Lyceum Theatre

The Lyceum Theatre is a 2,000-seater west-end theatre situated in Wellington Street close to Covent Garden. A theatre with this name has been in the locality since 1765, and the present site first opened on 14th July 1834 to a unique design by Samuel Beazley in that its balcony overhung the circle.

The building still retains Beazley’s façade and grand portico, is substantially different inside and was restored to theatrical use in 1996 by Holohan Architects, after a long period where it was used as a Mecca Ballroom, nightclub, and concert venue.

The Old Lyceum Theatre was situated on a nearby site in 1765, and in the late 18th century, famed actor David Garrick performed at the Lyceum. Between 1794 and 1809, the building was even used as a circus, after being brought by Phillip Astley when his amphitheatre burned down at Westminster.  Subsequently, it was used as a chapel, a concert room, and as a venue for the first London exhibition of waxworks by Madame Tussaud in 1802.

In 1809, the theatre became what was known as a “licensed” house, and until 1812 was used by the Drury Lane Company after the burning down of their own theatre. Samuel Arnold rebuilt the building in 1816 to a design by Beazley and opened as ‘The English Opera House’, but was destroyed by fire in 1830. The house found fame as the first theatre in London to be lit by gas and during this period, the “Sublime Society Of beefsteaks” which was founded in 1735 by theatre manager Henry Rich, (which was based at the theatre for over 50 years) where the members of the society, who never exceeded 24 in number met every Saturday night there to eat beefsteaks and drink port.

In 1834, the present house opened with its frontage on Wellington Street, and under the new name “Theatre Royal Lyceum and English Opera House”. Once again designed by Beazley and costing £40,000, the new house favoured English rather than the Italian operas, and composer John Barnett produced a number of works there including ‘The Mountain Sylph’ in 1834, which was credited as the first modern English opera. This was followed by ‘Fair Rosamund’, ‘Fannelli’ and ‘Blanche Of Jersey’.

Michael Balfe managed the theatre between 1841-43 and produced National Opera here, but the venture failed and so from 1844 to 1847 the theatre was managed by Robert and Mary Anne Keeley, during which period the venue became associated with staged adaptations of Charles Dicken’s novels and Christmas books.

Madame Lucia Elizabeth Vestris and Charles James Mathews took over the running of the theatre from 1847-55, and produced James Planche’s “[fairy] extravaganzas” which featured spectacular stage effects. Their first major success was John Maddison Morton’s ‘Box And Cox’.  Tom Taylor’s adaptation of ‘A Tale Of Two Cities’ with Dickens himself as a consultant, was performed here in 1860.

In 1871, under manager Hezekiah Linthicum Bateman and his wife, Henry Irving appeared at the venue.  he played in many works by Shakespeare and others., beginning with the French melodrama ‘The Bells’, which was a hit in which he starred as the ghost-haunted burgomaster to sell-out crowds for 150 nights.  ‘Charles I’ was another hit in 1872 and ran for 180 nights. Irving played ‘Hamlet’ in 1874, perhaps his greatest triumph, running for 200 nights, and in 1878, after Bateman’s death, he took over management of the theatre from his widow. Mrs. Bateman went on to manage the Sadlers Wells Theatre.

Irving starred in plays at the Lyceum until 1902, engaging his co-star Ellen Terry for that entire period of 24 years.  Bram Stoker worked as business manager of the theatre between 1878 and 1898 and it is said that Irving was Stoker’s real-life inspiration for ‘Count Dracula’ in his 1897 novel and had hoped that Irving, with his dramatic, sweeping gestures, and specialty in playing the role of villains would play Dracula in the stage adaptation of his novel. This never happened as Irving never agreed to appear in the stage version even though it was produced at the venue.

In 1904, after being bought by Thomas Barrasford, the Lyceum Theatre was rebuilt in rococo style by Bertie Crewe, retaining just the façade and portico from the original building and showcased a mixture of variety acts and music hall in an attempt to compete with the Palace Theatre and the London Coliseum.  This was not a success and soon, the theatre returned to drama. In 1919, more minor alterations were made by Edward Jones and between the wars, dramas were performed at the theatre for ten months each year, followed by pantomimes at Christmas. The Lyceum was the last theatre in London to continue the practice of concluding pantomimes with a harlequinade which was a free-standing entertainment consisting of slapstick, juggling, clowning, and tumbling. The tradition finally ended in 1939 with the closure of the theatre.

The London City Council bought the building in 1939 and planned to demolish it to make room for road improvement however, the road improvement plans collapsed, and in 1951, after the war, it was converted to a ballroom and reopened by Matthews and Sons, as the ‘Lyceum Ballroom’.  The theatre was used as a venue for pop concerts and TV broadcasts with top international acts appearing, including The Clash, Bob Marley Led Zeppelin, and the Who to name but a few.

