When the Strand opens later in 2005 after refurbishment, it will be called The Novello Theatre. The famous actor and composer Novello lived above the theatre for 38 years between 1913 and 1951 (his apartment is now the offices for two well-known London producers) and wrote many of his musicals there.
The organizers of the Ivor Novello Awards were thrilled at the news. Chris Green, the awards’ chief executive, said in a statement, “He was one of our most original and creative songwriters and has been a major inspiration to many who have followed. . . . We are confident that the renamed Novello Theatre will do much to enhance his name and fame.”
The Albery (itself named after Donald Albery after it originally opened as the New Theatre in 1903) will come out of its own refurbishment phase at the end of 2006 as the Noël Coward Theatre. Coward’s first play, I’ll Leave It to You premiered at the New Theatre in 1920.
Graham Payn, the executor of the Noël Coward Estate, said, “Noël would have been thrilled and delighted to have this beautiful and historic theatre named in his honor.”
Mackintosh explained the reasons for the name changes: “As I have put together my group of theatres, I have wanted to give them a sense of identity as well as bring the buildings into the 21st century. . . . I thought to follow the example of the renaming of the Globe Theatre as The Gielgud Theatre, after John Gielgud in recognition of a great artistic contributor to the London stage. Ivor Novello’s personal connection to The Strand made Novello an obvious choice, and I’ve long thought the legendary Noël Coward deserved an honor in the West End, a place he did so much to influence and glamorize.” Once Mackintosh completes his Shaftesbury Avenue rebuilding plans, he will add the newly created Sondheim Theatre to his collection. This will mean that Mackintosh’s theatres will all be named after important contributors to the London stage — he also has the aforementioned Gielgud and the Wyndhams (named after the actor-manager Charles Wyndham).