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The Apollo Victoria Theatre is a West End theatre on Wilton Road, near Victoria station in the City of Westminster. It was home to the original production of Starlight Express, from 1984 to 2002. 

The theatre is currently home to the musical Wicked

Theatre history

Before Starlight Express

The Apollo Victoria opened in 1930 as a cinema and variety theatre. It has been described as an architectural gem in the Art Deco style, with an underwater theme described as “a Mermaid’s dream of Heaven”[1].

In 1981, the Apollo Victoria was remodelled as a venue for musical theatre, beginning with The Sound of Music. Starlight Express opened in 1984.

Home to Starlight Express

The theatre was significantly altered to host Starlight Express, with its huge set spilling out and filling the auditorium. Tracks were installed that ran around the back of the stalls, and the front of the balcony, and the paddock track through the front of the stalls. Doing this meant removing 42% of the theatre's seats, reducing the capacity from around 2,300 seats to 1,500. Due to the fact that people in the stalls couldn't see the balcony track and vice versa, cameras projected the race action live to screens built into the set.

In April 2001, the theatre was renovated. As well as set and technology upgrades, the theatre seating was re-upholstered from a neutral black to red, matching the corporate identity of the theatre's new owners, "Live Nation". During this time, performances of Starlight Express paused for 2 weeks.

After Starlight Express

When Starlight Express moved in, the Apollo Victoria was in a poor condition. In order to install Starlight Express's set, many of the theatre's architectural features had been covered up or painted over.

With the removal of the 'tracks', the Apollo Victoria's interior was extensively restored by architects Jaques Muir and Partners[2]. The restored theatre reopened on 19 June 2002 with another Lloyd Webber production, Bombay Dreams. Bombay Dreams closed after 1,500 performances on 13 June 2004 and was followed by productions of the Bee Gee's musical Saturday Night Fever and the jukebox musical Movin' Out, featuring the music of Billy Joel, before Wicked opened on 27 September 2006.

In 2016, the theatre underwent a further restoration. The red auditorium seats colour scheme installed in 2001 was replaced by a blue/green scheme that matches the restored decoration of the interior[3]. The full restoration also includes a new lighting scheme.[4]  

Apollo Victoria Seating Starlight Express

Seating plan comparing the full modern configuration, with the seats removed for "Starlight Express"

Production history

  • The Sound of Music (17 August 1981 – 18 September 1982)
  • Camelot (23 November 1982 – 5 February 1983)
  • Fiddler on the Roof (28 June 1983 – 29 October 1983)
  • Cliff Richard performed at the theatre for 33 nights between 3 November and 10 December 1983 as part of his 25th anniversary concerts on the Silver tour. Audiences totalled nearly 80,000.
  • Starlight Express (27 March 1984 – 12 January 2002) by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Richard Stilgoe
  • Bombay Dreams (19 June 2002 – 13 June 2004) by A. R. Rahman, Don Black and Meera Syal
  • Saturday Night Fever (2 July 2004 – 18 February 2006) by The Bee Gees and Nan Knighton
  • Movin' Out (28 March 2006 – 22 May 2006) by Twyla Tharp and Billy Joel
  • Wicked (27 September 2006 – Current)
  • 80th Birthday Gala (10 October 2010) the theatre celebrated its 80th birthday with a Gala Performance, featuring stars of productions past and present, including a reunion of Starlight Express performers.


Gallery

Before Starlight Express

Starlight Express set

After Starlight Express

References

  1. Theatres Trust History
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_Victoria_Theatre#Recent_and_present_productions
  3. Kirwin-Simpson.com Seating Specialists, 2016 renovation
  4. Hoare Lea Lighting

External links

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