Time Out says
Posted: Wed Jun 20 2012
Originally named the Waldorf and later the Strand, the Novello has been so-called since its major refurbishment under Delfont Mackintosh in 2005. In its current incarnation, it has hosted seasons by the RSC as well as a visit from Stephen Daldry’s acclaimed perennial production of ‘An Inspector Calls’. The overhaul marked the theatre’s centenary year and its new name commemorated the actor, writer and composer Ivor Novello, who lived in a flat above it for 30 years. Designed by WGR Sprague – also the architect behind the Aldwych – it was at first owned by the American Schubert brothers and launched with an operatic season. During the First World War, ownership passed to husband-and-wife team Julia Neilson and Fred Terry, brother of the famous actor Ellen; bombing caused serious damage in 1915. Eugene O’Neill’s ‘Anna Christie’ received its British premiere at the theatre in 1923; the first of the playwright’s works to be seen in the West End, it caused a sensation. Fred Astaire, Peggy Ashcroft and John Gielgud all appeared there. The Second World War brought more bomb damage but, under Donald Wolfitt, the company continued to perform. ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ broke box-office records from 1942 to 1946. Post-war, the Strand saw more notable premieres, among them the first UK production of Stephen Sondheim’s ‘A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’, with Frankie Howerd; William Golding’s first stage play; and Tom Stoppard’s ‘The Real Thing’. The theatre was also home to two long-running jukebox musicals – ‘Buddy’ and ‘The Rat Pack’ – until the Strand at last became the Novello, and received its long overdue refurb.