Theatre of comedy company
In 1983 Ray Cooney formed the Theatre of Comedy Company, to take a lease on the Shaftesbury Theatre and presented Run for your Wife followed by a season of plays that promoted British comedy at its finest. The success of the season allowed the Company to purchase the Theatre in 1984 during the run of Two into One starring Donald Sinden and Michael Williams.
The Theatre of Comedy Company mixed high calibre drama with musicals over the 80s and 90s in a programme that included Stephen Sondheim’s Follies (1987), Kiss of the Spiderwoman (1992) starring Chita Rivera, and the National Theatre’s production of Carousel (1993). Plays included M Butterfly (1989) starring Anthony Hopkins, Out of Order (1990), reuniting Donald Sinden and Michael Williams, Peter O’Toole in Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell (1991) and John Malkovich in A Slip of the Tongue (1992). The second half of the decade saw two groundbreaking musicals, The Who’s Tommy (1996) and Jonathan Larson’s award winning Rent (1998) inspired by La Bohème.
The new millennium ushered in musical adaptations of the classic films Peggy Sue Got Married (2001), Thoroughly Modern Millie (2003), starring Maureen Lipman and Amanda Holden and the famous novel The Far Pavilions (2005). In 2006 the music of the pop phenomenon Boney M featured in the musical Daddy Cool.
The Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Hairspray opened in October 2007 to huge acclaim and went on to win many awards. Having secured 27 major awards, including 4 Olivier awards, and playing to capacity audiences Hairspray became the most successful production in the Shaftesbury Theatre’s history, playing for almost three sensational years.
After Hairspray the international dance sensation Burn the Floor enjoyed two successful seasons in 2010 and 2013 Derren Brown’s Svengali received an Olivier Award for Best Entertainment and Rock of Ages gave a blast of 1980s rock music. The Theatre was privileged to host the world premiere of Sir Tim Rice’s From Here to Eternity in the autumn of 2013 and then, in 2014 enjoyed a short season of The Pajama Game, directed by Sir Richard Eyre. Opening in October 2014 the Tony award-winning musical Memphis, staring Beverley Knight, won both Whatsonstage and Olivier awards during its 13 month run.
Following Memphis the Theatre witnessed the worldwide phenomenon that is The Illusionists, starring seven world leading magicians including the UK’s Jamie Raven, and until April 2019 we thrilled audiences with a musical that celebrated the story of the musical legend Berry Gordy and his record label Motown.
2019 is shaping up to be a highly significant year for the Theatre, with building work on our ‘Dramatic Transformation’ Project, a limited eight week run of The Illusionists, and a brand new, fun and irreverant musical opening in November – And Juliet.
The cast of Follies, 1987
Motown the Musical