Savoy Theatre, London
The first theatre on this site, also called The Savoy Theatre, was designed by C J Phipps and opened on 10 October 1881. It's main entrance was on to The Embankment looking towards The River Thames. The adjacent Savoy Hotel was built in 1889. Both the theatre and hotel were financed by Richard D'Oyly Carte from the profits of Gilbert and Sullivan's operettas. The theatre's entrance was moved to it's current position on Savoy Court, off The Strand, in 1902. Interestingly Savoy Court, which forms the forecourt to both the hotel and theatre, is the only road in Britain where traffic is required by law to drive on the right hand side - this was originally conferred as a special priviledge by Parliament in order that visitors to the Savoy Theatre would be let out of their carriage straight into the theatre.
This first theatre is noted for being the first public building in the world to be lit entirely by electricity - which had the distinct advantage over gas lighting which was both oxygen burning and heat producing!
The theatre closed on 3 June 1929 to be internally completely rebuilt to designs by Frank A Tugwell - the only part of the old theatre to remain where the main walls. The interior designs where by Basil Ionides. The theatre then reopened on 21 October the same year.
Disaster struck the theatre in the early hours of Monday 12 February 1990 when a fire broke out in the auditorium, spreading rapidly, with flames fifty feet high. Guests where evacuated from The Savoy Hotel, but the fire was fortunately contained within the theatre and no-one was injured. The architect Sir Wiliam Whitfield oversaw the restoration of the theatre back to it's former art deco glory and the theatre reopened on 19 July 1993.
The early years of the Savoy Theatre were associated with the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas - infact most of the G&S canon have been presented on this stage. Later successes included Agatha Christie's The Spiders Web with Margaret Lockwood in 1954 which enjoyed a run of over two years. More recent long runners have included Alibi For A Judge in 1965, two comedies, The Secretary Bird in 1968 and Lloyd George Knew My Father in 1972, both by William Douglas Home. In 1982 the Michael Frayn farce Noises Off started a run of over 4 years. An award-winning revival of the musical She Loves Me opened on 12 July 1994 and run until 1 July 1995.
In recent years Gilbert and Sullivan operettas have once again been staged here - presented by The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company - including H.M.S. Pinafore, The Mikado, The Pirates of Penzance, Iolanthe and Yeomen of the Guard.
In 2004 the producers Raymond Gubbay CBE and Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen joined forces to launch new permanent opera company giving eight performances each week at the Savoy Theatre under the banner 'The Savoy Opera' from April 2004. The first season was due to last 11 months, but was abruptly cut short in June 2004 following poor ticket sales.