Sir Cameron Mackintosh adds two more theatres to West End empire

Sir Cameron is taking over the Victoria Palace Theatre next month and Ambassadors Theatre in 2015, when it will be renamed The Sondheim

The milti-millionaire is to expand his West End theatre empire by taking over the Victoria Palace Theatre next month and Ambassadors Theatre in 2015, when it will be renamed The Sondheim, in honour of the American composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim.

Sir Cameron Mackintosh adds two more theatres to West End empire | MarkMeets News |
He has also announced plans to improve the 1,500-seat Victoria theatre, which is currently showing Billy Elliot.

The theatre will be closed for about a year from autumn 2016. During that time, the stage will be extended, the front of house enlarged and overhauled and the auditorium and exterior restored to its full glory, his spokesman said.

Sir Cameron said his creative plans included turning the Ambassadors into a receiving house for extended seasons of new productions from the subsidised sector in London and the regions.

He hopes to rebuild the auditorium and create a non-proscenium stage that mirrors many companies’ own performance spaces.

Sir Cameron said alterations to the Victoria Palace Theatre would give it one of the best stages in the West End.

“I am delighted to have the opportunity to take over stewardship of the Victoria Palace Theatre from Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen. I consider its auditorium one of Matcham’s finest, with a remarkable fusion of intimacy and scale, a gloriously rich décor and perfect sight lines from every seat,” he said.

“Despite hosting many long running hits including Buddy, Annie, and the current Billy Elliot, the theatre’s shallow stage has meant that it can’t accommodate many of the big shows that might have played there.

“What really made the Victoria Palace irresistible to me is that Stephen has imaginatively seized the opportunity arising from the major building development taking place all around the theatre to obtain planning consent to extend the stage and front of house areas. This means that the full potential of the theatre can be realised with one of the best stages in the West End, ensuring it will become one of London’s most desirable and, thanks to the Victoria Station expansion scheme, strategically sited musical houses.

“With planning already approved in principle, we intend to close the theatre for about a year from late 2016, in order to tie the work into the rest of the exterior development. This purchase will take place over the next few weeks.

“Separately, I have also agreed with Stephen to take over the Ambassadors Theatre, renaming it The Sondheim Theatre. This is subject to obtaining the necessary planning consents and is intended to take place in early 2015.

“My plan is to completely rebuild the auditorium in order to fulfil a long standing dream for the West End to have a transfer house primarily for seasons of exciting productions from theatres in the subsidised sector seeking a non-proscenium environment that mirrors their own stages.

“I am hoping these will come both from London and the Regions and to this end we will be providing a glamorous 450 seat studio environment that will be appropriate whilst removing the need for a costly restaging to suit a proscenium theatre.”

“We will be creating a contemporary auditorium inspired by the original theatre architect, William Sprague, complementing the original features of the building much as I did when I rebuilt the interior of the Prince of Wales theatre 11 years ago. That subsequently transformed that theatre’s fortunes reopening with MAMMA MIA! and now The Book of Mormon. In the front of house areas we will be retaining as much as possible of the original Sprague plasterwork – being a great admirer of his work I have already restored five other of his beautiful theatres in the West End.

“The foyer and front-of-house facilities will also be much improved and enlarged. I am delighted that Stephen Sondheim has agreed to allow me to name the new Theatre after him.”

Mr Sondheim said he was “flattered and thrilled” that the theatre would be named after him.

He said: “What I’ve always loved about London theatre is its diversity, much of which is the result of work developed in so-called fringe theatre and in non-traditional spaces.”

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