If you’ve been fortunate to wander around or even see a show in London’s renowned West End district, you’ll no doubt have stumbled across one of Delfont Mackintosh Theatres’ distinguished and striking venues. The theatre group was established in 1991 by theatrical impresario Bernard Delfont and theatrical producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh, and has since dominated the capital’s theatre playground with a prestigious programme of shows such as Disney’s ‘Aladdin’, ‘Avenue Q’, ‘Mamma Mia!’, ‘Jersey Boys’, ‘ Les Miserables’, ‘The Book of Mormon’ and many other award-winning shows.
The group currently consists of eight theatres; a composition of exquisite, historical buildings that have been lovingly restored through Delfont Mackintosh Theatres’ ownership. It first began with the Prince Edward and the Prince of Wales theatres; two venues owned by Delfont’s company, First Leisure Corporation. Wanting to onboard someone who would be devout in taking care of the theatres’ future, Delfont enlisted Mackintosh to come aboard in 1991. That same year, Mackintosh acquired the Novello (formerly the Strand), and lead to the renaming of First Leisure’s theatre division to the acclaimed brand we know today – Delfont Mackintosh Theatres.
Since the beginning, the company has been dedicated to acquiring, refurbishing and revitalising some of London’s most acclaimed theatres, bringing them back to life with modern comforts while retaining their charming heritage. Over the years they also took ownership of the Gielgud, Queen’s, Noël Coward, Wyndham’s and more recently Victoria Palace; each with their own qualities and allure. Not only have they held some of the most reputed productions to date, they’ve also seen a flurry of celebrity stars flock to their stages. Daniel Radcliffe, Ralph Fiennes, Judi Dench, Angela Lansbury, Helen Mirren, Jude Law and Nicole Kidman are just some of the big names who have performed at Delfont Mackintosh Theatres, while Gillian Anderson and Lily James appear at the Noël Coward this year.
Delfont Mackintosh Theatres promises a range of talent and award-winning productions, with many new shows coming up across their West End theatres in 2019. Find out more about their venues and programmes below.
Rivalled by none, the Prince Edward has multiple claims to fame endured in its near-90 years of entertainment. It bore witness to the one and only Julie Andrews (aka Mary Poppins and Maria Von Trapp) on two occasions; one where she played Princess Badroulbadour in ‘Aladdin’ and another as the egg in ‘Humpty Dumpty’. It also supported elaborate sets – such as having a filled swimming pool on stage to recreate the holiday camp scenes of Harold Rome’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ in the 50’s, and hosted the premieres of award-winning musicals like Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s ‘Evita’ in 1978 and Catherine Johnson’s ‘Mamma Mia!’ in 1999.
Its exceptional history has also observed the theatre being repurposed several times, morphing into a cinema, The London Casino and Queensberry All Services Club, before reverting back to its true identity. Today, after the significant restoration in 1992 of Delfont Mackintosh Theatres, it boasts a larger stage and auditorium but still flaunts its preserved Italian Palazzo exterior and Art Deco-inspired foyer.
The Prince Edward has been the home of Disney’s Aladdin since 2016. An explosion of colourful costumes, breathtaking special effects and cherished songs from the 1992 animation, Aladdin has won a handful of awards and received rave reviews from audiences. It continues to run until the end of June 2019, when it will be replaced by the return and revival of Mary Poppins opening in October.
The site has occupied the Prince of Wales theatre since the late 19th century, constructed by the celebrated theatre architect CJ Phipps. The original building was restructured in 1937, supporting an Art Deco design depictive of that era. In 1999, it became a grade II listed building, and in the years to follow Delfont and Mackintosh Theatres improved the theatre’s accessibility and acoustics while tributing the theatre’s historical character.
As one of the West End’s most prominent venues for entertainment, it has consistently delivered some of the most momentous performances and productions. Charlie Chaplin’s ‘The First Dictator’ premiered at the Prince of Wales, Barbra Streisand was the ‘Funny Girl’ in 1966 and American actress Mae West made her West End debut in 1948. And during the 1968 Royal Variety Show, John Lennon controversially asked ‘the people in the cheaper seats clap your hands and rest of you, if you’ll just rattle your jewellery” as he sang alongside the Beatles before the Queen Mother.
Continuing its legacy, in recent years the Prince of Wales hosted Mamma Mia! for a lengthy eight-year run as well as popular musicals, The Full Monty, Rent, and Let It Be. It currently showcases the playfully mischievous and nine-time Tony Award winner, The Book of Mormon. Created by the ‘South Park’ team Trey Parker and Matt Stone with ‘Avenue Q’s’ Robert Lopez, The Book of Mormon is the spirited musical comedy that follows two young Mormon’s sent to a remote Ugandan village on a mission to spread their faith. The show has received Tony Awards and a Grammy Award, becoming an international sensation since it first hit Broadway in 2011.
