The Prince of Wales Theatre is located on Coventry Street, near Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square, and is close to London’s Soho and Chinatown.

The current building is the second theatre to have stood on the site since the 19th century. The original structure was built in 1883 by Edgar Bruce, a famous actor-manager of his time, whose production of F. C. Burnand’s play The Colonel had generated sizeable earnings for him. He used this money to construct this new theatre, initially named the Prince’s Theatre.

Designed by C. J. Phipps, an English architect best known for theatres including London’s Queen’s Theatre, Savoy Theatre and Her Majesty’s Theatre, it was constructed in the traditional three-tier style with a capacity of 1,062.

The theatre opened on January 18th 1884 with a production of The Palace of Truth, by W. S. Gilbert (of Gilbert & Sullivan) starring the renowned Herbert Beerbohm-Tree, the first of many notable actors to appear on stage at the theatre. Others included Lillie Langtry, in Princess George and The School for Scandal (1885), Martin Harvey in Pelleas and Melisande (1898), Charles Hawtrey as Horace Barker in A Message from Mars (1901), and Marie Tempest in English Nell (1900) and Becky Sharp (1901).

Just two years after opening, the theatre was renamed The Prince of Wales Theatre on October 4th 1886, after the future Edward VII, taking on the name of another theatre located on Tottenham Street which was to be used as a hostel by the Salvation Army.

A new era in the theatre’s history began in 1932, when it became known as the Folies Bergère of London, due to a series of extravagant revues which were particularly racy and risqué for the period, featuring intricate sets, ornate costumes and exquisite performers. These shows were so lucrative that they financed the demolition and reconstruction of the theatre in 1937.

The current building opened on October 27th of that year, in a new two-tier layout with a larger stage and an increased capacity of around 1,100 to make it one of the West End’s medium-sized theatres. It opened with the production of ‘Les Folies de Paris et Londres’, continuing its role as a theatre which put on revues, and the theatre remained the home of varieties until the late 1950s.

Performances by Norman Wisdom, Peter Sellers, Bob Hope, Gracie Fields, Benny Hill, Hughie Green, Frankie Howerd and Morecambe and Wise entertained the crowds in that twenty-year period. This era was ended in 1959 by The World of Suzie Wong, about a young British artist living in Hong Kong and his Chinese lover. It became the longest-running play to date with 832 performances.

In recent days, the theatre has been home to a range of musicals and dance shows including West Side Story, Fosse, The Witches of Eastwick, Rent and The Full Monty. The most successful of all the Prince of Wales musicals was Aspects of Love, an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical which played 1325 times to over a million people after opening in 1989.

After a renovation to take its capacity to 1160, the Prince of Wales reopened with a transfer of Mamma Mia!, which inspired the huge-grossing film. From 2013 it has hosted the Broadway triumph The Book of Mormon.

Prince of Wales Theatre tickets in London:

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