Currently showcasing hit musical Wicked, the Apollo Victoria Theatre has a heritage dating back to 1929 when it was opened as a state-of-the-art cinema, commissioned by Provincial Cinematograph Theatres (PCT) to accommodate the growing popularity of ‘talking pictures’. The theatre was designed by the architect Ernest Walmsley Lewis along an Art Deco style that still remains to this day; upon its official opening in 1930, the Gaumont British News charmingly called the interior of the theatre ‘a fairy cavern under the sea, or a mermaid’s dream of heaven’. In the decades following the theatre, known as the New Victoria Cinema, was renowned as a place to watch film, variety and even big band performances within walking distance of bustling Victoria Station.
Despite its cinematic origins, the building closed in 1975 and was reopened as the New Victoria Theatre, shifting its focus on to more musical content. A concert was scheduled to celebrate the new opening, with Shirley Bassey performing as a headline act! The theatre hosted a series of well-loved musicals in the late seventies and early eighties including Fiddler on the Roof, The Sound of Music and Camelot, before becoming the venue for the debut performances of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s exciting new musical Starlight Express. The interior of the auditorium was completely redesigned for the production, with race tracks running through the audience and modifications to incorporate a split-level rollerskating rink.
The rehaul proved to be entirely justified when Starlight Express went on to have huge success, playing at the theatre for an amazing 18 years before finally closing in 2002 to make way for another Lloyd Webber musical, the Bollywood-inspired Bombay Dreams. The A. H. Rahman production ran for two successful years before ending in 2004, after which it was followed by the classic Saturday Night Fever for a brief stint and then Movin’ Out, the Billy Joel musical. This moved out in February 2006 to allow for preparations for Wicked, which opened in September the same year to rapturous praise and overwhelming commercial success, with the musical presently going from strength to strength and showing no signs of slowing down for the foreseeable future.
Access and Facilities
- A cloakroom is available
- There are bars on both levels
- There are male and female toilets located on both levels
- Wheelchair access is available on the Circle level