Sondheim Theatre -
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Sondheim Theatre history

The Sondheim Theatre opened on 8th October 1907 and is a Grade II listed building.

Originally designed as the sister to the Gielgud Theatre, 1913 saw it become the home of Tango Teas, which transformed the stalls into a dance floor with dining tables around the edges. This tea-time event proved very popular with the public, but not as popular as the wartime production of Potash and Perlmutter in 1914. The show told the story of Jews in New York and ran for over 600 performances.

In 1920, the theatre staged Miles Malleson’s The Fanatics, which created huge controversy with its anti-war rhetoric and images of sex. On 24th September 1940, during a successful run of Rebecca, a bomb fell on the theatre destroying the entire front-of-house area along with part of the rear stalls.

The building was subsequently only used for rehearsals, not re-opening until 1959 after the front façade and foyers had been rebuilt. The facelift included a new modern exterior designed by Brian Westwood and Sir Hugh Casson, and there were even more refurbishments in early 1992.

Notable productions at the Sondheim Theatre include the 1961 musical Stop the World – I Want To Get Off! with Anthony Newley, which enjoyed a run of 485 performances. 1966 saw Noel Coward make his final stage appearance in Suite in Three Keys. Maggie Smith and Robert Stephens appeared together in Private Lives during 1972. In 1975, Otherwise Engaged had a run of 1029 performances and 1982 saw Kenneth Branagh make his West End debut in Another Country along with Colin Firth.

In 1987, Jeffrey Archer's first play Beyond Reasonable Doubt started a successful run of 17 months. This was followed by the Australian song-and-dance show Hot Shoe Shuffle, the Stephen Sondheim musical Passion with Michael Ball and Maria Friedman, plus Masterclass with Patti LuPone.

In 1999 the theatre producer Sir Cameron Mackintosh's company, Delfont Mackintosh, bought the freehold of both the Sondheim Theatre and Gielgud theatres. The long-running musical legend Les Miserables transferred to The Sondheim Theatre from the Palace on 3rd April 2004 following an astonishing 18 year run, where it still lives to this day.