Smash-hit Michael Jackson tribute show Thriller Live first opened in 2009 and continues to wow audiences with its smooth moves.
Opening in 1888, the Lyric Theatre is the oldest surviving theatre on the famous Shaftesbury Avenue, and is well-known for continuing to host Michael Jackson tribute show Thriller Live for an impressive six years. Originally designed by C.J. Phillips, the building was built under producer Henry J Leslie as a venue for operetta, and first opened with a transfer of the comic opera Dorothy from the Prince of Wales Theatre. Built with a capacity of 967 seats, the Lyric Theatre has a large auditorium with a Renaissance design interior. After a succession of comic operas, 1916 saw F W Tibbets take hold of the venue until 1930, during which operas and plays began to be on the bill. In 1933, Thomas Bostock completely redecorated the Lyric Theatre, re-opening it with a production starring Laurence Olivier. 1943 saw Prince Littler take over ownership of the Lyric, presenting a season of comedies from prolific writers such as Terence Rattigan and Alan Ayckbourn. In 1974, the Lyric became part of the Stoll Moss Theatres group empire, staging musicals such as Gigi and By Jeeves.
In 2000, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group purchased Stoll Moss, taking complete ownership of the venue and hosting several productions produced by Bill Kenwright. But in 2005, veteran producers Nica Burns and Max Weitzenhoffer purchased the Lyric Theatre, which remains a Nimax Theatre to this day.
Edinburgh Fringe Festival favourite Showstopper! The Improvised Musical plays limited Monday performances.
International smash-hit The Simon & Garfunkel Story plays limited Monday performances at the end of the year.
The Gruffalo’s Child sneaks into the theatre for a 2017-2018 festive run.
The Lyric Theatre is well-known for hosting a variety of entertainment, including opera, comedies, plays and musicals. In 1888, the theatre first opened with a transfer of Dorothy from the Prince of Wales Theatre, starring Marie Tempest. In the years between 1892 and 1916, several operettas were staged, including The Mountebanks, La Dame aux Camellias, The Sign of the Cross, The Chocolate Soldier and The Girl in the Taxi, starring Yvonne Arnaud. After the building was taken on by F W Tibbets, the Lyric hosted The Street Singer in 1924, The Gold Diggers in 1926, Berkeley Square in 1929 starring Leslie Howard and in 1931, Eugene O’Neill’s Strange Interlude. In 1932, the theatre saw J B Priestley’s Dangerous Corner, before the building was re-decorated in 1933. In 1934, George S Kaufman’s Royal Family, directed by Noel Coward, starred Marie Tempest and Laurence Olivier, followed by Yvonne Arnaud in The Nutmeg Tree. 1944 saw the famed Lunts return in Terence Rattigan’s Love in Idleness, followed by his popular play The Winslow Boy in 1946. In 1950, Robert Morley starred in The Little Hut, playing for an impressive 1,261 performances. Then came Grab Me a Gondola, Noel Coward’s South Sea Bubble starring Vivien Leigh, Irma La Douce, Robert and Elizabeth and Plaza Suite. The Lyric Theatre hosted Alan Ayckbourn’s timeless comedy How the Other Half Loves in 1972, followed by Alec Guinness starring in Alan Bennett’s Habeas Corpus.
In 1974, the Lyric became part of the Stoll Moss Theatre Group. Productions under Stoll Moss included Filumena in 1977, Barbara Dickson starring in beloved musical Blood Brothers in 1983 and Judi Dench and Michael Williams in Hugh Whitmore’s Pack of Lies. Joe Orton’s Loot played at the Lyric in 1984, followed by Gigi, Steel Magnolias, Look Back in Anger starring Kenneth Branagh, Sheila Hancock in Prin and Burn This. 1990 saw Cameron Mackintosh’s five-star production of Five Guys Named Moe receive a five-year run, which was followed by a musical revival of Ain’t Misbehavin’ in 1995 and the Chichester Festival transfer of Hobson’s Choice. In 1996, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Alan Ayckbourn’s musical By Jeeves opened, with Antony Sher starring in Cyrano de Bergerac afterwards. Patrick Marber’s Closer played in 1998, directly from the Royal National Theatre, followed by an award-winning performance from Janie Dee in Ayckbourn’s Comic Potential.
After becoming a Really Useful Group Theatre in 2000, shows included A Busy Day, Brief Encounter and Long Day’s Journey into Night, starring Jessica Lange. 2001 saw Thelma Holt present the first full-scale production of Noel Coward’s Semi-Monde, followed by Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, produced by Bill Kenwright. In 2002, Daisy Pulls It Off returned, followed by a transfer of The Constant Wife from the Apollo Theatre. Al Murray The Pub Landlord, Who Dares Wines? entertained audiences at the Lyric in 2003, with Ian McKellen starring in Strindberg’s Dance of Death. Hitchcock Blonde, Camut Band and The Secret Rapture were followed by new musical Beautiful and Damned in 2004, which was based on the lives of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Bill Kenwright’s transfer of Festen from Almeida Theatre gained excellent reviews, with Death of Salesman topping the bill in 2005. 2006 saw Bill Kenwright’s Night of the Iguana starring Woody Harrelson become a smash-hit, followed by Smaller starring Dawn French.
In 2009, Thriller Live opened after Michael Jackson’s untimely death, causing ticket sales to rocket. Thriller Live continues to run at the Lyric Theatre. Further limited performances have included Edinburgh Fringe Festival favourite Showstopper! The Improvised Musical and beloved children’s play The Gruffalo. The Lyric Theatre also saw a special one-off performance of Alan Menken’s A Christmas Carol, starring Carrie Hope Fletcher amongst others. In 2017, Showstopper! continued to run at the venue, followed by a summer season of What the Ladybird Heard and a winter season of The Gruffalo’s Child and The Simon & Garfunkel Story, both playing limited performances.
- Bars: Bars are available on all levels of the theatre.
- Toilets: Men’s and women’s toilets are located on all levels of the theatre. An adapted toilet is available in the Royal Retiring Room of the Dress Circle.
- Access: Access spaces are located in the Dress Circle Boxes. Call the access line for booking.
- Air Conditioning: Yes, the theatre has air conditioning.
- Booster Seats: Booster seats are available at this venue.
- Cloakroom: A cloakroom is available.