Prince of Wales Theatre
Current Show: The Book of Mormon (performances resume 15 November 2021)
First previewed: 25th February 2013
Booking until: 2nd April 2022
Running time: 2h 20m including interval
Address: Coventry St, London W1D 6AS
Air Conditioning: Yes
Current Owner: Delfont Mackintosh Theatres
Box Office: +44 (0) 844 482 5151 (calls charged)
Discounts, Day seats, Rush tickets & Lotteries
Box Office: +44 (0) 844 482 5151 (calls charged)
Stage Door: +44 (0) 20 7766 2100
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) 844 482 5137 (calls charged)
Email: email@example.com – more information is available on the Delfont Mackintosh website.
Society of London Theatre also offers useful information for visitors with a disability or specific access need.
Nearest Tube: Tottenham Court Road or Leicester Square
Buses: The nearest bus stops are serviced by numbers 14, 19, 38
Check out Transport for London’s excellent TFL Journey Planner
Luxury: Ham Yard Hotel, 1 Ham Yard, Soho, London W1D 7DT
Mid: Thistle Piccadilly, Coventry Street, London, W1D 6BZ
Budget: Premier Inn London Leicester Square Hotel, 1 Leicester Place, Leicester Square, London WC2H 7BP
The Prince of Wales theatre stands on the corner of Coventry St and Oxendon St, just off London’s Leicester Square. Although a theatre has stood here since 1884, the current building dates from 1937.
The original theatre on the site was first known as the Prince’s Theatre. It has sometimes been confused with former Scala Theatre in Charlotte St, Fitzrovia, variously known as the ‘Prince of Wales Royal Theatre’ or the ‘Prince of Wales’s Theatre’ from 1865 until it was condemned as unsafe in 1882. That building was finally demolished in 1903.
Matters are further confused by the building of another Prince’s Theatre in 1911 on Shaftesbury Avenue, which is now the Shaftesbury Theatre.
The first Prince’s Theatre was built here for actor-manager Edgar Bruce, designed by the architect C J Phipps. Bruce had previously managed the Prince of Wales Theatre in Fitzrovia, using profits from a production there, The Colonel, to fund the purchase of land on Coventry Street. Phipps’ designs for the site also included a hotel and restaurant.
Seating 960 on three levels, the Prince’s Theatre opened on Friday 18th January 1884 with a programme including of W S Gilbert’s comedy The Palace of Truth and Sydney Grundy’s In Honour Bound. The theatre’s exterior was in French Renaissance style and inside, decoration was in ivory white, cream and gold with seats of a red/orange plush.
Early productions included an adaptation of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House called Breaking a Butterfly and the much-loved actress Lillie Langtree in Princess George and The School for Scandal.
The theatre was renamed just two years later, in 1886, coinciding with the opening of comic opera La Bearnaise. Honouring the future King Edward II, the change of name to the Prince of Wales Theatre was made possible by the earlier closure of the Prince of Wales’s Theatre in Fitzrovia.
The theatre’s first major hit was the comic opera Dorothy. The show had previously played at the Gaiety Theatre, and was rewritten for its move, with Ben Davies and Marie Tempest brought in to breathe new life into the production. Dorothy opened in December 1886 and ran for two years before transferring to the Lyric Theatre. So successful was Dorothy that profits from the show largely funded the building of the Lyric Theatre.
Curiously, Henry Savile Clarke and Walter Slaughter’s musical Alice in Wonderland, the first professional adapation of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, is listed as opening on 23rd December 1886. Whether this ran concurrently with Dorothy, or whether the recorded dates for one or other production are incorrect is uncertain.
The wordless play L’Enfant Prodigue premiered in 1891, which, with the earlier A Pierrot’s Life helped bring respectability to mime on the British stage.
In 1892, George Edwardes’ In Town played here. Often considered the first English musical comedy, In Town was followed by another of his shows, A Gaiety Girl, in 1893. In March 1895, Basil Hood and Walter Slaughter’s musical farce Gentleman Joe, the Hansom Cabbie opened, running for 391 performances and starring comedian Arthur Roberts.
A period of straight plays followed, including Maeterlinck’s Pelléas and Mélisande and an adaptation of Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities called The Only Way.
By the 1900s, the Prince of Wales was becoming well known for comic operas and musicals. Productions in the early 1900s included Marie Tempest in English Nell, Peg Woffington and Vanity Fair, and Sir Charles Hawtrey (not to be confused with the Carry On film actor of the same name) in A Message from Mars.
The decade continued with more musical comedies, including the Frank Curzon/Isabel Jay hit Miss Hook of Holland (performed at matinees by a cast of children as Little Miss Hook of Holland) and King of Cadonia.
