Stephen Sondheim Society patron Sir Cameron Mackintosh has purchased two more London theatres to add to the list of the seven he currently owns, The Victoria Palace and The Ambassadors. He plans to change the name of The Ambassadors to The Sondheim Theatre.
In a press statement, Sir Cameron stated: “.. . I have also agreed with Stephen (Waley-Cohen) to take over the Ambassadors Theatre, renaming it The Sondheim Theatre. This is subject to obtaining the necessary planning consents and is intended to take place in early 2015. My plan is to completely rebuild the auditorium in order to fulfill a long standing dream for the West End to have a transfer house primarily for seasons of exciting productions from theatres in the subsidized sector seeking a non-proscenium environment that mirrors their own stages.”
He added “I am hoping these will come both from London and the regions and to this end we will be providing a glamorous 450 seat studio environment that will be appropriate whilst removing the need for a costly restaging to suit a proscenium theatre. We will be creating a contemporary auditorium inspired by the original theatre architect, William Sprague, complementing the original features of the building much as I did when I rebuilt the interior of the Prince of Wales theatre 11 years ago. That subsequently transformed that theatre’s fortunes reopening with Mamma Mia! and now The Book of Mormon. In the front of house areas we will be retaining as much as possible of the original Sprague plasterwork – being a great admirer of his work I have already restored five other of his beautiful theatres in the West End. The foyer and front-of-house facilities will also be much improved and enlarged. I am delighted that Stephen Sondheim has agreed to allow me to name the new theatre after him.”
Current owner Stephen Waley-Cohen said: “. . .For the Ambassadors Theatre, provided planning consent is obtained for Cameron’s wonderful plans to create the Sondheim Theatre, this will be a shining example of how imaginative re-thinking can ensure a vibrant future for a historic theatre. Until this happens, Stomp will continue its very successful run, and we will welcome back the National Youth Theatre for a second repertory season this autumn.”
Stephen Sondheim, who already has a Broadway house named after him (formerly the Henry Miller), stated, “I am flattered and thrilled that Cameron Mackintosh has chosen to rename The Ambassadors Theatre after me. What I’ve always loved about London theater is its diversity, much of which is the result of work developed in so-called ‘fringe theatre’ and in non-traditional spaces. Most of those shows, for financial and practical reasons, have limited runs as well as limited audiences. What Cameron is supplying is a transfer house for seasons of those productions, a way of prolonging their lives and allowing them to be seen by an expansive variety of audiences – something, I should add, as much needed in New York as in London. To have my name attached to such a vivifying contribution to British theatre is an honour as well as a thrill.”