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© Susie Rea

West End theatre venues

Discover London's prestigious West End theatre venues in our comprehensive A-Z guide

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Use our A-Z list of West End theatre venues in London to discover the very best shows and musicals currently on in the capital

Adelphi Theatre

Theatre Musicals Strand

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.

Cool Hand Luke, Marc Warren (c) Gregg Stone.jpg
© Gregg Stone

Aldwych Theatre

Theatre Musicals Aldwych

Designed by WGR Sprague in Georgian style, the Aldwych opened in 1905. Diaghilev and Nijinsky rehearsed their controversial ‘Rites of Spring’ here in 1913 and from 1925 to 1933 the theatre housed Ben Travers’ farces, which came to be known as the Aldwych Farces. Other notable productions included Laurence Olivier’s staging of ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’, starring his wife Vivien Leigh, in 1949. In 1960, the Aldwych became the London home of the RSC, and was used as a base for the company for 22 years.

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Ambassadors Theatre

Theatre West End Seven Dials

A bin lid-wielding music and dance troupe crashing bits of junk together to deafening effect is an unusual choice for such a small theatre, but ‘Stomp’ has maintained its popularity here since transferring from the Vaudeville in 2007. The intimate space has, however, been used more sensitively in the past, most notably as the home of Agatha Christie’s whodunit, ‘The Mousetrap’ – a show that peddled its murder mystery for a record-breaking 21 years before moving next door to the larger St Martin’s Theatres.

Apollo Shaftesbury

Theatre Musicals Shaftesbury Avenue

One of the most attractive Shafesbury Avenue theatres, the Apollo opened in February 1901, just after the death of Queen Victoria – making it London's first Edwardian theatre. It was conceived as a base for musicals, but has been superceded by larger venues in the modern era, and is now more typically a base for transfers of straight plays – including, most famously Jez Butterworth's seminal 'Jerusalem' in 2010 and 2011. In 2013 a portion of its ceiling collapsed following heavy rain; it reopened three months later but the upper floor remains closed and the capacity of the building is reduced.

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© Michael Kirby/TO

Apollo Victoria

Theatre West End Victoria

A cinema in its former life, the art deco Apollo Victoria is now one of the largest theatres in London. Filling this 2,200-seater is no mean feat, but as the Apollo transitioned from cinema to theatre in the early ’80s, Andrew Lloyd Webber was helpfully on hand to set the tone. The musical don’s 1984 production of ‘Starlight Express’ (featuring an off-stage, multitier rollerskating track) kept the house busy for 18 years and only hung up its skates to make way for Webber’s ‘Bombay Dreams’. Since then it’s been hit musicals galore at the Apollo Victoria, from ‘Saturday Night Fever’ to the elaborately staged ‘Wicked’ which has bathed the theatre in green light since 2006.

Cambridge Theatre

Theatre West End Seven Dials

Situated at the Covent Garden crossroads of Seven Dials, the Cambridge is one of the West End’s newest theatres, having opened in 1930, its clean lines and bronze freizes influenced by 1920s German expressionist design. Early in its life, it was relegated to serving as a venue for trade shows and concerts but during the war drama took the stage once again, with a notable production of Shaw’s 'Heartbreak House', starring Edith Evans. Keith Waterhouse’s benchmark drama ‘Billy Liar’ played here for two years in the early 1960s; the Cambridge also played host to London’s original production of the Kander and Ebb musical ‘Chicago’ in 1977. In the meantime, the theatre has passed from owners Stoll Moss to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group Ltd. Since 2011 it has played host to Tim Minchin's hit musical 'Matilda'.

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Criterion Theatre

Theatre West End Piccadilly Circus

Redeveloped in the nineteenth century as a restaurant, tavern and basement theatre on the site of a former coaching inn, the Criterion opened for dinner in 1873 and for drama the following year. A WS Gilbert offering entitled ‘Topsyturveydom’ was among the early offerings, followed by a period under Charles Wyndham during which the theatre acquired a reputation for light comedies. Wyndham left in 1899 to open his own theatre and soon afterwards the Metrpolitan Board of Works condemned the theatre on safety grounds. Extensive refurbishment followed, including the installation of electric lights, and by the 1920s and 1930s the venue was playing host to the likes of John Gielgud and Sybil Thorndike in work by Novello and Rattigan.

Dominion Theatre

Theatre West End Bloomsbury

Commercial as they come, the Dominion Theatre relies on populist, accessible shows to fill its whopping 2,000-seat capacity. And grumpy critics aside, it’s done a pretty good job of pleasing the masses, with crowd-pullers such as ‘Grease’, Matthew Bourne’s ‘Swan Lake’ and, most famously, Queen and Ben Elton’s tribute musical, ‘We Will Rock You’. 

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© Pitmen Painters

Duchess Theatre

Theatre West End Covent Garden

In terms of sight lines and size, the Duchess Theatre can be counted on for one of the West End’s more pleasant theatre experiences. The smallish playhouse seats some 500 and is never better than when staging weighty dramas – a possible hangover from its early years when dramatist JB Priestley formed part of the Duchess management. Since 2014 it has played host to cult backstage comedy 'The Play That Goes Wrong'.

Duke of York’s Theatre

Theatre Musicals Covent Garden

The Duke is where Puccini saw ‘Madame Butterfly’ and decided to write the opera; JM Barrie premiered ‘Peter Pan’ and Al Pacino wowed British crowds starring in David Mamet's ‘American Buffalo’. Its colourful reputation outshines its productions in some cases, though the Duke of York’s Theatre still boasts a solid mix of comedies, musicals, classic dramas and the odd spangly moment.

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