Apollo Victoria Theatre

Theatre in/near Victoria, existing between 1929 and now

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Theatre · Victoria · SW1V ·
July
12
2015

The Apollo Victoria Theatre is a West End theatre, across from London Victoria Station.


The theatre was built by architects Ernest Wamsley Lewis and William Edward Trent in 1929 for Provincial Cinematograph Theatres, a part of the Gaumont British chain. The theatre was built with two identical facades on Wilton and Vauxhall Bridge Roads. Construction is principally of concrete, with strong horizontal banding along the exterior sides of the auditorium. By contrast the entrances feature a cantilevered canopy, and are framed by vertical channelling, with two black marble columns rising to the roof line. The entrance is simple, making use of chrome trimmings, this leads to a nautical themed interior in the original Art Deco style that makes extensive use of concealed lighting, decorated with scallop shells and columns that burst into sculptured fountains at the ceiling.

The theatre had a 74 feet by 24 feet stage and was equipped with 10 dressing rooms and two suites for principals. The theatre was Grade II* listed on 28 June 1972.

The theatre opened as the New Victoria Cinema on 15 October 1930 with a film starring George Arlis in Old English, based on a stage play by John Galsworthy. It was equipped with a Compton 3 manual 15 rank theatre organ, played on the opening night by Reginald Foort and the theatre also staged variety shows. The first show played also during the opening was Hoop-La.

Variety quickly gave way to a specialisation in film performances, with occasional performances by big bands. In June 1939, the cinema was one of the three London sites chosen to present a live relay of The Epsom Derby from the pre-war BBC experimental transmissions, utilising Baird equipment to project onto a screen 15 feet by 12 in sepia. From September 1940 to May 1941, the theatre was closed due to World War II, but no serious damage was sustained and it reopened quickly. Plans were made for demolition in the 1950s, but it was saved and presented a mixture of ballet, live shows and films. The last films were shown in November 1975, a double bill of Peter Cushing in Legend of the Werewolf (1975) and Adrienne Corri in Vampire Circus (1972), though the theatre remained open until 1976, after which it closed for five years.

Led Zeppelin rehearsed there, on May Day, 1980. It reopened in 1981 as the Apollo Victoria Theatre with a Shirley Bassey concert.

Musicals, including The Sound of Music, Camelot and Fiddler on the Roof played at the theatre in the early 1980s. In 1984, the interior was extensively modified by the introduction of a ’race track’ that ran through the audience, for the show Starlight Express with performers on roller skates. The show premiered on 27 March, composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and directed by Trevor Nunn and ran for 7,406 performances, over 18 years. With the removal of the ’tracks’, the interior was extensively restored by architects Jaques Muir and Partners. This included the removal of 3,500 incandescent lamps that had become difficult to maintain and consumed a considerable amount of power. These were replaced by 88,000 low power LEDs specially designed for the theatre, creating the first auditorium completely lit in this way. Another Lloyd Webber production followed, Bombay Dreams premièred on 19 June 2002. It was created by A. R. Rahman with lyrics by Don Black and was directed by Steven Pimlott, closing after 1,500 performances on 13 June 2004. This was followed by the return to the West End of the Bee Gee’s musical Saturday Night Fever on 6 July 2004, closing 22 October 2005 to tour. This was followed on 10 April 2006 by the jukebox musical Movin’ Out, featuring the music of Billy Joel. This starred James Fox but ran for only two months.

The Broadway musical Wicked received its London premiere at the venue on 27 September 2006 with a cast featuring Idina Menzel as Elphaba, Helen Dallimore as Glinda, Nigel Planer as The Wizard, Adam Garcia as Fiyero and Miriam Margolyes as Madame Morrible. Wicked has been seen by over 7 million people in London.

The show claimed a record-breaking £761,000 taken at the box office, during its first eight performances and to date has grossed £150 million in London alone.

On 10 October 2010 the theatre celebrated its 80th birthday with a Gala Performance, featuring stars of productions past and present, including a reunion of Starlight Express performers.

On Tuesday 27 September 2011, Wicked celebrated its fifth anniversary in the West End with a curtain call reunion of former cast members.


Main source: Wikipedia
Further citations and sources


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Victoria

The railways largely replaced the canals as a means of transport. Uniquely for a main line station, Victoria station was built on top of one.

Before the railway arrived in 1862, this area - like the area immediately south of it - was known as Pimlico. The Grosvenor Canal ended in a large basin here.

Victoria station’s origins lie with the Great Exhibition of 1851, when a railway called the West End of London and Crystal Palace Railway came into existence, serving the site of the exhibition halls which had been transferred to Sydenham from Hyde Park. The terminus of that railway was at Stewarts Lane in Battersea on the south side of the river. In 1858 a joint enterprise was set up to take trains over the river: it was entitled the Victoria Station and Pimlico Railway; and was a mile and a quarter in length. The railway was owned by four railway companies: the Great Western (GWR); London & North Western (LNWR); the London, Brighton and South Coast (LBSCR); and the London Chatham and Dover Railways (LCDR). It was incorporated by Act of Parliament in 1858.

The station was built in two parts: those on the western side, opened in 1862, with six platforms, ten tracks and an hotel (the 300-bedroom Grosvenor) were occupied by the Brighton company; whilst adjacent, and in the same year, the Chatham company were to occupy a less imposing wooden-fronted building. The latter’s station had nine tracks and was shared by broad-gauge trains of the GWR, whose trains arrived from Southall via the West London Extension Joint Railway through Chelsea. The GWR remained part owner of the station until 1932, although its trains had long since ceased to use it. Each side of the station had its own entrance and a separate station master; a wall between the two sections effectively emphasised that fact.

At the start of the twentieth century both parts of the station were rebuilt. It now had a decent frontage and forecourt, but not as yet a unified existence. Work on the Brighton side was completed in 1908 and was carried out in red brick; the Grosvenor Hotel was rebuilt at the same time. The Chatham side, in a Edwardian style with baroque elements, designed by Alfred Bloomfield, was completed a year later. The two sections were eventually connected in 1924 by removing part of a screen wall, when the platforms were renumbered as an entity. The station was redeveloped internally in the 1980s, with the addition of shops within the concourse, and above the western platforms.

The station was now serving boat trains, and during WWI it became the hub of trains carrying soldiers to and from France, many of them wounded. After the war the Continental steamer traffic became concentrated there, including the most famous of those trains, the Golden Arrow. The area around the station also became a site for other other forms of transport: a bus station in the forecourt; a coach terminal to the south; and it is now the terminal for trains serving Gatwick Airport.

Victoria is also well-served by London underground. The sub-surface Circle and District Lines opened on December 24, 1868; and the Victoria Line line came to Victoria Station with the third phase of construction of the line - the station’s platforms were opened on March 7, 1969, six months after the Victoria line had started running in outer London.
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