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The Savoy was the first theatre to be lit electrically in 1881, with 1,200 bulbs.
It was especially built to stage the works of Gilbert and Sullivan.
After suffering a fire in 1990 which destroyed everything but the stage and backstage area, it was restored and reopened in 1993 in a ceremony attended by Princess Diana.
The theatre has hosted the World Chess Championship.
The famous Savoy Hotel was built in 1904 from the profits the theatre made.
The Savoy Theatre is built on the grounds of the 13th century Savoy Palace, built by Peter Earl of Richmond on land that was bestowed to him by King Henry III. It was later the site for a hospital and a military prison.
Richard D’Oyly Carte was a man with plenty of experience in comic opera, and he wanted a place to put on Gilbert & Sullivan’s comic operas. His solution? The pioneering Savoy Theatre, which made history when it opened in 1881 with electric lights rather than hot, foul-smelling gas lights. The Savoy Theatre went on to debut as many as eight Gilbert & Sullivan shows.
With D’Oyly Carte’s death in 1901, the theatre was stalked by 15 years of closures and patchy success. Finally, it returned to D’Oyly Carte hands as Richard’s son Rupert took over management in 1915. Rupert returned to the Gilbert & Sullivan works which had been so prosperous in his father’s era, and opened the newly renovated 1929 theatre with – you guessed it – a Gilbert & Sullivan production, The Gondoliers. The ownership of the Savoy Theatre stayed in the D’Oyly Carte family until 1985, when the last member of the line died without an heir.
A theatre burning down was not uncommon in the early days of gas-lit theatres; in fact, it occurred regularly. Which is why it was somewhat ironic that the Savoy Theatre, as the first electric-lit theatre, was brought down by a fire as late as 1990. Despite the fact that the building’s original blueprints were long gone, it was restored with old interior designs, and Gilbert & Sullivan shows returned to its seasonal bill for four more years. In recent years, its new ownership has veered in a more musical theatre direction, with productions of The Rat Pack, Fiddler on the Roof, Legally Blonde, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Gypsy, Guys and Dolls & Funny Girl.