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Wyndham’s Theatre (London, Great Britain)

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Wyndham’s Theatre

Wyndham’s Theatre

Wyndham's Theatre is a West End theatre, one of two opened by actor/manager Charles Wyndham (the other is the Criterion Theatre). Located on Charing Cross Road in the City of Westminster, it was designed c.1898 by W. G. R. Sprague, the architect of six other London theatres between then and 1916. It was designed to seat 759 patrons on three levels; later refurbishment increased this to four seating levels. The theatre was Grade II* listed by English Heritage in September 1960. The production of musical Oklahoma! is scheduled at the West End's Wyndham's Theatre in 2023. Set in farm country outside the town of Claremore, Indian Territory, in 1906, it tells the story of farm girl Laurey Williams and her courtship by two rival suitors, cowboy Curly McLain and the sinister and frightening farmhand Jud Fry.

Wyndham had always dreamed of building a theatre of his own, and through the admiration of a patron and the financial confidence of friends, he was able to realise his dream. Wyndham's Theatre opened on 16 November 1899, in the presence of the Prince of Wales. The first play performed there was a revival of T. W. Robertson's David Garrick. A number of successes followed, including Lena Ashwell playing the lead role in Mrs Dane's Defence in 1900, upon which Wyndham said that “the applause when the curtain fell was the most tremendous he had ever known”.

In 1910, Gerald du Maurier began an association with the theatre which lasted 15 years and to include the stage debut of the screen actress Tallulah Bankhead. Du Maurier's small daughter, Daphne, often watched her father's performance from the wings. Thirty years later she presented her own play, The Years Between, on the same stage. In 1917, J. M. Barrie's Dear Brutus ran for more than 360 performances at Wyndham's. The same play was revived in 1922 for another lengthy run.

In April 1953, the theatre premiered Graham Greene's first play, The Living Room, with a cast including Dorothy Tutin. In January 1954, a small-scale musical pastiche, Sandy Wilson's The Boy Friend, which had premiered at the much smaller Players' Theatre, was moved to the Wyndham stage. It ran for 2,078 performances, before eventually transferring to Broadway. During the 60s and early 70s, the theatre continued to provide a setting for stars such as Alec Guinness (Wise Child), Vanessa Redgrave and Diana Rigg.

The blockbuster of the 1970s decade – Godspell – opened at Wyndham's in January 1972 and ran to October 1974. The original cast included David Essex, Marti Webb and Jeremy Irons.

Wyndham's Theatre just before its opening on 16 November 1900.
Among more recent distinguished productions were the world premiere of The Ride Down Mt. Morgan by American playwright Arthur Miller and the British premiere of Edward Albee's Three Tall Women, starring Maggie Smith. Twenty-five years after making her debut there, Diana Rigg returned to play a hugely successful season as Medea. The critically acclaimed comedy, 'Art', by Yasmina Reza, began its record-breaking run at Wyndham's in 1996 with Albert Finney, Tom Courtenay and Ken Stott in the cast. It opened in October 1996, and transferred to the Whitehall Theatre in October 2001.

Madonna made her West End debut there in 2002, performing in a sell-out production of Up For Grabs. This was followed by many other dramatic productions, including Dinner and the National Theatre's Democracy during 2004, Holly Hunter in By The Bog Of Cats, American TV star Ruby Wax in a children's stage version of The Witches, which ran during March 2005; followed by a controversial limited season of Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues, which ran without the stars – Sharon Osbourne and her daughter Aimee, who dropped out the night before the production opened. In 2005, theatre patrons saw Helen McCrory star alongside Sienna Miller, Reece Shearsmith and Clive Rowe in a production of Shakespeare's As You Like It.

A large-scale replica of the facade of the theatre was constructed at the Universal Studios theme park in Orlando, Florida as part of the park's London-themed area.

In May 2005, the theatre was taken over by Cameron Mackintosh's Delfont-Mackintosh Ltd., which began operations of the venue in September 2005. In October 2005, the theatre presented Tom Stoppard's Heroes, a translation of the French play Le vent des peupliers by Gérald Sibleyras, which starred Richard Griffiths and John Hurt.

The following year the theatre hosted a new production of Joanna Murray-Smith's play Honour starring Diana Rigg, Martin Jarvis and Natascha McElhone, which ran between 7 February and 6 May 2006. It later hosted the West End transfer of the Menier Chocolate Factory's hit production of Stephen Sondheim's musical Sunday in the Park with George, which starred Daniel Evans and Jenna Russell and ran till September. Between December 2006 and April 2007, the theatre presented the West End commercial transfer of Alan Bennett's National Theatre hit The History Boys which played to sell-out houses during its run until April 2007.

Bill Kenwright's production of Somerset Maugham's The Letter played through summer 2007. There was a short hiatus after Chita Rivera was forced to postpone a scheduled London return. Shadowlands, based on the life story of C. S. Lewis opened in October 2007, starring Charles Dance and Janie Dee, before another return of Alan Bennett's The History Boys from December 2007.

The theatre closed temporarily for refurbishment works, before reopening in September 2008 with Kenneth Branagh starring in Michael Grandage's production of Chekhov's Ivanov. This new version by Tom Stoppard was the opening play in the Donmar West End twelve-month season at Wyndham's, with tickets at Donmar Warehouse prices.

The Donmar West End season also included Derek Jacobi starring in Twelfth Night, Judi Dench in Yukio Mishima's Madame de Sade, and Jude Law in Hamlet, all staged by Grandage.

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