Gillian Lynne Theatre
Next Show: Cinderella
First preview: 25th June 2021
Booking until: 13th February 2022
Running time: Awaiting information
Address: 166 Drury Lane, London WC2B 5PF
Air Conditioning: Yes
Current Owner: LW Theatres
Box Office: +44 (0)20 7087 7750
Discounts, Day seats, Rush tickets & Lotteries
Box Office: +44 (0)20 7087 7750
Stage Door: +44 (0) 20 7242 9802
Many of London’s theatres are accessed from below or above street level. If you need to avoid steps, it is advisable to contact the theatre directly by telephone or email as they will be able to advise you on which seats are most easily accessed. Many have specially adapted wheelchair spaces.
Theatres may be able to provide additional facilities for customers with a hearing or visual impairment and some shows may also offer specific, adapted performances. It’s best to check with the venue directly via one of the following methods:
Access Bookings: Call +44 (0) 20 7087 7750
Society of London Theatre also offers useful information for visitors with a disability or specific access need.
Nearest Tubes: Covent Garden, Holborn or Tottenham Court Road
Buses: Number 1, 59, 68, 134, 168, 171, 188, 243 and X68
Check out Transport for London’s excellent TFL Journey Planner
Luxury: The Covent Garden Hotel, 10 Monmouth Street, London, WC2H 9HB
Mid: The Fielding Hotel, 4 Broad Court, Bow St, London WC2B 5QZ
Budget: Travelodge Covent Garden, 10 Drury Lane, London WC2B 5RE
The Gillian Lynne Theatre occupies a site tucked away at the edge of Theatreland on the world famous Drury Lane. Here, Nell Gwynne, mistress to King Charles II, frequented a tavern known (at least by the end of the 1600s) as The Great Mogul, named after the Mogul of Hindustan. Later, the site became known as a meeting place for Henry Cook’s Glee Clubs, with stirring sing-songs echoing from its windows across Covent Garden.
The Mogal Saloon was added in 1847, following the death of the The Mogal’s previous owner, John Cook. This provided a performance space, which quickly changed its name to become the Turkish Saloon and the Mogul Music Hall, and finally, by 1851, the Middlesex Music Hall (known affectionately as ‘The Old Mo’). As the venue grew in popularity, so did its capacity. By 1868, H G Lake had taken over the Hall, and began rebuilding it. Work was completed by 1872, although further alterations were also made in 1875. Control passed to J L Graydon in 1878 and a successful era followed, including yet more improvements in 1891, costing £12,000 (around £1.5m today).
Graydon, who had once been a barman at the Mogal tavern, was not responsible for his successes alone; he was assisted by his wife, known in her Musical Hall days as ‘Miss Lottie Cherry’ and she also helped to manage the Foresters Music Hall and the Alhambra, Brighton.
By 1910, audiences had outgrown the available space and so a ‘New Middlesex Theatre of Varieties’ was planned, designed for Oswald Stoll in partnership with Graydon by renowned theatre architect Frank Matcham. ‘The Old Mo’ closed on 11th January 1911 and the ‘New Middlesex Theatre of Varieties’ opened on 30thOctober of the same year, just a week before another new theatre designed by Matcham, the Victoria Palace.
The New Middlesex Theatre of Varieties had the largest frontage of any variety theatre in London and occupied a site of 12,700 square feet. It was subsequently acquired in 1919 by George Grossmith and Edward Laurillard, and after new interiors and extensive redecoration were completed, the venue’s name changed yet again, this time reopening as The Winter Garden.
The old Mogul Tavern, which still stood and had been incorporated into the fabric of the New Middlesex Theatre of Varieties, became the Stalls bar of the new Winter Garden and was renamed the Nell Gwynn Tavern as a nod to the woman who once drank here.
When the Winter Garden reopened on 20th May 1919, its first productions were Kissing Time (1919) and A Night Out (2020). In 1920, tensions saw Grossmith and Laurillard end their partnership. Grossmith then partnered with Pat Malone.
As the roaring twenties arrived, so did a trio of Jerome Kern musicals; Sally (1921), The Cabaret Girls (1922) and The Beauty Prize (1923). By the end of the decade, the venue was attracting the world’s biggest stars, including Fred and Adela Astaire (Funny Face, 1929), Sophie Tucker (Follow a Star, 1930) and Vivian Ellis and Gracie Fields (Walk This Way, 1932).
Soon, the venue also gained a reputation for staging world-class plays, including works by George Bernard Shaw (On the Rocks, 1933). Yet, for all its hits, the Winter Garden did also have its misses. That, and the outbreak of war, meant that the theatre closed in the late 1930s. It did not reopen until 1942, when it was leased by Jack Hylton and Tom Arnold. The theatre re-opened with a production of Old Town Hall, featuring a cast including Adelaide Hall and Max Miller.
The 1950s saw success return, with productions including Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution(1953) and Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh (1958).
Sadly, in 1959, after a Christmas production of Alice in Wonderland which starred Frankie Howerd, the Winter Garden closed once again. Its then owner, the Rank Organisation, sold it to a property developer. However, fortunately for London’s theatre community, their plans did not run entirely to plan. The Winter Garden was stripped of its fittings and the site fell into dereliction for 5 years. In 1965, the Winter Garden was demolished.
