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Originally known as the New Theatre, the Noël Coward Theatre was built by Sir Charles Wyndham on St. Martin's Lane in London, England and opened on March 12, 1903. It was built behind Wyndham's Theatre which was completed in 1899. The building was designed by architect W.G.R. Sprague with an exterior in the Classical style and an interior in the Rococo style.
In 1973 it was renamed the Albery Theatre in tribute to the late Sir Bronson Albery who had presided as its manager for many years. Since September 2005, the theatre has been owned by Delfont-Mackintosh Ltd. It underwent major refurbishment in 2006, and was renamed the Noël Coward Theatre when it re-opened for the London premiere of Avenue Q on 1 June 2006. Coward, one of Britain's greatest playwrights and actors, made his West End debut in his own play, I'll Leave It To You, at the then New Theatre in 1920.
The theatre seats 872 patrons on 4 levels. The building is now a Grade II Listed structure.
After opening in 1903 with a production of Rosemary starring Charles Wyndham and his wife, Mary Moore, the Noël Coward Theatre has hosted a number of notable productions. I'll Leave it to You, in 1920, was Coward's first play. George Bernard Shaw's St. Joan with an acclaimed performance by actress Sybil Thorndike ran in 1924.
The 1930s saw John Gielgud's production of Hamlet and he also appeared with Laurence Olivier, Peggy Ashcroft and Edith Evans in Romeo and Juliet. With the Blitz, came the destruction of the theatres that were home to the Old Vic and Sadler's Wells Theatre Companies. Both companies made the New Theatre home until their respective theatres were rebuilt in the 1950s. One of the most successful shows to play the New Theatre opened 30 June 1960, it was Lionel Bart's musical retelling of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, Oliver!. It ran for 2,618 performances.
Recently, the theatre has played host to some notable Shakespeare productions including a production of Twelfth Night set in India with an entirely Asian cast. The production played to packed houses and only closed as the Royal Shakespeare Company themselves had exclusive rights to perform their annual London season of Tragedies there. Between December 2004 and April 2005, they presented Hamlet, Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth, King Lear and a brand new production of Euripedes' Hecuba starring Vanessa Redgrave.
In June 2005, the Irish hit The Shaughraun opened; however, its success at the Dublin Gate Theatre was not matched in the capital and it closed just over a month after opening. This closure was followed with a dark period of around three months before the theatre transferred to the ownership of Delfont Mackintosh Limited and reopened in October 2005 with The Right's Size's new production Ducktastic!. Once again this failed to live up to expectations and closed swiftly just three weeks after opening on 19 November 2005. A short Christmas season of Patrick Stewart's one-man version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol played from 6 December to 31 December 2005, before the theatre hosted the Edinburgh Festival hit drama Blackbird starring Roger Allam. It is currently hosting the European premiere of the Broadway hit, Avenue Q, which started previewing on 2nd June 2006 and had its opening night on 28th June 2006.