Live music returns to Theatre Royal Drury Lane after two-year refurbishment

Alex Green, PA Entertainment Reporter

Andrew Lloyd Webber made a return to the newly refurbished Theatre Royal Drury Lane to record an album with an 81-piece orchestra.

The session late last week was the first time the West End theatre had been used for live performance in more than two years – since the theatre impresario, who owns and manages the space through his LW Theatres company, begun the £60 million restoration.

Conducted by Simon Lee in line with Covid-19 guidelines, the recording session included three newly orchestrated suites from Evita, Phantom Of The Opera and Sunset Boulevard.

They will feature on a new album, titled Symphonic Suites, due for release in June.

Musicians arrive at the Theatre Royal Dury Lane to record with Andrew Lloyd Webber (Alice Whitby/PA)
Musicians arrive at the Theatre Royal Dury Lane to record with Andrew Lloyd Webber (Alice Whitby/PA)

Lord Lloyd-Webber said: “For over a year now, we have lived without the joy of live music. To bring an 81-piece orchestra into the new Theatre Royal Drury Lane for this first performance on the biggest stage in London feels like a momentous step forward.

“As we fight to bring performers back to work and theatres back to life, I hope that this album might now take on a new meaning: the music which represents the triumphant and hopeful return of live music, theatre and entertainment across the world.

“It is wonderful and very moving for me to see brilliant musicians back where they belong.”

This year Phantom Of The Opera celebrates 35 years in the West End, while the filmed production of Sunset Boulevard, which first opened in London in 1993, will be re-released for audiences to view between May 10 and 15.

Evita has been running in the West End for 43 years.

West End Stock
The Theatre Royal Drury Lane before the refurbishment (Ian West/PA)

The theatre refurbishment, which began in January 2019 and aims to restore the space to its former 1812 glory, is in its final stages.

Access improvements to the building include a new street level entrance, ramps to the stalls, 20 wheelchair spaces on three levels and more female toilet cubicles.

Peter Cobbin and Kirsty Whalley, recording engineers and co-founders of Such Sweet Thunder, said: “The sound captured at Theatre Royal Drury Lane is akin to a world-class recording venue. In our collective 70-year experience of recording in venues the world over, we have never heard such a majestic sound stage.

“The vast stage of Theatre Royal Drury Lane allowed us to socially distance an entire symphonic orchestra, something that is not possible in any recording studio anywhere in the world.

“Like the unique heritage and legacy that comes with the exceptional renovation of Theatre Royal Drury Lane, the recordings marry characterful vintage and time-honoured analogue with the latest state-of-the-art pristine technologies.

“Theatre Royal Drury Lane has provided a unique opportunity to create one of our greatest recordings ever.

“The sonic clarity, depth, detail and warmth of the theatre sits beautifully in the breathtaking aesthetic, surely an inspiration for any musician and performer.”

A musical adaptation of the Disney film Frozen is expected at the theatre in the spring.

Andrew Lloyd Webber: Symphonic Suites is released on Decca Records in June.