Sir Cameron Mackintosh has today announced hat he will take over The Victoria Palace Theatre in June this year and the Ambassadors Theatre by 2015, renaming it The Sondheim Theatre.
Victoria Palace: An ambitious new plan to improve significantly the 1500 seatt heatre will be implemented, starting with closure for about a year from autumn 2016 to tie in with surrounding redevelopment work. The stage will be extended by six metres, the front of house enlarged and completely overhauled and the auditorium and exterior restored to its full glory.
Ambassadors Theatre: Radical architectural and creative plans to forge a new role as a receiving house for extended seasons of exciting new productions from the subsidised sector in London and the regions. Aim to completely rebuild the auditorium and create a non-proscenium stage which mirrors many companies’ own performance spaces (subject to planning consents).
Cameron Mackintosh says: "I am delighted to have the opportunity to take over stewardship of the Victoria Palace Theatre from Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen. I consider its auditorium one of Matcham’s finest, with a remarkable fusion of intimacy and scale, a gloriously rich décor and perfect sight lines from every seat.
Despite hosting many long running hits including Buddy, Annie, and the current Billy Elliot, the theatre’s shallow stage has meant that it can’t accommodate many of the big shows that might have played there.
What really made the Victoria Palace irresistible to me is that Stephen has imaginatively seized the opportunity arising from the major building development taking place all around the theatre to obtain planning consent to extend the stage and front of house areas. This means that the full potential of the theatre can be realised with one of the best stages in the West End, ensuring it will become one of London’s most desirable and, thanks to the Victoria Station expansion scheme, strategically sited musical houses.
With planning already approved in principle, we intend to close the theatre for about a year from late 2016, in order to tie the work into the rest of the exterior development. This purchase will take place over the next few weeks.
Separately, I have also agreed with Stephen to take over the Ambassadors Theatre, renaming it The Sondheim Theatre. This is subject to obtaining the necessary planning consents and is intended to take place in early 2015.
My plan is to completely rebuild the auditorium in order to fulfil a long standing dream for the West End to have a transfer house primarily for seasons of exciting productions from theatres in the subsidised sector seeking a non-proscenium environment that mirrors their own stages.
I am hoping these will come both from London and the Regions and to this end we will be providing a glamorous 450 seat studio environment that will be appropriate whilst removing the need for a costly restaging to suit a proscenium theatre.
We will be creating a contemporary auditorium inspired by the original theatre architect, William Sprague, complementing the original features of the building much as I did when I rebuilt the interior of the Prince of Wales theatre 11 years ago. That subsequently transformed that theatre’s fortunes reopening with MAMMA MIA! and now The Book of Mormon. In the front of house areas we will be retaining as much as possible of the original Sprague plasterwork - being a great admirer of his work I have already restored five other of his beautiful theatres in the West End.
The foyer and front-of-house facilities will also be much improved and enlarged. I am delighted that Stephen Sondheim has agreed to allow me to name the new Theatre after him.
The Victoria Palace and The Sondheim will bring the Delfont Mackintosh group of theatres in London up to nine continuing my desire to keep these wonderful buildings in tip-top condition for future generations of audiences and ensuring that West End Theatres remain one of the key magnets for visitors to London."