By Marie-Louise Gumuchian
LONDON (Reuters) -British musical impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber re-opens his Theatre Royal Drury Lane on Friday after a two-year $80-million restoration, aiming to keep the historic cultural site open all day and not just for performances.
The theatre, known as The Lane, boasts a revamped auditorium, swanky staircases, a champagne bar inspired by the Pantheon in Rome, an all-day dining area as well as a cocktail bar named after society photographer Cecil Beaton.
Composer Lloyd Webber, a veteran of London’s West End, bought the theatre in 2019 and embarked on the 60-million-pounds ($82-million) restoration project, aimed at honouring the building’s history, with his wife Madeleine.
Situated in London’s Covent Garden, the venue is described as “the oldest theatre site in continuous use in the world”, active since the 17th century.
“The task of restoring the Theatre Royal was threefold. How to reinstate (architect Benjamin Dean) Wyatt’s glorious ‘front of house’ rooms, how to fix the 1922 auditorium and, third, how to make this extraordinary building a versatile, vibrant heart of the artistic soul of Covent Garden,” Lloyd Webber said in a statement.
“The restoration of the Theatre Royal, uniting my two great passions of theatre and architecture, has been a colossal task rendered very difficult by the covid pandemic. It simply would have ground to a halt without the dedication of our extraordinary craftsmen and the team overseeing the project in, at times, almost impossible circumstances.”
Prince Charles and his wife Camilla officially opened the theatre last month. Its ground floor opens to the public on Friday while “Frozen The Musical” is scheduled to open at the theatre in late August.
Separately on Friday, Lloyd Webber, the man behind musicals like “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Cats”, said his new London production “Cinderella” would open on Aug. 18 after being postponed from earlier this week.
The composer cancelled Tuesday’s official opening – following nearly a month of previews – after a cast member tested positive for COVID-19. The rules around self-isolation for the rest of the cast, who all tested negative, meant the musical could not open as planned that day.
(Reporting by Mike Davidson and Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Janet Lawrence)