Cameron Mackintosh has announced that in honour of Stephen Sondheim’s 90th birthday next March, the Queen’s Theatre will be renamed the Sondheim Theatre.
With the Queen’s Theatre set to close on the 13th July for renovation, it has been announced that when the theatre reopens on the 18th December with a new production of the long running musical Les Misérables it will be known as the Sondheim Theatre. The news makes Stephen Sondheim the only living artist to have a theatre named in his honour both in the West End and on Broadway.
Speaking of the news, Stephen Sondheim said: “I have loved British Theatre since I saw my first play here in 1958. I have treasured Cameron Mackintosh’s support and friendship ever since he produced Side by Side by Sondheim in 1976. Cameron is synonymous with British Theatre, so the confluence on this occasion is truly exhilarating. I am chuffed, as you say in British English, to a degree I wouldn’t have imagined. Or as we say in American English, it’s awesome.”
Cameron Mackintosh commented: “I have been lucky enough to have been a friend and colleague of Steve’s since our first collaboration in 1976 on the musical revue Side by Side by Sondheim at the Wyndham’s Theatre. After 112 years Shaftesbury Avenue will have a theatre named after a living legend and house the world’s longest running musical, the legendary Les Misérables as it enters its phenomenal 35th year. As an innovative voice in musical theatre, his influence has no equal. Sondheim’s work will undoubtedly be performed as long as audiences want to see live theatre, so I feel honoured that he has agreed to have his name on one of my Shaftesbury Avenue theatres to salute his upcoming 90th birthday. “
The Queen’s Theatre originally opened on 8 October 1907 with The Sugar Bowl, a comedy by Madeleine Lucette Ryley and was designed by architect W.G.R. Sprague as a pair with the adjoining corner of Shaftesbury Avenue. On 8 July 1959 the theatre reopened with John Gielgud’s Shakespearean recital Ages of Man. Architects Westwood Sons & Partners reconstructed the building at a cost of £250,000, with Sir Hugh Casson acting as consultant on the décor. On 13 July 2019 the theatre will close for four months of rebuilding work both backstage and in the auditorium. This work will also restore W.G.R. Sprague’s original boxes and loges which, along with the entire front of house, were destroyed by a bomb in 1940, causing the theatre to be closed for twenty years. The restored theatre will be returned to its pre-war splendour, reopening on 18 December 2019 as the Sondheim Theatre.
While work on the theatre is carried out the staging of Les Misérables in concert with a company of over 65 will run at the Gielgud Theatre next door from the 10th August until the 30th November. The new production of Les Misérables, with a separate company, is currently on a sold-out international tour which has recently been extended to Autumn 2020.