With Cameron Mackintosh as our guide, a select band of theatre writers, bloggers and reviewers were treated to a personal tour of the revamped Sondheim Theatre this Thursday, ahead of the official opening of (the also revamped) Les Misérables. I was lucky enough to be among the group...
The Sondheim – formerly the Queens – opened under its new name on 18 December last year, and was due to be christened this week at a lunchtime event in the presence of Mr Sondheim himself. Sadly, owing to a fall at home, Steve was unable to make the trip to London, which, according to Mackintosh, has been rescheduled for just after his 90th birthday in March.
The newly refurbished Grade II-listed Sprague theatre has transformed from a rather shabby and claustrophobic house ("charmless", according to Mackintosh) to the most glittering of stars on Shaftesbury Avenue. Expanded dressing rooms, replastered walls, beautifully revamped bars and – crucially! – a LOT more toilets (32 extra loos!), in addition to a complete restructuring of the stalls, circle and upper circle, has modernised the theatre for the 21st century.
Sight-lines have been improved too, as the tunnel-like straight walls have been curved, allowing the theatre to "hug the stage".
Portraits of Steve, including a number of photographs from Mackintosh's partner Michael Le Poer Trench, adorn the walls, as do plastered monograms of both Mackintosh and Sondheim. Reproductions of paintings by Victor Hugo can also be found, inspiring the look of the reworked Les Mis.