Built by another famous designer of the late 19th and early 20th century, the Novello is among many of the Delfont Mackintosh Theatres’ venues originally designed by WGR Sprague. Though Sprague declared his passion for architecture of the Italian Renaissance, the Novello (previously known as the Waldorf and later the Strand) is described as more French. Elegant and tasteful, it remains one of the most iconic theatres in London’s West End.
Following Delfont and Mackintosh Theatres’ ownership, the theatre was refurbished in 2005 and bore the new name of Novello. It adopted the name from composer and actor Ivor Novello who lived in a flat above for years – the creative hub where he reportedly wrote many of his works. In honour of Novello, visitors can find a blue plaque above the theatre.
Currently, the Novello is home to the outstanding musical that celebrates the works of Swedish pop group ABBA. ‘Mamma Mia!’ opened at the Prince Edward in 1999, transferred to the Prince of Wales in 2004, and settled at the Novello in 2012 where it has ran consistently since. As one of the longest-running shows in the West End, ‘Mamma Mia!’ has proved to be a smash hit across generations. Tickets are currently available at the Novello until mid-September 2019.
If you’re looking to catch famous faces, the Gielgud Theatre is one of Delfont Mackintosh Theatres’ most frequently populated venues among TV stars and acclaimed British actors making their return to the stage. Since the group took over, Michael Sheen, Ralph Fiennes, Daniel Radcliffe, Helen Mirren and Angela Lansbury have starred in the range of productions at the Gielgud, illustrating its ability to rope in the finest talent.
Similarly to the Novello, it was designed by Sprague in the style of Louis XVI, with a rich interior of gold leaf work, circular staircases and stunning, ornate plasterwork. It was constructed as the sister venue to the Queen’s theatre, which opened the following year in 1907. Surviving over a century, Delfont Mackintosh Theatres reinstalled some of the features in 2008 that were lost over time, such as the boxes behind the Dress Circle, keeping it traditional but with modern and more accessible updates.
Until the end of March 2019, you can catch the dazzling musical comedy ‘Company’ enjoying its third major West End run. It celebrates the challenges of dating, falling in love and marriage, with glittering musical numbers and an updated twist on its former showings.
Aptly named, this theatre has had its fair share of acting royalty like its partner venue; the Gielgud. Who’d have thought Fred Astaire, Maggie Smith and Nick Jonas would have stood upon the same stage (albeit not at the same time)? Queen’s is the stomping ground for many talented celebrities, and reportedly has a ghost lingering around too.
As another Sprague creation, Queen’s occupied an old Italian interior of green and gold and a dramatic facade, however the exterior was dramatically damaged during the Second World War. Luckily, the auditorium was barely affected and so visitors today can still marvel at its original, spectacular design.
Its opulence is matched by the epic production living at Queen’s since 2004. ‘Les Miserables’ is the legendary work of French novelist and poet Victor Hugo. The story was transformed into one of the West End’s most evergreen productions by Cameron Mackintosh, who’s talent from working on ‘Cats’ in Broadway translated to one of the most successful musicals of all time. ‘Les Miserables’ was further celebrated when it was adapted into a blockbuster for the big screen starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway, however there’s nothing quite like seeing the French Revolution brought to life at the majestic Queen’s Theatre.
‘Les Miserables’ is showing until 13th July 2019, where it will then hit pause for the refurbishment of the theatre – due to return indefinitely in December 2019. During this time, visitors can enjoy a spectacular concert of ‘Les Miserables’ held at the Gielgud Theatre next door from 10 August – 30th November 2019. The concert features a stellar cast fulfilling the lead roles, backed by a magnificent orchestra of over 65.
Cameron Mackintosh reflects on the temporary break of ‘Les Miserables’ at the Queen’s. “The success of Les Misérables continues to amaze me and break new ground. Despite the fact the show continues to play to 95% capacity we have been obliged to close the production at the Queen’s Theatre for 16 weeks this Autumn to do much needed work.”
He adds that the stage concerts have endured parallel success to the stage shows, and reveals his delight at ‘Les Miserables’ being reproduced for its 16-week run at the Gielgud. “I am thrilled that the plan to keep Les Misérables running in London with a staged concert version on Shaftesbury Avenue during the enforced closure period has attracted such a stellar cast, with Michael Ball, Alfie Boe, Carrie Hope Fletcher, John Owen Jones, Matt Lucas and Katy Secombe, who all have a very close personal connection to the history of the show. Of course I am a bit miserable that Michael, the gorgeous young actor that created the student Marius in the original production, is now for the first time old enough to play the implacable inspector Javert, an amazing match for Alfie’s career defining portrayal of Jean Valjean.”
