which opened in April 1999 to rave reviews and sell-out audiences, running here for just over five years before it transferred to the Prince of Wales Theatre in June 2004.

The next production was theatrical producer Cameron Mackintosh's eagerly awaited stage musical adaptation of PL Traver's legendary Mary Poppins. "I have been wanting to do this for 25 years. I've been incredibly involved in how it developed," said Cameron said. "Like everyone else in the theatre profession, I first tried to get the rights in the late Seventies." He finally succeeded when he met Pamela Travers in 1993 but he had to convince her "it was not only impossible but also the wrong thing to do it without the songs from the film, one of the crown jewels of Disney. It propelled Pamela's creation into being an icon across the world in a way the books could not have done alone. I persuaded her that, however much one wanted to do an original musical based on her books, it wasn't feasible unless one could draw whatever material one needed from the film, too." Eventually she agreed and Cameron set about devising the show's framework: "I wanted to see if I could find a structure for the show. The film was based on only three or four of the stories from the first book but I've drawn them now from the gamut of her work. I had to work out how you could dramatise these stories and also incorporate parts of the film, such as the fantastic Sherman Brothers songs that should be at the heart of a musical dramatisation. The way the story develops in the film is also very cinematic - it's a human cartoon, on purpose - but it's not desirable to recreate that on stage. Instead, I wanted to draw from all the source material to reinvent it as something new." As part of that process he brought in the British song writing duo George Stiles and Anthony Drewe to provide some new songs as well as engaging the creative team of director Richard Eyre, choreographer Matthew Bourne and Bob Crowley to design the sets. All, he said, "have brought fantastic levels of questions and answers to the creation, too". Following a try-out pre-Christmas at the Bristol Hippodrome, Mary Poppins transferred here in December 2004 and run for just over three years.

The 'Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons' musical - a big hit on Broadway - then transferred here in March 2008. It was called Jersey Boys because, as the show's co-author, Rick Elice, explained: "These guys came from Newark, New Jersey, parts of which were fine but others were really rough. The parts that were really rough in the Forties and Fifties were first-generation Italian, where the Mob exerted great influence on poor people - and everyone was poor. The best way I can think of putting it is that their harmonies were perfect but their lives were anything but." This musical was the first time that their story has been dramatised. "My theory is that fans of bands like The Beatles, The Kinks and the Stones were primarily female, whereas Four Seasons fans were mainly male," explained Elice. "And since their fans were guys, nobody wrote about them because guys don't buy magazines. Even if their fans had been women, the cultural elite of the day would never have deemed them interesting to write about. "They were from the wrong side of the tracks, they didn't have long hair or British accents, and they were blue-collar high-school dropouts - the kind of guys you didn't want your daughter to date. So nobody wanted to write about them, which was fortunate because their story was unprintable. It would have been a complete career-ender. Most bands, when they come off stage, go to a bar and pick up girls. But there was one occasion when these guys were taken right into a paddy wagon because last time they were in that town they had skipped out on their hotel bill. They ended up spending the weekend in jail." Original The Four Seasons member Bob Gaudio, who was extensively interviewed by the musical writers said: "In the days when we were having success, if you had any kind of a dark past it was usually swept under a carpet. As younger kids, we were in trouble a lot. It was a period when, if you did get into trouble, the chances of getting something played on the radio or having a record company sign you were slim, if at all. So we kept our past a secret. We now live in different times. The show gives people who have had problems an idea and an opportunity to see themselves as becoming successful as they grow older, once they straighten themselves out. The story is told with as much truth as possible. We talked about this for a very long time. We were very careful to try not to hurt anyone. But as far as our own lives were concerned, we were very up front and that has an awful lot to do with the success of what's resulted." The show continued to play here for six years before it transferred to the Piccadilly Theatre in March 2014 to make way for a major revival of Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil's 1989 musical Miss Saigon which opened here in May 2014 and run for just under under two years. The current show, Disney's Aladdin, opened in June 2016 and looks set for a long run.