A legend of musical theatre will be honoured in the West End this year: the Queen’s Theatre, soon to close for renovations, will be renamed the Sondheim Theatre when it reopens with the new production of Les Misérables in December.
The renaming honours the seminal composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, who celebrates his 90th birthday next March. Sondheim will become the very first living artist to have a theatre named in his honour both in the West End and on Broadway (the former Henry Miller’s Theatre was renamed in his honour in 2010).
Sondheim’s seminal catalogue of hits includes Company (recently revived in Marianne Elliott’s Olivier Award-winning production), Sweeney Todd, Sunday In The Park With George (returning to the West End next year with Jake Gyllenhaal), Into The Woods and A Little Night Music. He also wrote the lyrics for shows including West Side Story, Gypsy and Do I Hear The Waltz?. The Queen’s Theatre also hosted his show, Passion, in 1996, in a production starring Maria Friedman and Michael Ball.
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Announcing the renaming, Cameron Mackintosh said: “I have been lucky enough to have been a friend and colleague of Steve’s since our first collaboration in 1976 on the musical revue Side By Side By Sondheim at the Wyndham’s Theatre. After 112 years Shaftesbury Avenue will have a theatre named after a living legend and house the world’s longest running musical, the legendary Les Misérables, as it enters its phenomenal 35th year…
“Sondheim’s work will undoubtedly be performed as long as audiences want to see live theatre, so I feel honoured that he has agreed to have his name on one of my Shaftesbury Avenue theatres to salute his upcoming 90th birthday. Over the decades his work has become increasingly appreciated and performed by all, both as part of the popular theatre and classical repertoires and in spaces that range from a pie shop to the Royal Opera House….
“For the past 25 years I have tried to build a studio theatre in central London named after Sondheim, but it wasn’t to be. I felt this major refurbishment of a building that has housed his brilliant work was the perfect moment to put his name “on some marquee all twinkling lights – a spark to pierce the dark”. Stephen Sondheim has always been that spark to all of us. Even as an eight-year-old boy dreaming about becoming a producer I could never have dreamt a dream like this or be happier.”
Sondheim himself added: “I am chuffed, as you say in British English, to a degree I wouldn’t have imagined. Or as we say in American English, it’s awesome.”
The Queen’s Theatre in its current form originally opened on 8 October 1907, suffering significant bomb damage in 1940 to its boxes, loges and front of house. It subsequently reopened almost 20 years later, in July 1959, with John Gielgud’s Shakespearean recital Ages Of Man.
The venue will close for renovations on 13 July for renovations which will restore the venue to its pre-war glory. Les Misérables will move next door to the Gielgud Theatre for a spectacular staging of the show in concert from 10 August, before an acclaimed new production reopens the Sondheim Theatre on 18 December.
So why not witness the Sondheim Theatre in all its glory? You can book your tickets for the new Les Misérables production at the glamorously restored venue today.