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The first theatre building occupying the site of today’s Vaudeville didn’t have a foyer or dressing rooms.
Since 1892, the Vaudeville has only been owned by five different people – an average of 22 years per owner. The same family owned the theatre until 1969.
The Vaudeville used to have a horseshoe shape, but was refurbished into its rectangular shape to be reopened in 1926.
The original 1870 Vaudeville Theatre’s sizeable capacity for 1,000 people was somewhat marred by the fact that its front face on the Strand was just two plain houses – nothing like other lavish theatres. Fortunately, 20 years later the new owner built a more attractive façade on the prime Strand location, and changed the inside of the theatre to install a beautiful ceiling and fit a more comfortable 740 people.
Despite this investment, this owner sold the theatre after just one year to a family that had much shadier motives in their purchase. The Gatti family owned a nearby power station and wanted to dodge any noise complaints from the theatre’s owner by becoming owners themselves. Nonetheless, they were long-time owners of the Adelphi Theatre and knew a thing or two about theatre. This experience informed their production choices at the Vaudeville, where they managed to keep up well-performing seasons, mostly made up of comedies and revues.
The Gatti family investment ended up longer than anyone would have anticipated (a total of 77 years to be exact), and in 1925 they changed the shape of the theatre entirely from a horseshoe to a rectangle, cutting down capacity by another 100 seats.
One of the Vaudeville Theatre’s most celebrated productions was the musical Salad Days back in the ‘50s, holding the record for longest-running musical at 2,288 performances for a decade. This was only matched at the Vaudeville by Stomp half a century later, which ran at the theatre from 2002 to 2007 before transferring to Ambassadors Theatre.