In 1986, the theatre went dark following the National Theatre’s promenade performances of Bill Bryden’s adaptation of the ‘Mysteries Trilogy’ and in 1996 it was finally restored and reconverted into a theatre once again for large-scale musicals by Holohan Architects

The Lyceum Theatre has been home to the hugely popular stage show version of ‘Disney’s The Lion King’ since 1999 and tickets to all performances are available to book securely through this website.

FAQ’s About Booking Tickets To The Lyceum Theatre

Are Tickets To The Lyceum Theatre Expensive?

They can be!  The long running resident show, Disney’s The Lion King is one of the most popular musicals in the West End and possibly the most successful family show in the world and that makes tickets for the London production at the Lyceum Theatre very much in demand.

Do They Ever Discount Tickets To The Lyceum Theatre Online?

Finding discount tickets to the Lyceum Theatre online is right up there with winning the lottery, locating buried treasure or bumping into a Unicorn drinking in your local pub unfortunately!  In fact, the resident show is so popular that even the official ticket agencies are forced to charge customers a booking fee to turn a profit on this show as they are paying full price themselves to acquire ticket stock!

Is It Safe To Book Tickets To The Lyceum Theatre Online?

If you are going to book tickets online it is strongly advised that you use an agency/website that is a member of the Society Of London Theatre (SOLT) and the Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers (STAR) as these agencies are regulated and work closely with the theatres themselves to ensure that all customers get a fair deal with no hidden charges.  Booking fees can apply for some sold out productions but all fees will be transparent and visible at the point of purchase to avoid any confusion and guarantee customer satisfaction.

Is There No Way To Get Cheap Tickets To The Lyceum Theatre Then?

While tickets at the venue are generally quite expensive that does not mean that there is never good value or cheaper tickets to be found.  Like any business, theatre experiences both peaks and troughs and there are certain weeks of the year that even the most popular shows will struggle to fill up a large venue like the Lyceum Theatre.  Try to avoid school holidays and weekends, and do a little research looking at midweek dates that follow on from school holidays as there is often a lull which can lead to ticket prices being lowered.  The week after the half term holiday in February is particularly good for lastminute ticket options and can produce bargains.

What Are ‘Day Tickets?’

Some shows offer a very small selection of well priced tickets on the day of the performance that are exclusively sold to customers at the box office from 10am on the day.  There are big savings to be made if you can make the effort and arrive early to queue up, however you must also be prepared to walk away disappointed as there are very few of these tickets available.  A handy tip for getting cheap day tickets to the Lyceum Theatre would be to try on a Wednesday morning when there are two performances on the day, therefore doubling your chances of success!

What Are ‘Liability’ Tickets?

Official theatre ticket agencies and websites sometimes buy tickets in advance at negotiated rates with the theatre in the hope that they can offload them at either a cheaper price than the opposition, or for an increased profit margin.  If they fail to sell these tickets they are left with a loss (or ‘liability’) and therefore occasionally there are bargains to be found late in the day as the clock runs down.  It should be noted however that agencies would not operate like this if they consistently lost money doing so and do not do this every day or for every show so it is not a good strategy if you want to see a particular show on a particular day as you are very likely to be left disappointed!

Seating Plan
Lyceum Theatre Seating Plan

21 Wellington Street, London, WC2E 7RQ

Venue Facilities
Air conditioned

Nearest Tube
Covent Garden

Tube Lines

Directions from nearest tube

(5mins) Go right on Long Acre; turn right into Bow Street/Wellington Street and follow the road 200 metres. The theatre is on your right.

Railway Station
Charing Cross

Bus Numbers
(Strand) 4, 9, 15, 26, 76, 91, 139, 176, 341; (Aldwych) RV1, X68, 1, 6, 11, 13, 23, 59, 68, 87, 168, 171, 172, 188, 243

Night Bus Numbers
(Strand) 139, 176, 341, N9, N15, N21, N44, N76, N9; (Aldwych) 6, 23, 188, 243, N1, N11, N13, N26, N47, N68, N87, N89, N155, N171, N551

Car Park
Drury Lane, Parker Street (10mins)

Within Congestion Zone

Lyceum Theatre Seating Plan

From £30.00

Transport Info

Covent Garden

(5mins) Go right on Long Acre; turn right into Bow Street/Wellington Street and follow the road 200 metres. The theatre is on your right.

Charing Cross
(Strand) 4, 9, 15, 26, 76, 91, 139, 176, 341; (Aldwych) RV1, X68, 1, 6, 11, 13, 23, 59, 68, 87, 168, 171, 172, 188, 243
(Strand) 139, 176, 341, N9, N15, N21, N44, N76, N9; (Aldwych) 6, 23, 188, 243, N1, N11, N13, N26, N47, N68, N87, N89, N155, N171, N551
Drury Lane, Parker Street (10mins)

Venue Facilities

  • Air conditioned
  • Bar
  • Disabled toilets
  • Infrared hearing loop
  • Toilets
  • Wheelchair accessible
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