Location: 21 Wellington Street
Currently Showing: The Lion King
Access: Covent Garden
Stage Door: Exeter Street, turn left out of the main entrance
Ownership: Ambassador Theatre Group
In 1765, a building was constructed for exhibitions from the Society of Artists (which disbanded three years later and was succeeded by the Royal Academy of the Arts). Later, the building was leased out for entertainment purposes.
In 1784, Samuel Arnold Sr., a composer, rebuilt the interior, converting it into a theatre. However, it was not granted a patent and Arnold leased it to others for entertainment acts. The building was also used as a circus (by Phillip Ashley after his amphitheatre burned down), a chapel, a concert room and London’s first exhibition of waxworks, which were displayed by Madame Tussaud in 1802. The building became licensed as a theatre in 1809 and was used for three years by the Drury Lane Company after their theatre burned down.
In 1834, the present building opened as Theatre Royal Lyceum and English Opera House. From 1841 to 1843, composer Michael Bafle managed the theatre but the production of opera was not popular. In 1844, Robert and Mary Anna Keeley (husband and wife) managed the theatre and, for the next three years, put on numerous adaptations of Charles Dickens’ novels.
In 1871, Henry Irvin starred in many Shakespeare works and also The Bells, which ran for 150 sold-out performances, a rare phenomenon for that time. Irvin took over management of the theatre after the death of Hezekiah Linthicum Bateman, but this duty was passed on to Bateman’s widow, Mrs Bateman. Bram Stoker worked at the theatre for twenty years as business manager and received inspiration for his famous novel Dracula from Irvin.
The theatre was host to the London debut performance of Otello, Giuseppe Verdi’s opera, in 1889 which starred Italian tenor Francesco Tamagno.
Thomas Barrasford purchased the theatre and rebuilt it in 1904. The theatre presented music hall and variety acts but was unsuccessful and so turned to drama where it became very popular.
In 1939, London County Council bought the building with plans to demolish it and make road improvements. However, these plans fell through, and the building was reopened as the Lyceum Ballroom.
The theatre (together the Adelphi, Garrick, Duchess and Vaudeville Theatres) came under threat from a redevelopment of Covent Garden by the London Greater Council. However, a successful campaign by Equity, the Musicians’ Union and theatre owners led to the abandonment of the plans.
In 1986, the theatre closed and didn’t reopen for ten years. It was restored and reconverted into a theatre and opened with Jesus Christ Superstar. The Lion King opened at the Lyceum Theatre on 24th September 1999.
The Lyceum Theatre is located just off Aldwych Crescent. Cucina Asellina is a restaurant directly opposite the Novello Theatre, although it is quite expensive. There is a Zizzi, Strada, Bella Italia and Pizza Express within five minutes’ walk of the theatre. The Globe is also a nice pub nearby which has a wide ranging menu.
Covent Garden is also a short distance away, where there are many bars and restaurants, most of which have outdoor seating. Embankment is nearby, which provides a lovely view of the Thames and London’s skyline. The view is particularly pretty by night.
Tickets for The Lion King are quite expensive, with the premium seats in the Stalls starting at over £100. There are two central aisles in the Stalls and seats further forward than row H get progressively less expensive. Seats on the ends of rows are significantly cheaper as they have a restricted view.
The premium seats in the Royal Circle are the same price as the Stalls premium seats. There are ‘slip seats’ in this section which are very inexpensive for West End tickets and provide a side-on view of the stage. Tickets for seats in the Grand Circle are much cheaper but the view is compromised by being so high up.
Where to buy tickets
The Lyceum is owned by the Ambassador Theatre Group and therefore the best place to buy tickets to see The Lion King is direct from their website (http://www.atgtickets.com) where you will pay face value with an additional booking fee. If you are an ATG TheatreCard holder, you will not pay a booking fee and will receive a discount on drinks from bars in ATG owned theatres.