Musical Theatre Highlights
AT THE FIRST PRINCE OF WALES THEATRE
1884 The first hit production at the original Prince of Wales Theatre, initially known as Prince's Theatre, designed by architect C J Phipps was a comic opera called Dorothy that starred the redoubtable Marie Tempest. Dorothy became the longest-running musical theatre production at that time.
1893 Appearing opposite Marie Tempest in Dorothy was the handsome actor Hayden Coffin. The show established him on a successful career path and he starred in many of the Edwardian musical comedies produced by George Edwardes for which he became famous. One such was A Gaiety Girl.
1927 Lily Elsie, described as the most photographed woman in the world, was feted on her return to the Prince of Wales Theatre to play Eileen in the musical comedy The Blue Train, with music by Robert Stolz. She had been absent from the stage for ten years and even King George V, when attending a performance, told her how much she had been missed.
For much of the rest of its life until it was rebuilt in 1937, the Prince of Wales presented a series of French-style revues and came to be known as London's Folies Bergère. It was not until the mid-20th century that musicals were to play an important part in the theatre's history once more.
at the second Prince of Wales Theatre
1937 Gracie Fields laid the foundation stone of the new theatre designed by Robert Cromie on 17 June and sang to the builders working on site.
1937 Opened on 27 October with Les Folies de Paris et Londres, a revue performed non-stop from 2pm to 11pm. Followed by other popular revues such as Frivolites de France and Caprice Parisien.
1941 The Great Dictator, Charlie Chaplin's controversial first talkie, in which he parodied Hitler, was shown for a season.
1948 Mae West appeared in the comedy Diamond Lil, a show she had also written, that had made her the toast of Broadway 20 years earlier.
1949 Sid Field, who had made his West End debut at the theatre in Strike a New Note (1943), also made his last London appearance here in Harvey, a comedy about a 6ft tall white rabbit, directed by Anthony Quayle. The show returned to the theatre in 1975 with James Stewart in the leading role of Elwood.
1950s During this decade the Prince of Wales mostly put on revues and variety acts. The long-running revues were Paris to Piccadilly, Pardon My French, Paris by Night and Plaisirs de Paris. Famous names who appeared in variety included Norman Wisdom, Peter Sellers, Bob Hope, Terry Thomas, Dickie Henderson, Hughie Green, Morecambe and Wise and Terry Scott.
1959 The World of Suzie Wong, the story of a Hong Kong prostitute and her artist lover, became the longest-running play to date at the theatre with 832 performances.
1963 Martha Graham and her famous company of American dancers gave a short season of performances including Clytemnestra, her only full-length work, considered to be her masterpiece.
1966 Funny Girl transferred from Broadway for a short run with the new young star Barbra Streisand in the leading role of Fanny Brice. One of the songs from the show, 'People', became a Top 10 hit.
1972 A revival of The Threepenny Opera, directed by Tony Richardson with Vanessa Redgrave as Polly, also featured Hermione Baddeley, Diana Quick, Miriam Margolyes and Barbara Windsor. Later the same year the Julian Slade musical Trelawny transferred from Sadler's Wells where it had brought a young Gemma Craven into the public eye.
1973 Danny La Rue entertained audiences for 503 performances with his glamorous variety show. In 1983 he made history at the Prince of Wales when he was the first man to appear as Dolly in Hello, Dolly!
1982 The story and music of the Crazy Gang, Underneath the Arches, with Roy Hudd and Christopher Timothy impersonating Flanagan and Allen, ran for over a year.
1993 Michael Ball had a big success in Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical Aspects of Love, based on the novel by David Garnett. It broke all records to become the theatre's longest-running show ever with 1,325 performances.
2003-04 The theatre auditorium and all front of house foyer spaces and bars were extensively and glamorously refurbished by the Arts Team at RHWL under the management of Delfont Mackintosh Theatres Limited.
2004 The Prince of Wales Theatre was officially reopened by HRH The Prince of Wales on 10 June when he attended a charity gala performance of MAMMA MIA! This musical overtook Aspects of Love to become the longest-running show at the theatre in 2007, and on 6 April 2012 celebrated the 13th anniversary of its original London opening.