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New Wimbledon Theatre
New Wimbledon Theatre
Address
The Broadway
City
Designation Grade II listed
Architect Cecil Masey and Roy Young
Owned by Ambassador Theatre Group
Capacity 1700 seats on 3 levels (house)
50-80 seats (studio)
Type Proscenium arch
Opened 1910
Previous names Wimbledon Theatre
Production Touring productions
www.ambassadortickets.com/wimbledon
Coordinates: 51°25′10″N 0°12′06″W / 51.41937°N 0.20165°W / 51.41937; -0.20165

The New Wimbledon Theatre is situated on The Broadway, Wimbledon, London, in the London Borough of Merton. It is a Grade II listed Edwardian theatre built by the theatre lover and entrepreneur, J B Mullholland. Built on the site of a large house with spacious grounds the theatre was designed by Cecil Aubrey Masey and Roy Young (possibly following a 1908 design by Frank H Jones). The theatre opened its doors on 26 December 1910 with the pantomime Jack and Jill.

The theatre was very popular between the wars, with Gracie Fields, Sybil Thorndike, Ivor Novello, Markova and Noël Coward all performing there. Lionel Bart's Oliver! received its world premiere at the theatre in 1960 before transferring to the West End's New Theatre. The theatre also hosted the world premiere of Half A Sixpence starring Tommy Steele in 1963 prior to the West End.

The theatre was saved from redevelopment when the management was undertaken by the Ambassador Theatre Group in 2004. With several refurbishments most notably in 1991 and 1998, it retains its baroque and Adamesque internal features.

The golden statue atop the dome is Laetitia, the Roman Goddess of Gaiety (although many refer to her as the theatre's "angel") and was an original fixture back in 1910. Laetitia is holding a laurel crown as a symbol of celebration. The statue was removed in World War II as it was thought to be a direction finding device for German bombers, and replaced in 1991.

The theatre is close to Wimbledon rail, tube and tramlink station, and a ten minute walk from South Wimbledon tube station.

Venue statistics

As of 2008, the theatre has approximately 1,700 seats across three levels, making it the eighth largest theatre in London following the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the English National Opera's London Coliseum and the musical powerhouses of the London Palladium, Apollo Victoria, Drury Lane, Dominion and Lyceum.

The main auditorium is adjoined by the smaller black box space of the New Wimbledon Studio, a flexible space seating up to 80 people. It is often home to small drama and comedy productions, often prior to West End or Edinburgh Festival runs each summer. The premiere of A Fans Club a new musical charting the formation of AFC Wimbledon premiered in the Studio in 2005.

Recent history

Until 2001, the theatre was owned and operated by the Wimbledon Civic Theatre Trust, on behalf of the London Borough of Merton, who still own the freehold of the building. The trust was responsible for overseeing a multi-million pound refurbishment in the late 1990s, incorporating a brand new backstage area, fly tower and a complete re-seating of the orchestra stalls as well as redecoration of the interior. During this period, the theatre was closed for an entire year. The venue is frequently hired out to television production, with many famous TV series having been shot on site, including The Bill, The IT Crowd, De-Lovely, Little Britain, Extras (the Aladdin pantomime episode with Les Dennis) and We Are Most Amused, a comedy gala performance to celebrate the 60th birthday of HRH The Prince of Wales, in aid of The Prince's Trust.

Notably, the venue was the home of annual televised Christmas pantomime, including:

Unfortunately, the venue fell into severe financial difficulties in 2003 and was forced to close indefintely. However, following lengthy talks between leading producers, local councillors and companies, in autumn 2003 Wimbledon Theatre was bought out by the Ambassador Theatre Group, the largest theatre owner in London's West End and second largest in the regions.

Following a name change to the New Wimbledon Theatre, the venue reopened in February 2004 with Matthew Bourne's production of The Nutcracker, and following this, the theatre has gone from strength to strength, with major productions in 2004 and 2005 including Saturday Night Fever, Blood Brothers, Footloose, Jesus Christ Superstar, Fame, Jekyll & Hyde and the London revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Cats.

It has since played host to a large variety of touring productions, plus the UK launch of Josef Weinberger's UK collection of Disney musicals available to amateur companies throughout the British Isles.

Most recently saw the launch of a brand new UK pantomime company formed from a collaboration between Howard Panter of the Ambassador Theatre Group and David Ian of Live Nation Theatrical and called First Family Entertainment. The company produced eight pantos across the UK for 2005-6, with their flagship production being Cinderella at New Wimbledon, starring Susan Hampshire, Richard Wilson, John Barrowman, Naomi Wilkinson, Peter Duncan and Tim Vine. For 2006, First Family present the premiere of Peter Pan starring Happy Days' Henry Winkler, Bobby Davro and Sarah Jane Honeywell.

The 2008 season included Never Forget: the Take That musical, Half A Sixpence, High School Musical and Cinderella for 2008-9.

External links

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