The Apollo Victoria Theatre is a West End theatre, located on Wilton Road near Victoria station in the City of Westminster. Opened as a cinema and variety theatre, the Apollo Victoria became a venue for musical theatre, beginning with The Sound of Music in 1981, and including the long-running Starlight Express, from 1984 to 2002. The theatre is now the home of the musical Wicked, which celebrated five years at the venue in September 2011.
The theatre opened as the New Victoria Cinema on 15 October 1930 with a film starring George Arlis in Old English, based on a stage play by John Galsworthy. It was equipped with a Compton 3 manual 15 rank theatre organ, played on the opening night by Reginald Foort. The theatre also staged variety shows.
Variety quickly gave way to a specialisation in film performances, with occasional performances by big bands. In June 1939, the cinema was one of the three London sites chosen to present a live relay of The Epsom Derby from the pre-war BBC experimental transmissions, utilising Baird equipment to project onto a screen 15 feet by 12 (4.6 by 3.7 m) in sepia. From September 1940 to May 1941, the theatre was closed due to World War II, but no serious damage was sustained and it reopened quickly. Plans were made for demolition in the 1950s, but it was saved and presented a mixture of ballet, live shows and films. The last films were shown in November 1975, a double bill of Peter Cushing in Legend of the Werewolf (1975) and Adrienne Corri in Vampire Circus (1972), though the theatre remained open until 1976, after which it closed for five years. It reopened in 1981 as the Apollo Victoria Theatre with a Shirley Bassey concert.
Musicals, including The Sound of Music, Camelot and Fiddler on the Roof played at the theatre in the early 1980s. In 1984, the interior was extensively modified by the introduction of a 'race track' that ran through the audience, for the show Starlight Express with performers on roller skates. The show premièred on 27 March, composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber and directed by Trevor Nunn and ran for 7,406 performances, over 18 years. With the removal of the 'tracks', the interior was extensively restored by architects Jaques Muir and Partners. This included the removal of 3,500 incandescent lamps that had become difficult to maintain and consumed a considerable amount of power. These were replaced by 88,000 low power LEDs specially designed for the theatre, creating the first auditorium completely lit in this way. Another Lloyd Webber production followed, Bombay Dreams premièred on 19 June 2002. It was created by A. R. Rahman with lyrics by Don Black and was directed by Steven Pimlott, closing after 1,500 performances on 13 June 2004. This was followed by the return to the West End of the Bee Gee's musical Saturday Night Fever on 6 July 2004, closing 22 October 2005 to tour. This was followed on 10 April 2006 by the jukebox musical Movin' Out, featuring the music of Billy Joel. This starred James Fox but ran for only two months.
The Broadway musical Wicked received its London première at the venue on 27 September 2006 with a cast featuring Idina Menzel as Elphaba, Helen Dallimore as Glinda, Nigel Planer as The Wizard, Adam Garcia as Fiyero and Miriam Margolyes as Madame Morrible.
The show claimed a record-breaking £761,000 taken at the box office, during its first eight performances and to date has grossed £150 million in London alone.
The theatre is one of the largest in the West End, with a capacity is 2,305 including standing spaces. The theatre is owned by the Ambassador Theatre Group.
On October 10th 2010 the theatre celebrated its 80th birthday with a Gala Performance, featuring stars of productions past and present, inclduding a reunion of Starlight Express performers.