The Theatre Royal Drury Lane actually faces onto Catherine Street in London’s Covent Garden and backs onto Drury Lane. It is the fourth theatre to be built on the same site.
The first one was built at the request of Thomas Killigrew, page boy to Charles I and dramatist and friend to Charles II. This first theatre was built in 1663 at the beginning of the restoration and was originally known as Theatre Royal in Brydges Street (Brydges or Bridges Street was renamed Catherine Street,) It’s managers hired a number of prominent actors of the time to perform there, these included Nell Gwyn and Charles Hart.
In 1672 the theatre caught fire and Killigrew built a larger theatre on the same spot, it was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and was renamed Theatre Royal Drury Lane, this theatre opened in 1674. This second building stood for 120 years and was managed by such luminaries in the theatrical world such as Colley Ciber, David Garrick and Richard Brinsley Sheridan, the last of whom employed another great, Joseph Grimaldi as the theatres clown.
In 1791 under Sheridan’s management the building was demolished to make way for an even larger theatre, which opened in 1794. This huge building burned to the ground in 1809 and the building we know today was erected opening in 1812.
The current stage has seen a huge variety of talent ranging from Edmund Kean to Dan Leno, Ivor Novello to the Monty Python team who recorded an album there.
In 1979 it saw it’s first Royal Variety Performance, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was the senior Royal in attendance, and the cast saw a real variety of performers from Red Buttons, Yul Brynner, Virginia McKenna from the big screen, and musical stars Millicent Martin, Julia McKenzie, Marti Caine and Bill Haley and his Comets.
At the time of writing it is owned by Andrew Lloyd Webber and stages his shows.