The Lyceum Theatre has a long and complex tale of success, downfall and rebirth. It all started in 1772 when the Society of Arts founded a room for exhibitions and concerts near the site of the current building. Since this beginning the Lyceum has displayed a chameleon tendency, adapting to changing fashions and needs admirably.
In 1809 a fire brought down the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane so its company moved to the Lyceum, enabling the theatre to obtain a proper licence from the Lord Chamberlain for the presentation of plays. Theatrical brilliance began. In 1815 the Lyceum was completely rebuilt by the design of Samuel Beazley. Then, misfortune struck again – in 1830 the Lyceum and a large section of Exeter Street burnt down. Another version of the Theatre was built and re-opened in 1834. The Lyceum became the first theatre in England to incorporate a balcony which projected over the circle.
This building lasted only seventy years. During that time Henry Irving, an acclaimed actor, took over and turned the venue into the most brilliant playhouse in London. However, fire struck again (!) and Irving’s assets were destroyed. A new purchaser couldn’t be found so the building was to be demolished and re-built once again. Irving died in 1905 and never entered the new building, which was re-opened in 1907. Finally this now brings us to the current building.
Despite numerous challenges the Lyceum Theatre In 1996, after ten years of vacancy and decline, the Lyceum saw its sixth reincarnation. It was Apollo Leisure who stepped in and secured permission to return it to its former glory. Investing over £14 million, the building was refurbished and re-opened by HRH Prince Charles on 31st October 1996, with Jesus Christ Superstar. Business continues to flourish as The Lyceum, now owned by The Ambassador Theatre Group, stages Disney’s production The Lion King.