In 1910, another Frank Curzon musical, this time written with Paul Rubens and Arthur Wimperis, opened. The Balkan Princess starred Isabel Jay and Bertram Wallis and enjoyed a successful run before enjoying a Broadway transfer and a wide-scale tour.
Hit shows during World War I included Broadway Jones, Carminetta and Yes, Uncle!, with the theatre remaining active for most of the years 1914-18. In the final year of war, the theatre saw a return to plays, including the Avery Hopwood farce Fair and Warmer.
1921 saw Gertrude Lawrence appear in Ronald Jeans’ revue A to Z. Several revues followed, featuring stars such as Beatrice Lillie, Stanley Holloway and Jessie Matthews. In 1924, Ivor Novello appeared in a play called The Rat. The play was credited to David L’Estrange but was written by Coward himself, with Constance Collier, under a nom de plume. Novello would star in a silent movie version of the play just a year later.
Productions here in the late nineteen-twenties included Charley’s Aunt, Paul Among the Jews featuring Laurence Olivier, Alibi directed by Gerald du Maurier and starring Charles Laughton as Hercule Poirot, Hunter’s Moon featuring John Gielgud and Socrates with a cast including Celia Johnson.
Some silent footage from a 1929 production The Co-Optimists still exists, featuring the delightful pairing of Phyllis Monkman and Austin Melford.
In 1930, Edith Evans was appointed as theatre manager. She presented and starred in Delilah, although the production was less than successful.
From 1932, Charles Clore took control of the theatre, presenting a series of risqué “Folies” style revues, including 1935’s Voila! Les Dames. These lavish shows, often performed multiple times per day, featured beautiful dancers, singers, magicians and acrobats and proved so commercially successful that they would later finance the complete rebuilding of the theatre.
In 1935, Alfred Esdaile took control of the theatre and within a year, began to draw up plans for a new theatre on the site with the renowned Theatre and Cinema architect Robert Cromie. The original theatre’s seating capacity would be expanded to 1,100, including a larger stage, improved backstage facilities and a large stalls bar complete with dance floor.
1937’s Encore les Dames was the final show performed in the original theatre before it closed with a farewell gala performance on Saturday 16th January. Work began almost immediately to demolish the building to allow building work to begin on a new theatre.
On 17th June 1937, Gracie Fields laid the foundation stone of the new building, singing to the builders working on the site while perched rather precariously atop a ladder on the building site.
The new theatre opened on 27th October 1937 with Les Folies de Paris et Londres, an elaborate non-stop revue performance lasting from 2pm-11pm. This ran for over 400 performances and was the first of several risqué continental revues in the new theatre, including Folies de Can-Can which ran nightly until 2am, Frivolites de France and Caprice Parisien.
Performances during World War II included musical comedy Present Arms with a cast including comedian Max Wall, and the revue Nineteen Naughty One.
Charlie Chaplin’s controversial talking picture The Great Dictator was screened here in 1941. The film was banned in many European countries and the theatre’s owner, Alfred Esdaile, received a fine for showing it.
The theatre now passed into the hands of Moss Empires.
In 1943, Strike a New Note marked the West End debut of the popular English entertainer Sid Field. He returned in 1944 with Strike it Again and again in 1946 in the long-running revue Piccadilly Hayride.
In 1948, Mae West appeared in her self-authored comedy Diamond Lil. The show had run to great acclaim on Broadway some twenty years earlier. Ticket prices ranged from 5s3d to 13s6d – equivalent to between approximately £11.00 and £30.00 in today’s money. Diamond Lil ran from January until May 1948 and was followed by The Vigil with a cast including Leslie Phillips.
In 1949, Sid Field made his final London appearance here before his death aged just 45, in the comedy Harvey. The show, about a six-foot-tall imaginary rabbit, would return to the theatre in 1975 with James Stewart in the lead role of Elwood. The play had won its American writer, Mary Coyle Chase, the Pulitzer Prize just a few years earlier.
The 1950s were dominated by revues and variety acts. These included Fancy Free starring Tommy Trinder and the long running Paris to Piccadilly, Pardon My French, Paris by Night and Plaisirs de Paris. Famous names appearing in variety shows during the period included Norman Wisdom, Peter Sellers, Bob Hope, Gracie Fields, Benny Hill and Morecambe and Wise.
In 1958, Mister Venus featured a cast including Frankie Howerd and Myra de Groot, who would later go on to find fame as Eileen (Des Clarke’s mum) in Australian soap Neighbours.
Early the following February 1959, Shirley Bassey and Tommy Cooper starred in the revue Blue Magic.
Later that year, The World of Suzie Wong introduced audiences to a Hong Kong prostitute and her artist lover, becoming the then-longest running play at the Prince of Wales Theatre, clocking up 832 performances.
Do Re Mi, a musical by Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green opened in October 1961 with a cast including Max Bygraves. The show ran until February 1962.