The Noël Coward has seen many firsts. From West End premieres of the award-winning Cameron Mackintosh-produced ‘Avenue Q’ and Lionel Bart’s ‘Oliver!’, to West End debuts from Katharine Hepburn with ‘The Millionairess’ in 1952 and the man the theatre is named after. Noël Coward performed his first West End play ‘I’ll Leave It To You’ in 1920, ascribing him a fitting icon to rename the theatre since Delfont Mackintosh Theatres’ ownership. Other portraits of the acting world who have performed there include Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, and in more recent years; Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, Vanessa Redgrave and Judi Dench. As a theatre steeped in history and symbolic performances, the Noël Coward has maintained his deservedly high reputation in the world of performing arts.
Currently showing at the Noël Coward, ‘All About Eve’ stars the female half of the ‘X Files’ duo, Gillian Anderson and star of ‘Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again’, Lily James. The pair star as a famous actress (Anderson) and her adoring fan (James) whom she takes under her wing, only to be betrayed in a fierce battle for the limelight. Showing until 11th May 2019, ‘All About Eve’ is succeeded by ‘The Night of the Iguana’ featuring Clive Owen from July to September, and the six-time Tony Award-winning and 2018 Grammy Award-winning musical ‘Dear Evan Hansen’ in November.
The Noël Coward is one of theatre architect Sprague’s many designs in the Delfont Mackintosh Theatre group. With a rich Rococo core and a classical veneer, the theatre is visually stunning, which only lends to the theatre experience.
Since opening in 1899, the WGR Sprague creation commissioned by Charles Wyndham has seen many rewarding runs comprising shows by the likes of JM Barrie, Edgar Wallace, Guy du Maurier and Noë l Coward. It dabbled in crime plays during the early 20th century, then welcomed the successful Sandy Wilson musical ‘The Boyfriend’ in the 50’s. Later it endured a record-breaking run with the acclaimed comedy ‘Art’ (which inspired Sir Ian McKellen to swap the stage for the stalls as he watched from the audience) and ventured into Shakespearean plays more recently starring Sienna Miller and Jude Law (note – the former celebrity couple were in separate plays). Not to mention, the Queen of Pop Madonna made her West End debut at the Wyndham’s and non-surprisingly sold out showings of ‘Up for Grabs’ in 2002.
Since Delfont Mackintosh Theatres became the established owners in 2005, the Wyndham’s Theatre was given the labour of love as it was carefully renovated. Despite the theatre’s grandeur, where its facade really does look like a royal palace which appears to be an orthodox Sprague design, it remains intimate, delicate and tastefully adorned.
Now adding to Wyndham’s’ steady success of shows, Arthur Miller’s ‘The Price’ starring David Suchet and Brendan Coyle as two brothers reacquainted following the death of their parents. In managing the family’s assets, the pair revisit the past and what actually tore them apart. Miller’s classic runs until 27th April, succeeded by Academy Award-winning Kenneth Lonergan’s ‘The Starry Messenger’ in which Matthew Broderick makes his West End Debut. This touching comedy-drama will run at the Wyndham’s from 16th May – 10th August 2019.
The latest acquisition of the Delfont Macintosh Theatres range, the former site of the Royal Standard Music Hall bares the handiwork of the prestigious Edwardian theatre architect Frank Matcham. The Victoria Palace opened in 1911, tributing its musical heritage by showcasing a variety of performances across the arts. Atop its cupola, a golden statue of ballerina Anna Pavlova stands; a replica of the original that was taken down during World War II and lost. Today, the grade II listed building is described as ‘well-preserved’ and honouring Matcham’s work.
Operating for over a century, the Victoria Palace has seen a range of standout productions, including ‘High Society’, ‘Buddy-The Buddy Holly Story’ and ‘Billy Elliot the Musical’ with a soundtrack by Elton John. The Palace also gave Elizabeth Taylor her London debut in 1982, where she was admired by a pregnant Princess Diana in the audience.
Visitors the Palace can watch the record-breaking show from Broadway, that has so far claimed 11 Tony Awards and continues to grow its accolades. ‘Hamilton’ is based upon the novel by Ron Chernow that follows protagonist Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant who becomes the right hand man of George Washington. He is the forgotten American Founding Father, whose journey from poverty to power is recounted with r’n’b and hip-hop numbers that lead to a Grammy Award for ‘Best Musical Theatre Album’ in 2016. Manuel teamed up with Cameron Mackintosh to bring the well-crafted and highly-anticipated production to London at the end of 2017, with a continuous run until 25th May 2019.
For those that love the theatre, 2019 is an exciting time to visit London’s West End. From gripping dramas like ‘All About Eve’, to moving and powerful classics like ‘Les Miserables’ and ‘Hamilton’, and child-friendly shows like ‘Aladdin’ to not so child-friendly like ‘The Book of Mormon’; there’s plenty of award-winning productions to see across Delfont Mackintosh Theatres’ eight historic venues. Make this year the year of the theatre and let’s get this show on the road!