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The 1911 theatre opened as The New Princes Theatre as a venue to stage melodramas, however it branched into operas and ballets, with productions by Sadler's Wells regularly performed. It was the last theatre to be built on Shaftesbury Avenue, including the Lyric Theatre and the Apollo Theatre.
In the 1960s, the theatre was renamed the Shaftesbury Theatre, presenting Broadway shows including Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Financial backing was secured in order to rebuild and stay as a theatre, mostly sticking with a musical theatre theme that was a big differentiation from its original concept.
During a 1973 production of Hair, part of the ceiling collapsed during the show, which forced the theatre to close and the production run to stop. Recent productions to be staged at the Shaftesbury include Motown and Memphis.