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  • Theatre | Musicals
  • Covent Garden

Gillian Lynne Theatre

This modernist monolith is the first theatre in London to be named after a woman


Time Out says

In a first for the West End, former New London Theatre was renamed the Gillian Lynne in 2018 to honour the late, legendary choreographer of 'Cats' and 'The Phantom of the Opera'. Lynne interpreted some of Andrew Lloyd Webber's wildest creative schemes using an innovative mix of ballet and jazz dance styles, bringing new life to dance on the West End musical theatre stage. She's given her name to the theatre which has played host to some stonking great hits, including the current ‘School of Rock’, ‘War Horse’ and, of course, ‘Cats’ itself.

The Gillian Lynne Theatre is one of the West End's most modern venues: it turned heads on its opening in 1973, both for its imposing (if unlovely) glass facade, and for its impressive technical capabilities. Unlike the trad Victorian and Edwardian theatres that surround it, it's fully adaptable, with ingenious tech wizardry that lets it accommodate both proscenium arch and in-the-round stagings. Entire seating banks can move position at just the flick of a switch, there's a hidden lift to raise the orchestra pit, and moveable wall panels can shift the auditorium's shape. 

Although you wouldn't know it today, the theatre sits on a site with a long history. In the 17th century, it housed a tavern called the Mogul, which went on to be converted into a popular Victorian music hall nicknamed 'The Old Mo'. In 1911, it was replaced by the Winter Garden - which, astonishingly, still included the original Mogul tavern within its walls, as its Stalls bar. The theatre's biggest hits included Agatha Christie's wildly popular courtroom thriller 'Witness for the Prosecution', but faced with flagging audiences, it was eventually demolished in 1965, allowing the current Gillian Lynne Theatre to rise, gleaming, from the rubble. 


Drury Lane (corner of Parker Street)
Tube: Covent Garden/Holborn
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Standing at the Sky’s Edge

5 out of 5 stars

I was blown away by the emotional power of this show, about three generations of incomers in Sheffield’s iconic – and infamous – brutalist housing estate, Park Hill. It’s a stunning achievement, which takes the popular but very different elements of retro pop music, agitprop and soap opera, melts them in the crucible of 50 years of social trauma and forges something potent, gorgeous and unlike any big-ticket musical I’ve seen before.  ‘Standing at the Sky’s Edge’ has deeply local foundations. It's based on local songwriter Richard Hawley's music. And it was made in Sheffield, at the Crucible Theatre, with meticulous care and attention from that theatre’s creative team. It’s been rightly garlanded with praise and awards already. But its West End transfer makes it clear that this singular show can speak beyond its own backyard. It is part kitchen sink musical, and part state-of-the-nation soap. It documents poverty, migration, hard graft, the painful decline of industry and working-class male pride, the double-edged hope offered by regeneration, the fragile joys of love in  ‘found families’ – not exactly ‘jazz hands’ themes, but vividly relatable and, more importantly, shared by communities. They deserve to be sung just as loudly as the more familiar stories of triumphant individuals expressing themselves, which tend to leave all this stuff behind.  What makes this an instant classic is the Crucible's outstanding production, a true ensemble achievement. It is the right way to a

  • Musicals

The Wizard of Oz

3 out of 5 stars

This review is from the London Palladium in July 2023. ‘The Wizard of Oz’ returns in 2024 to the Gillian Lynne Theatre with a new cast. Crashlanding onto the stage of London's Palladium, this high-octane 'Wizard of Oz' promises to obliterate the wicked witch of school holiday boredom, banishing her memory in an all-consuming explosion of video projections, perky songs and old-fashioned sap. It's certainly not subtle. But kids will complain that TikTok feels too slow after a few hours in its exhilarating company.Director Nikolai Foster's production started out at Leicester Curve theatre last year: now, it's hitting the West End with a souped-up cast designed to wring some humour from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Jeremy Sams's overly sincere book. Now, comedian Jason Manford is playing the Cowardly Lion, but the book is light on jokes for this star to milk, so when Manford incongruously announces that 'I'm a friend of Dorothy', it brings the house down. In a less successful bit of star casting, reality telly personality and dance troupe Diversity's choreographer Ashley Banjo pops up as the Tin Man. His singing skills are somewhat rusty, so it's a relief when he breaks into a 'Hamilton'-style musical theatre rap.The standout performances here are the most vocally accomplished. As Dorothy, Georgina Onuorah delivers a subtle, rich 'Somewhere Over The Rainbow,' its wistful tone a welcome contrast with the score's bombastic newer songs. And Christina Bianco is an enchanting good fairy G

  • Musicals

The Lehman Trilogy

4 out of 5 stars

This review is from February 2023. In September 2024 ‘The Lehman Trilogy’ will return for its fourth London run, this time starring John Heffernan, Aaron Krohn and Howard W. Overshown. The National Theatre’s Sam Mendes-directed blockbuster ‘The Lehman Trilogy’ – now on its second West End run, after conquering Broadway last year – is performed on Es Devlin’s modern boardroom set, and bookended by short scenes from the 2008 demise of Lehman Brothers, the investment bank. But that is not the story that Italian playwright Stefano Massini – as adapted by Ben Power – wanted to tell. ‘The Lehman Trilogy’ isn’t about banking or the credit crunch. It’s about a family, and about the dizzying lifecycle of that family’s business during America’s chaotic years of ascent. Bavarian Jewish immigrant Henry Lehman (nee Hayum Lehmann) arrived in the US in 1844. In the years that followed, he was joined by his brothers, Emanuel and Mayer Lehman. They founded a cotton merchant together, that would eventually mutate into an investment bank. Eugene’s grandson, Bobby, was the last Lehman to run the company. And that’s effectively where this story ends, with Bobby’s death in 1969. So it’s the tale of a family business. And it’s utterly engrossing, built on hyperdetailed, surprisingly joke-packed old school narrated storytelling. It takes a lot of licenses, but it tells a story that has a compellingly unpredictable tang of truth to it. It’s startling how Henry dies after just a few years; how the tri

  • Drama

My Neighbour Totoro

4 out of 5 stars

This review is from 2022. ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ transfer to the Gillian Lynne Theatre in the West End for a fresh 2025 run. Lead casting is TBC. Studio Ghibli’s 1988 cartoon masterpiece ‘My Neighbour Totoro’ is a stunningly beautiful, devastatingly charming film, in which not a huge amount happens per se.  It follows two young sisters who move to the countryside with their dad and basically get up to a lot of extremely normal things… while also fleetingly encountering a succession of astounding otherworldly creatures, most notably Totoro, a gigantic furry woodland spirit, and the Cat Bus, a cat that is also a bus (or a bus that is also a cat, whatever). Its most iconic scene involves young heroines Mei and Satsuki waiting at a bus stop, and Totoro shuffling up behind them, chuckling at their umbrella (a new concept to him) and then hopping on his unearthly public transport. So if you’re going to adapt it for the stage you’re going to have to absolutely nail the puppets you use to portray Totoro and co.  The RSC absolutely understood the brief here, although you’ll have to take my word for it, as for this first ever stage adaption – by Tom Morton-Smith, overseen by legendary Ghibli composer Joe Hisaishi – the company hasn’t allowed a single publicity photo of a single puppet (bar some chickens) to be released.  Nonetheless, the puppets – designed by Basil Twist, assembled by Jim Henson's Creature Workshop – are fucking spectacular. They have to be fucking spectacular because t

  • Drama
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