During the run of Do Re Mi, on 12th November 1961 the theatre hosted its first Royal Variety Performance. Performers included Shirley Bassey, George Burns, Lionel Blair, Maurice Chevalier, The Crazy Gang and Sammy Davis Jr.
The following year, Michael Crawford starred in Neil Simon’s Come Blow Your Horn. The cast also included Bob Monkhouse.
Another Betty Comden/Adolph Green musical, this time written with Leonard Bernstein, opened in May 1963. Sadly, On The Town suffered from a downturn in interest for musical theatre at the time and closed after just 63 performances.
That same year, Martha Graham also brought her dance company from the US, presenting a season of work including Clytemnestra. Around this time, the theatre was completely redecorated.
On 4th November 1963, the Prince of Wales Theatre once again hosted the Royal Variety Performance, this time in the presence of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret. Performers included Joe Loss & His Orchestra, Eric Sykes, Hattie Jacques, Tommy Steele and a popular new band called The Beatles.
The Beatles performed four songs that night – From Me to You, She Loves You, Till There Was You and Twist and Shout.
Broadcast six days later, this, the 35th Royal Command Performance, lives in Beatles legend as the night John Lennon asked the people in the cheaper seats to ‘clap your hands and the rest of you (looking to the Queen Mother) if you’d just rattle your jewellery’.
The evening also included a performance by the legendary German-American actress and singer Marlene Dietrich.
A host of actors who would become household names appeared in a 1965 production of musical The Passion Flower Hotel. They included Pauline Collins, Bill Kenwright, Francesca Annis and a fifteen-year-old Michael Cashman. During 1965, work was also undertaken to remodel the proscenium, stage and orchestra pit.
Hit Broadway show Funny Girl transferred here in 1966 for a short run, bringing its young star Barbra Streisand to the West End stage. Her portrayal of Fanny Brice wowed audiences and her rendition of the song People became a top ten hit. The show ran for three months when, as Streisand and other cast members ended their contracts, it was decided that the show could not continue.
After the departure of Funny Girl, Cilla Black, Frankie Howerd and Anita Harris took to the Prince of Wales stage in Way Out in Piccadilly. The show ran from November 1966 until September 1967. This was followed by the Cy Coleman/Dorothy Fields/Neil Simon musical Sweet Charity, running from September 1967 until November 1968 and starring Juliet Prowse as Charity Hope Valentine.
1968 ended with the play They Don’t Grow On Trees, starring Dora Bryan.
From April – September 1969, Cat Among The Pigeons featured a cast including Richard Briers and Victor Spinetti. This was followed by the Burt Bacharach/Hal David/Neil Simon musical Promises Promises which enjoyed a successful run, closing in February 1971.
Rock musical Catch My Soul, loosely based on Shakespeare’s Othello, featured the talents of P P Arnold, P J Proby and Dana Gillespie among its cast from February to July 1971.
Eric Sykes then starred in Big Bad Mouse from September 1971, enjoying a run of five months.
A revival of Brecht/Weill’s The Threepenny Opera played here in 1972, with Vanessa Redgrave, Miriam Margolyes and Barbara Windsor among the cast. The show would later transfer to the Piccadilly Theatre. Later that year, Julian Slade’s musical Trelawny transferred here from Sadler’s Wells, bringing a young Gemma Craven to public attention. This was followed by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley’s musical The Good Old Bad Old Days which ran from December 1972 until September 1973.
In 1973, Danny La Rue brought his glamorous variety, The Danny La Rue Show, to the theatre, making its home here for over five hundred performances. This was followed in 1975 by a revival of the play Harvey, this time with Hollywood royalty James Stewart reprising his role as Elwood P Dowd from the 1950 movie.
Productions in the mid-1970s included The Plumbers Progress starring Harry Secombe, Roy Marsden and Simon Callow, Mardi Gras, and Michael Crawford’s return in Same Time, Next Year.
The Stephen Schwartz musical Godspell enjoyed a short run in 1977, transferring from Her Majesty’s Theatre. This was followed by another musical, I Love My Wife, adapted by Cy Coleman/Michael Stewart.
Alan Ayckbourn’s Bedroom Farce arrived in November 1978, enjoying a successful run of almost a year. The cast included Joan Hickson and Michael Kitchen. This was followed by another year-long run, this time for An Evening with Tommy Steele, ending the decade and closing in November 1980.
Popular TV magician Paul Daniels brought his show, It’s Magic, to the Prince of Wales Theatre in December 1980, staying until February 1982.
The story and music of the Crazy Gang, Underneath the Arches, played in 1982 with Roy Hudd and Christopher Timothy playing the famous double-act of Flanagan and Allen. The show ran for over a year. Then, 1983 marked a return for Danny La Rue, this time in the role of Dolly Levi in Jerry Herman’s Hello, Dolly! The show made history, with La Rue being the first man to play the iconic central female role.
