The Lyceum Theatre is one of the West End’s largest theatres and has a long and complicated history of success, downfall and rebirth. It has had constant changes in its purpose since its beginnings in 1765.
In 1809, a fire brought down the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane and so the theatre company moved to the Lyceum, which enabled the theatre to obtain a proper licence from Lord Chamberlain to present plays. So began the theatrical history of the Lyceum. In 1816, Samuel Arnold rebuilt the theatre with a design by Samuel Beazley and re-opened it as the official home of The English Opera. The theatre became famous for hosting the London premiere of Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte and became the first stage to be completely lit by gas. However, misfortune soon struck when 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 and again the Lyceum acted as a theatrical pioneer, becoming the first venue in England to incorporate a balcony which projected over the circle. During that time, Henry Irving, an acclaimed actor, took over and turned the venue into one of the most brilliant playhouses in London. Unfortunately, the building was struck by misfortune again seventy years later when a second fire burnt down the venue. This time, a new investor couldn’t be found and so the building was demolished and re-built once again. It is at this point in the Lyceum’s history when the current building was established.
Despite numerous challenges the Lyceum Theatre saw its recent rebirth in 1996, after ten years of vacancy and decline. It was Apollo Leisure who established ownership and secured permission to return the theatre to its former glory. Investing over £14 million, the building was refurbished and re-opened by HRH Prince Charles on 31 October 1996 with Jesus Christ Superstar. Until this day, business continues to flourish at Lyceum Theatre, which is now owned by The Ambassador Theatre Group, and it stages the internationally renowned production of Disney’s The Lion King.