The Sondheim Theatre is a large West End theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, occupying the corner site which meets with Wardour Street.
Opening in 1907 and designed by W.G.R Sprague, the theatre was originally a twin with the neighbouring Hicks Theatre, now known as the Gielgud Theatre. However, this isn’t the only name change amongst them – the Sondheim was supposed to be called the Central Theatre but was eventually changed to the Queen’s. In recognition of this alteration, and its royal namesake, the theatre has a portrait of Queen Alexandra which hangs in the foyer.
In September 1940, the theatre’s façade and lobby was destroyed when it was hit directly with a bomb in the Blitz. This led to the 20-year closure of the theatre until its reconstruction and refurbishment. Matching the old with the new, the Edwardian décor remained but the lobbies and exterior were built in a more modern style. In July 1959, the rebuilt theatre was opened to the public with John Gielgud’s solo performance of Shakespeare speeches and sonnets, called Ages Of Man.
Since the reopening of the theatre, the building has been noted for its unique architecture and design. Notably, this includes the ceiling detail of the auditorium which has elaborate statues above the seated audience. The theatre also went through further renovations in 2009 in order to boost the capacity of the theatre, including the restoration of its premium boxes.
Cameron Mackintosh’s production of Les Misérables arrived at the then-Queen’s Theatre in 2004 and famously celebrated its 20th anniversary performance there on 8 October 2005. By 2012, the show had attained an incredible 11,000 performances in London. In 2006, the show overtook Cats to become the longest-running musical of all time. The Queen's Theatre was renamed the Sondheim in 2019.