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Storied West End musical theatre house
This Grade II-listed building specialises in musicals and is jointly owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group and Nederlander International. The theatre was founded in 1806 as the Sans Pareil by John Scott and his daughter Jane, a manager, performer and playwright. After her marriage and retirement in 1819, it was renamed the Adelphi and developed a reputation for presenting lurid melodramas, which became known as ‘Adelphi screamers’. Adaptations of works by Dickens were also presented and the theatre itself is namechecked in ‘The Pickwick Papers’.
The theatre was demolished and reopened in 1858 as the more spacious New Adelphi, complete with a dazzling new chandelier. It was the site of a grisly murder in 1897 when actor William Terris was stabbed there; his ghost reputedly still haunts the building.
The trend for musical comedies began at the turn of the century, while the Adelphi went through further redevelopments. It reopened in 1930 in its present Art Deco style, designed by Ernest Schaufelberg. The inaugural production was Ridgers & Hart's musical ‘Ever Green’ and in 1975 it saw the UK premiere of Stephen Sondheim’s ‘A Little Night Music’. GLC plans for the redevelopment of Covent Garden saw the Adelphi come under threat of demolition, along with the Vaudeville, Garrick, Duchess and Lyceum, but the Save London Theatres campaign prevailed and they were saved.
In 1993, the Really Useful Group bought the theatre and undertook extensive refurbishment prior to the opening of Lloyd Webber’s musical ‘Sunset Boulevard’. In 1997, the Kander and Ebb revival ‘Chicago’ took up residence, before transferring to the Cambridge Theatre in 2006. Michael Grandage’s production of ‘Evita’ followed, and Brian Wilson gave a historic performance of the Beach Boys’ ‘Pet Sounds’ album here in 2006.
Lloyd Webber’s ‘Joseph’, starring TV talent show winner Lee Mead, was next; and in 2010 his 'Phantom' sequel, ‘Love Never Dies’, opened after a troubled development. It proved a dire, unwieldy piece. With a brief non-musical interlude for the National Theatre’s hit comedy ‘One Man Two Guvnors’ it's been musicals all the way since, with the likes of ‘The Bodyguard’ and ‘Kinky Boots’ taking stints there.
As of 2019 it was the new home for the hit US musical ‘Waitress’.
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