The site remained dormant for the remainder of the 1960s until the building we know today was created for Star Holdings Ltd, rising like a phoenix from the ashes of this once great site of entertainment. When the site reopened, it included an underground car park, cabaret venue, basement nightclub, shops and a residential tower – as well as a state of the art theatre.
There is a law which dictates that when a London Theatre is demolished, the building which replaces it must contain a theatre. However, it should be noted that a loophole exists meaning that it is possible for the new theatre to present just a few shows and to then be converted into a cinema – something that anyone wishing to preserve our nation’s theatre heritage should note very carefully indeed!
Using advances in technology and design, Croatian architect Paul Tvrtkovic (overseen by Michael Percival) and scenic designer Sean Kenny were able to create a world-class complex, including a theatre space with a stunning 60-foot revolve which enables the stage, orchestra pit and even a section of seating to move.
The New London Theatre launched in 1972 with a TV recording of a one-woman show by the legendary Marlene Dietrich, supervised by Bernard Delfont. This was followed by an official theatrical opening in January 1973, featuring performances of Peter Ustinov’s The Unknown Soldier and His Wife, starring Ustinov himself. Big names appeared here throughout the 1970s, including Richard Gere (Grease), Sheila Hancock and George Cole (Deja Revue) and Bruce Forsyth in his own one man show.
Following a concert, the music video for Queen’s hit song ‘We Are The Champions’ was filmed here in October 1977. From 1977-80, the New London was frequently used as a TV studio, featuring anything from Snooker Championships to BBC Sports Personality of the Year, to recordings of This is Your Life. The theatre’s uniquely modernist design also enabled it to host numerous conferences, increasing its financial stability, if not its creative output.
In 1981, the New London Theatre would find itself at the epicentre of a new cultural phenomenon when Andrew Lloyd Webber chose the venue as the home of a new musical, Cats.
Originally destined to star Judi Dench as Grizabella, injury meant that Elaine Paige stepped into the role at the last minute – and her performance of Memory cemented her reputation of one of Musical Theatre’s biggest global stars. The cast also featured Brian Blessed, Wayne Sleep, Paul Nicholas, Sarah Brightman and Bonnie Langford. The other stars were the revolving stage, which made Cats such a vivid sensory experience for cast and audience alike, and the incredible choreography by Gillian Lynne.
Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group purchased the theatre in 1991, becoming a part of LW Theatres in 2000.
In 2002, Cats (then the longest running musical in West End and Broadway history), finally closed after 21 years. The closure of Cats allowed LW Theatres to begin work to reinstate the theatre’s original stage machinery and to reconfigure the auditorium into its original state as a multipurpose venue.
The New London reopened in 2002 with Umoja – The Spirit of Togetherness. Since then, it has played host to productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (2003), The Blue Man Group (2005), and RSC productions of King Lear and The Seagull (starring Sir Ian McKellen, 2007).
After short runs of musicals Gone With The Wind (two months, 2008) and Imagine This (one month, also 2008), another long-running show arrived. War Horse had been looking for a West End home following a hugely successful production at the National Theatre. The show arrived in 2009 and stayed for the next eight years, treating audiences to the magical puppetry which had so wowed the NT audiences.
Since then, Andrew Lloyd Webber has continued his long association with the venue, opening musical versions of School of Rock and Cinderella. It was in May 2018 that the theatre changed its name, becoming known as the Gillian Lynne Theatre in honour of the choreographer who had so influenced the success of Cats. This is the first West End Theatre to have been named after a woman with no royal connection.
Sadly, Gillian Lynne passed away at the age of 92, just a few months after the theatre was renamed in her honour.
The Gillian Lynne Theatre remains one of the West End’s most versatile spaces. Almost a third of the theatre floor is on a 60ft wide revolve. Seating can be raised or lowered to increase or decrease the ‘rake’, and many of the walls have moveable panels which can track to alter the shape of the auditorium.
In 2019, a new house lighting system was installed, replacing the original 1973 fluorescent lighting system, and in 2020, a major program of refurbishment began, increasing capacity and completely refitting the auditorium and many front of house facilities. Delayed by the Coronavirus pandemic, the theatre finally reopened on 18th August 2021.
- School of Rock
- Show Boat
- The Elephantom
- War Horse
- Imagine This
- Gone With The Wind
- The Seagull – RSC Season
- King Lear – RSC Season
- Blue Man Group
- Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Disclaimer: We take care to provide accurate information. Records prior to internet age can be difficult to verify so we only list productions back as far as the year 2000, however we hold some records prior to this date offline. If you would like more information, or are aware of any errors, please contact us here. “One night only” productions and private theatre hires are not listed.
Arthur Lloyd’s Theatre Website offers an encyclopaedic insight into the history of the West End’s theatres.
Theatricalia is a database of past & future theatre productions.
Thisistheatre also offers interesting insights into the history of London’s theatres.
The Theatres Trust offers information and support for our nation’s theatres.
London Theatres by Michael Coveney & Peter Dazeley, is available from Waterstones and Amazon and provides stunning photography and commentary on London’s iconic theatres.