Savoy Theatre History and Timeline

Bridget D’Oyly Carte runs the Savoy

Bridget D’Oyly Carte runs the Savoy

1948-01-01

Rupert D’Oyly Carte dies, with his daughter Bridget D’Oyly Carte takes over the Savoy Opera Company, and eventually the Savoy Group, which manages both the hotel and the theatre. Sir Hugh Wontner is appointed manager of the Savoy Theatre.

The Savoy Theatre opens

The Savoy Theatre opens

1881-10-10

After a long period of planning, the theatre was built by Richard D'Oyly Carte, designed by C. J Phipps. The building was the first public building in the world to be lit entirely by electricity, and featured over 1,200 Swan lightbulbs. Decorated inside in the style of the Italian Renaissance, it seated 1,292 people on four levels.

The Savoy Operas

The Savoy Operas

1882-09-01

The first performance at the venue was Gilbert and Sullivan's opera 'Patience', beginning the trend for the theatre to premiere and host the works of G&S. The final 8 operas written by the pair premiered at the Savoy between 1881 and 1901 coining the phrase 'Savoy Operas' to describe their work. The venue also hosted operas by other companies such as the Carl Rosa Opera Company.  

D'Oyly Carte dies

D'Oyly Carte dies

1903-01-01

The theatre closes following Richard D'Oyly Carte’s death.

The Savoy reopens

The Savoy reopens

1904-02-01

The theatre is reopened under John Leigh and Edward Laurillard, the new managers. The first productions was the musical Lovebirds.

C H Workman takes over

C H Workman takes over

1906-01-01

C H Workman takes over the theatre’s management from John Leigh and Edward Laurillard.

The D'Oyly Carte company returns

The D'Oyly Carte company returns

1906-01-01

The D’Oyly Carte Opera Company returns to the Savoy to produce several repertory seasons of Savoy operas.

Operas draw crowds

Operas draw crowds

1910-03-01

Workman produces more successful operas, Two Merry Monarchs and Orpheus and Eurydice. Orpheus and Eurydice starred Marie Brema and Viola Tree in the lead roles.

George Augustus Richardson takes over

George Augustus Richardson takes over

1911-11-01

George Augustus Richardson takes over the theatre’s management from C H Workman.

Rupert D'Oyly Carte becomes manager

Rupert D'Oyly Carte becomes manager

1915-01-01

After the death of Richard, his son Rupert took over as theatre manager after returning from serving in the navy in World War I. He brought updated versions of operas to audiences, as well as the popular adaptation of 'Treasure Island' which starred Arthur Bourchier as Long John Silver and was revived every Christmas until the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.

Paddy the Next Best Thing

Paddy the Next Best Thing

1920-04-01

The Savoy’s longest-running production record is broken by Paddy the Next Best Thing, a comedy which ran for 867 performances. The previous record was held by The Mikado.

And So to Bed

And So to Bed

1926-01-01

And So to Bed, written and directed by James Bernard Fagan, runs at the Savoy Theatre starring Yvonne Arnaud.

Gilbert & Sullivan entice audiences

Gilbert & Sullivan entice audiences

1929-01-01

The Savoy Theatre hosts a season of Gilbert & Sullivan works.

The theatre reopens

The theatre reopens

1929-10-21

The theatre was closed in Jun 1929 and the interior was restored to designs by Frank A Tugwell by Basil Ionides. The boxes were removed from the auditorium, and the seating reduced to just three levels, bringing the capacity back up to 1,200 seats. The first performance was 'The Gondoliers' which was attended by Lady Gilbert, the widow of the librettist. Gilbert and Sullivan seasons continued until 2003.

Salome allowed to be staged

Salome allowed to be staged

1931-01-01

Oscar Wilde’s Salome opens at the Savoy Theatre, nearly 40 years after the Lord Chamberlain banned its performance. It was produced by Nancy Price, who took on the role of Herodias. Her daughter Joan Maude played the title role.

Another season of Gilbert & Sullivan

Another season of Gilbert & Sullivan

1932-01-01

Gilbert and Sullivan works can again be seen at the Savoy for a season.

