What’s Doing in London’s West End

Theatergoers at the London Palladium, one of London's largest theaters

By Paul Riegler on 11 September 2017
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London’s West End is the main commercial and entertainment center of the city as well as the name of its theater district. Although its exact boundaries vary according to whom you ask, it unquestionably includes Mayfair, Soho, Covent Garden, Fitzrovia, and Marylebone.

Development of the West End started in the 16th century and over the centuries it has included palaces, expansive town houses, fashionable shops, and theaters. It’s this last concept with which we concern ourselves when we speak of the West End as it is the common term for the professional theatre staged in the district’s many theaters in and near the West End.

Along with Broadway, the two entertainment districts are generally considered to be home to the most important English-language theatre in the world.

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Theatre in London dates back to the late 1500s, although the first West End playhouse, Theatre Royal in Bridges Street, opened its doors in 1663. The original structure was destroyed by fire nine years later and the replacement, Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, still exists today in a modernized structure that dates back to 1812.

The West End as a distinct theater district began to form in the 19th century, as many new theaters opened their doors including the Old Vic (1818), and the Criterion (1874). The Savoy, which, when it opened in 1881, was the first theater and the first public building in the world to be lighted entirely by electricity.

Martin Johnston, an actor currently appearing in “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” whose career has spanned theater, television, and film, is bullish on the West End, noting a “new energy, vibrancy, even a new-found optimism within British theatre.” He says he cannot recall when the range and choice in theater offerings was “so exciting or astounding.”

Here’s what Frequent Business Traveler’s theatre critics recently saw in West End Theaters.

Click here to continue to Page 2Alice’s Adventures Underground and Annie

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