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West End’s Queen’s Theatre to be renamed after Stephen Sondheim

Stephen Sondheim. Photo: Dave Benett Stephen Sondheim. Photo: Dave Benett
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The Queen’s Theatre in the West End will be renamed after Stephen Sondheim when it reopens after a refurbishment later this year.

The composer will become the only living person to have a theatre dedicated in their honour in both the West End and on Broadway, which is already home to the Stephen Sondheim Theatre.

London’s newly anointed Sondheim Theatre will reopen in December following renovation work to repair wartime bomb damage and an overhaul of its auditorium and backstage areas.

It will continue to be the home of Les Misérables, although a new production of the hit musical will play on its stage. The original production of Les Misérables retires when the theatre closes next week, after running for 34 years.

Detailed plans revealed for revamp of Les Miserables’ West End home

The theatre’s owner, Cameron Mackintosh, described Sondheim as a “living legend” of unparalleled influence.

“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.

“Over the decades his work has become increasingly appreciated and performed by all, both as part of the popular theatre and classical repertoires and in spaces that range from a pie shop to the Royal Opera House. His love of theatre is unquenchable and throughout his career he has been an exceptional champion of so many young creatives as well as supporting numerous productions worldwide, especially here in London.”

Reacting to the news, Sondheim added: “I have loved British theatre since I saw my first play here in 1958. I have treasured Cameron Mackintosh’s support and friendship ever since he produced Side by Side by Sondheim in 1976.

“Cameron is synonymous with British theatre, so the confluence on this occasion is truly exhilarating. 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.”

Mackintosh had intended to rename the Ambassadors Theatre, which he had a provisional agreement to purchase, after Sondheim. However, the sale collapsed last year and the theatre was later sold to Ambassador Theatre Group.

Exclusive: Ambassadors Theatre sold to ATG in £12m deal

Mackintosh said: “For the past 25 years I have tried to build a studio theatre in central London named after Sondheim, but it wasn’t to be.

“I felt this major refurbishment of a building that has housed his brilliant work was the perfect moment to put his name ‘on some marquee, all twinkling lights – a spark to pierce the dark’,” he added, quoting a line from the song Broadway Baby from Sondheim’s Follies.

The Sondheim will become the latest West End venue to be renamed after a contemporary theatre figure. Last year, Andrew Lloyd Webber announced he would be renaming the New London Theatre after the choreographer Gillian Lynne.

Lynne, who became the first non-royal woman to have a West End theatre bearing her name, died shortly after the dedication, in July 2018.

Choreographer and director Gillian Lynne dies aged 92

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