An Elephant in Arcady

An Elephant in Arcady

1939-01-16

Herbert and Eleanor Farjeon’s musical An Elephant in Arcady transfers the Savoy after it opens at the Kingsway Theatre, where it was broadcast by the BBC. The musical pastiche was arranged by Earnest Irving.

Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit premieres

Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit premieres

1941-01-01

Noel Coward's play 'Blithe Spirit' had its premiere at the Savoy Theatre, where it went on to become one of the longest running plays of its time, with 1, 997 consecutive performances. A Musical version of the play starring Denis Quilley and Cicely Courtneidge played at the theatre in 1964. Titled 'High Spirits', it was supervised by Coward, but didn't acheive the same level of success, playing for only 94 performances.

The Last of Mrs Cheyney

The Last of Mrs Cheyney

1943-01-01

The Last of Mrs Cheyney, a comedy-drama by Frederick Lonsdale, runs at the Savoy this season. The play is later adapted into a film three different times.

The Assassin

The Assassin

1944-01-01

Irwin Shaw’s play The Assassin runs at the Savoy at the end of the war. There was still a risk of air raids at this time, despite the theatre being cleared to open.

Gilbert & Sullivan season

Gilbert & Sullivan season

1951-01-01

The theatre presents a season of Gilbert and Sullivan operas.

The theatre presents a season of Savoy operas

The theatre presents a season of Savoy operas

1954-01-01

Gilbert and Sullivan’s works prove to be popular and enduring, as the Savoy Theatre stages another successful season.

A Day in the Life Of...

A Day in the Life Of...

1958-01-01

Jack Popplewell’s A Day in the Life Of… premieres at the Savoy Theatre. The prolific playwright is also a composer and lyricist.

The Savoy presents its popular opera season

The Savoy presents its popular opera season

1961-01-01

The Savoy Theatre presents another season of works by Gilbert and Sullivan. These popular operas never fail to draw crowds.

The Night of the Iguana

The Night of the Iguana

1965-03-24

Pulitzer Prize-winning American playwright Tennessee Williams’ play The Night of the Iguana receives its London premiere at the Savoy Theatre. It first debuted on Broadway in 1961 and was adapted into a film in 1964.

The Savoy Theatre is listed

The Savoy Theatre is listed

1973-01-01

The Savoy Theatre is designated a Grade II* Listed Building, protecting it from further design alterations and requiring its architecture to be preserved.

Banana Ridge

Banana Ridge

1976-07-19

Ben Travers’ 1930s farce Banana Ridge is revived at the Savoy for the first time since its original run at the Aldwych Theatre.

Alice's Boys

Alice's Boys

1977-01-01

Alice’s Boys by Felicity Browne and Jonathan Hales runs at the Savoy Theatre, starring Michael Gambon and Ralph Richardson.

Noises Off

Noises Off

1982-01-01

Michael Frayn’s Noises Off opens at the Lyric Hammersmith and quickly transfers to the Savoy where it runs for several years. Michael Blakemore directs the production.

Kiss Me Kate

Kiss Me Kate

1988-01-15

The Royal Shakespeare Company produces a revival of Kiss Me Kate. The original London production was in 1951, following the Broadway premiere in 1948. The musical is regularly revived in the West End.

The Savoy is closed due to fire

The Savoy is closed due to fire

1990-02-01

During a period of renovation, a fire starts and severely damages the theatre. It remains closed until 1993.

Hugh Wontner dies

Hugh Wontner dies

1992-01-01

Chairman of the theatre, Hugh Wontner, dies. He had been affiliated with the Savoy since being appointed theatre manager in 1948.

Relative Values

Relative Values

1993-01-01

After the theatre reopened following the post-fire refurbishment, Noël Coward's Relative Values ran at the Savoy after premiering at the theatre in 1951. Tom Stoppard’s play Travesties starring Antony Sher ran after.