Russ Abbot starred in Cy Coleman/Carolyn Leigh/Neil Simon’s Little Me from May 1984 until May 1985, followed in June by the National Theatre production of Guys and Dolls with Lulu as Miss Adelaide, which ran for a year after its UK tour.
In 1986, Michaela Strachan appeared in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, followed by the first of two runs for a stage version of the popular sitcom ‘Allo ‘Allo. Between these runs, Michael Bogdanov and Phil Woods’ production of Canterbury Tales enjoyed a short two-month stay.
Next came a revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s classic musical South Pacific, running from January 1988 to January 1989.
In spring 1989, Michael Ball took the lead role of Alex Dillingham in the West End premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Aspects of Love. Based on the novel by David Garnett, the show opened on 17th April 1989, breaking records to eventually become the longest-running show at the Prince of Wales, running for 1,325 performances. Roger Moore had been due to star as George Dillingham but left the production two weeks before opening night. His understudy, Kevin Colson took over the role. During the show’s run, the cast featured Susannah Fellows, Helen Hobson and Sarah Brightman as Rose Vibert, with Michael Ball followed in the role of Alex by actors including Michael Praed.
Many of the original London cast of Aspects of Love also appeared in a shorter Broadway Transfer in 1990.
After Aspects of Love closed in January 1994, magician Paul Daniels returned for a short season in The Magic Man. This was followed by Marry Manilow’s musical Copacabana. Starring Gary Wilmot and Nicola Dawn, the show ran from June to September 1995.
Tommy Steele returned to the theatre for a Christmas season of What A Show from October 1995 to January 1996.
The late 1990s were dominated by musicals, including Ray Cooney and Jack Good’s Elvis – The Musical, Leiber and Stoller’s Smokey Joe’s Café, Fame – The Musical, and a transfer from the Prince Edward Theatre of West Side Story.
The first new production of the 2000s, Fosse – The Musical, opened in February 2000. Celebrating the life and work of the late choreographer Bob Fosse, the show ran for just under a year. Fosse was followed a transfer from the Theatre Royal Drury Lane of musical The Witches of Eastwick. This movie-to-musical adaptation starred Ian McShane with Lucie Arnaz, Joanna Riding and Maria Friedman.
Another musical, Rent, played here over Christmas 2001, with a cast including Adam Rickitt, Jason Pennycooke, Debbie Kurup, Damien Flood and Daniel Boys. This was followed in March 2002 by the latest movie-to-musical adaptation, The Fully Monty. This Americanized production moved the story’s location from Sheffield, England to Buffalo, New York. The show ran for six months, winning the Evening Standard Award for Best Musical after it had sadly already closed. The production brought several of its American cast to London, with Dora Bryan joining as Jeanette.
2002 ended with the return of Rent, running for three months. This was followed by Cliff – The Musical. Cliff featured a cast including the radio presenter Mike Read, who had co-written the show, and ran for two months, receiving terrible reviews.
In 2003, work began to the theatre’s auditorium, with front of house, foyer and bars given a glamorous makeover and sensitively refitted by the Arts Team at RHWL Architects under the instruction of Delfont Mackintosh Theatres. The theatre’s seating capacity was slightly increased to 1,160 seats and the theatre’s famous tower fitted with new LED lighting.
The Prince of Wales Theatre officially reopened on 10th June 2004 with a gala performance of Mamma Mia! in the presence of HRH the Prince of Wales. Mamma Mia! transferred here from the Prince Edward Theatre and, in 2007, overtook Aspects of Love to become the show’s longest-running production, staying until September 2012 before moving on to the Novello Theatre.
In September 2012, Let It Be, a theatrical concert featuring the songs of the Beatles, played here. The show ran until 19th January 2013 before transferring to the Savoy Theatre and later the Garrick Theatre.
From 2013, Broadway transfer The Book of Mormon has played at the Prince of Wales. When it went on sale, the London show broke the record of the biggest ever single day of sales in West End and Broadway history.
Along with all West End theatres, performances were suspended in March 2020 by the Covid-19 pandemic.
During The Book of Mormon’s hiatus, the theatre hosted The Windsors: Endgame. Re-opening the theatre on 2nd August 2021 and based on Channel 4 sitcom The Windsors, this featured Tracy-Ann Oberman as Camilla Duchess of Cornwall, Harry Enfield as Prince Charles and Kara Tointon as Kate Middleton.
The Book of Mormon resumed performances on 15th November 2021 and is still running at the time of writing.
The Prince of Wales Theatre has a current capacity of approximately 1,160. It was granted Grade II listed status by English Heritage in 1999 and is currently owned by Delfont Mackintosh Theatres.
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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.