In honor of Stephen Sondheim’s 90th birthday next March, London’s Queen’s Theatre will be renamed Sondheim Theatre after the influential American composer and lyricist. This will make Sondheim the only living artist to have a theatre named for him both in the West End and on Broadway.
Theater owner Cameron Mackintosh today announced that the West End theater, which has been home to the world’s longest running musical Les Misérables since 2004, will close July 13 for four months of renovations and a complete restoration of the auditorium and backstage. It will reopen in December as the newly named Sondheim Theatre and will continue as the home of Les Mis as it enters its 35th year.
Sondheim said he had loved British theatre since he saw his first play in London in 1958 and is honored by Mackintosh’s gesture. “I am chuffed, as you say in British English, to a degree I wouldn’t have imagined. Or as we say in American English, it’s awesome,” Sondheim said.
Mackintosh said he had been a friend and colleague of Sondheim’s since he produced the musical revue Side by Side by Sondheim in 1976.
“As an innovative voice in musical theatre, his influence has no equal. Sondheim’s work will undoubtedly be performed as long as audiences want to see live theatre, so I feel honoured that he has agreed to have his name on one of my Shaftesbury Avenue theatres to salute his upcoming 90th birthday,” Mackintosh said.
Mackintosh previously hoped to create a studio space in London named after Sondheim but it didn’t work out. He says the refurbished Sondheim Theatre “will be a perfect companion to the Gielgud Theatre next door, named after John Gielgud, and the Coward and Novello Theatres, named after Noel Coward and Ivor Novello.
The Queen’s Theatre, designed by architect W.G.R. Sprague, originally opened on October 8, 1907 with The Sugar Bowl, a comedy by Madeleine Lucette Ryley. It closed for 20 years after being destroyed by a bomb in 1940, reopening in 1959 with Gielgud’s The Ages of Man.