The theatre reopens after fire and refurbishment

The theatre reopens after fire and refurbishment

1993-07-19

During scheduled restoration of the theatre, a fire gutted the auditorium and front of house areas. Whilst the stage and backstage areas remained untouched, the rest of the theatre had to be fully restored. Sir William Whitfeld became the architect for the new building, restoring the three levels and seating capacity of 1,158 people. The restored venue quickly became an attractive West End theatre for a wide range of new productions.

She Loves Me is Revived

She Loves Me is Revived

1994-07-12

Jerry Bock's musical 'She Loves Me' was revived at the Savoy, following a sell out season on Broadway. Ruthie Henshall played Amalia Ballash, with John Gordon Sinclair as George Novak.

Dead Funny

Dead Funny

1995-09-19

Terry Johnson’s play Dead Funny comes to the Savoy Theatre following a National Tour after its premiere at the Vaudeville Theatre in 1994.

Communicating Doors

Communicating Doors

1996-01-29

Alan Ayckbourn’s time-travelling thriller Communicating Doors runs at the Savoy Theatre after transferring from the Gielgud Theatre. They play is nominated for an Olivier in the same year.

When We Are Married

When We Are Married

1996-10-02

Directed by Jude Kelly, J B Priestley’s comedy When We Are Married comes to the Savoy Theatre for a short run. The production stars Dawn French.

The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company reform at the theatre

The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company reform at the theatre

2000-01-01

The opera company reformed briefly to pay homage to the Savoy's original purpose as an opera house. Productions included 'H.M.S Pinafore', 'The Pirates of Penzance', 'Iolanthe' and 'The Mikado'.

The Pirates of Penzance

The Pirates of Penzance

2001-04-01

The Pirates of Penzance, the Gilbert and Sullivan opera, is staged for a limited run at the Savoy Theatre.

Gilbern & Sullivan operas revived for a short run

Gilbern & Sullivan operas revived for a short run

2003-02-02

Iolanthe and The Yeoman of the Guard are revived, as well as the more recently produced The Mikado and HMS Pinafore. Gilbert and Sullivan operas prove once again to still be popular.

The Savoy becomes an Ambassador's Theatre

The Savoy becomes an Ambassador's Theatre

2005-01-01

The Savoy Hotel group was sold to Quinlan Private, who then sold the theatre to the Ambassadors Theatre Group in 2005.

Trevor Nunn's Porgy and Bess opens

Trevor Nunn's Porgy and Bess opens

2006-11-09

The Gershwin's masterpiece opera was reborn as a musical by director Trevor Nunn. Clarke Peters and Nicola Hughes starred in the title roles, which failed to win the attention of either critics or audiences.

Fiddler on the Roof is revived at the Savoy

Fiddler on the Roof is revived at the Savoy

2007-05-29

Lindsay Posner's revival of the classic Jerry Bock musical 'Fiddler on the Roof' transferred to the Savoy after a successful regional run in Sheffield. Henry Goodman starred as Tevye the milkman, alongside Julie Legrand as Yente and Alexandra Silber as Hodel. The production was successful and ran for a year.

Carousel London Revival opens

Carousel London Revival opens

2008-12-02

Lindsay Posner returned to the Savoy with the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical 'Carousel'. Adam Cooper provided stunning choreography for the production which starred Alexandra Silber as Julie Jordan and Jeremiah James as Billy Bigelow. Opera star Lesley Garrett played Nettie Fowler, delivering the show standard 'You'll Never Walk Alone' to much acclaim.  

Legally Blonde the Musical opens

Legally Blonde the Musical opens

2009-12-05

Sonia Friedman Productions brought the Broadway musical 'Legally Blonde' to the West End, where it went on to win the 2011 Olivier Award for Best New Musical. Sheridan Smith starred as Elle Woods, alongside a star cast which included Duncan James, Aoife Mulholland and Jill Halfpenny. The show was met with fantastic audience reactions and went on to become one of the longest running musicals at the Savoy.

