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The Gillian Lynne Theatre was home to the record-breaking Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical Cats for 21 years. When it closed in 2002, it was the longest-running musical ever in the West End – only to have its record broken four years later by Les Misérables.
The theatre isn’t just a venue for musicals and plays – it’s hosted key events such as the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year, Masters snooker and the competition to choose the UK’s entry to the Eurovision Song Contest.
Although rock band Queen are usually associated with the Dominion Theatre, home of their musical We Will Rock You, they shot the video for ‘We Are the Champions’ in the Gillian Lynne Theatre.
The Gillian Lynne Theatre is owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Theatres.
As an entertainment venue dating back to the 17th century, the Gillian Lynne Theatre isn’t as new as its name suggests. Back then it was a tavern, evolving into ‘The Mogul Saloon’ in the mid-19th century followed by the ‘Middlesex Music Hall’ where performances were hosted for 500 people – only half of what it holds today.
Its popularity clearly caught the eye of investors, who expanded the building into a variety venue for a few years, before it was transformed yet again into The Winter Garden Theatre in 1919, redecorated and with the original Mogul saloon incorporated as the stalls bar. This theatre was successful for several years before being sold off and demolished. It was only 13 years later that a new building (today’s Gillian Lynne Theatre) was put in its place and opened as a theatre with a Peter Ustinov play The Unknown Soldier and His Wife.
After a few short seasons and a phase as a television studio in the late ‘70s, the Andrew Lloyd Webber feline frenzy Cats stuck its claws into the New London for 21 years of purr-formances, making it the longest running West End musical until 2006. The opportunity was taken to renovate it with new features as “a theatre for the future”, and it reopened in 2003 with brand new facilities to host a revival of Joseph, the unique comedy/music/art show The Blue Man Group and RSC productions starring Ian McKellen.