Rufus Norris' revival of Cabaret re-opens at the Savoy

Rufus Norris' revival of Cabaret re-opens at the Savoy

2012-10-03

Will Young starred in the re-revival of Rufus Norris' 'Cabaret' which played a limited season at the Savoy. Michelle Ryan starred opposite him as Sally Bowles, supported by Sian Phillips and Matt Rawle. The production received favourable reviews and embarked on a second UK tour.

Soul Sister the Tina Turner Musical opens

Soul Sister the Tina Turner Musical opens

2012-08-23

A limited run of the Tina Turner tribute musical 'Soul Sister' played at the Savoy Theatre throughout the Autumn of 2012. Despite poor reviews, the show went on to be nominated for Best New Musical at the 2013 Olivier Awards.

Let It Be transfers to the Savoy

Let It Be transfers to the Savoy

2013-02-01

This jukebox concert transferred from the Prince of Wales Theatre at the beginning of 2013. Using the hits of The Beatles, 'Let It Be' appeals to mass audiences and does not attempt to feature a story or narrative. A Broadway production was attempted in the summer of 2013, but was quick to post closing notices.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels opens for previews at the Savoy Theatre

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels opens for previews at the Savoy Theatre

2014-03-10

With press night on the 1st April 2014, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels astounded regional audiences in its pre-West End runs in Aylesbury and Manchester. Directed by Jerry Mitchell and with music and lyrics by David Yazbeck, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels made its West End debut at the Savoy Theatre following successful Broadway and Sydney runs. Orignial West End cast includes Katherine Kingsley, Robert Lindsay, Rufus Hound and Samantha Bond.

Guys and Dolls transfers from Chichester

Guys and Dolls transfers from Chichester

2015-12-10

Chichester’s critically acclaimed revival directed by Gordon Greenberg transfers to the Savoy theatre. The production features choreography by Andrew Wright and Carlos Acosta. The popular Broadway show tells the story of 1920’s gamblers and the women they fall for and includes the songs “Luck Be a Lady”, “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat” and “My Time of Day”.

Gypsy Transfers from Chichester

Gypsy Transfers from Chichester

2015-03-28

Imelda Staunton stars in the West End transfer of Chichester Festival Theatre’s acclaimed production. This Broadway musical featuring music by Jule Styne and and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim is widely considered to be one of the best of all time. The story based loosely on the memoirs of burlesque entertainer, Gypsy Rose Lee, follows ultimate stage mother ‘Momma Rose’ as she endeavours to make stars out of her children ‘Baby June’ and ‘Baby Louise’.

Dreamgirls opens

Dreamgirls opens

2016-11-21

Dreamgirls transfers to the West End, 35 years after the show premiered in Broadway. US TV star Amber Riley makes her debut performance, playing a lead role in the Tony Award winning musical inspired by The Supremes, The Shirelles and James Brown.

Funny Girl opens

Funny Girl opens

2015-12-10

Sheridan Smith plays the lead role in a hugely popular production of Funny Girl, which transferred to the Savoy Theatre from the Menier Chocolate Factory. Despite 5 star reviews for her performance, Smith was sadly caught up in a media frenzy following allegations she performed whilst drunk. This led her to take a leave of absence from the show for four weeks. First cover Natasha J Barnes filled the role and received widespread praise for her performances.

Dreamgirls announces cast recording

Dreamgirls announces cast recording

2017-03-02

After a successful opening at the Savoy Theatre, Dreamgirls produces a cast recording of the production!

The Bells

The Bells

1916-01-01

The Bells, a translation by Leopold Lewis of the play Le Juif Polonais, is revived at the Savoy. The play was first made famous by actor Henry Irving several decades earlier. The short play A Story of Waterloo runs before the main feature. Henry Irving’s son Harry directs a production of Hamlet in the same season.

The theatre becomes managed by The Savoy Group

The theatre becomes managed by The Savoy Group

1997-01-01

Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen was given the management of the Savoy by the Savoy Group. The venue went on to stage impressive productions, including Ian Richardson in 'The Magistrate', Geraldine McEwan in 'Hay Fever' and Robert Lindsay in the RSC's 'Richard III'.