The Waldorf Hotel is situated between two West End Theatres and is making the most of its stage connections. Now part of the Meridien Group, it opened in 1908 with a theatrical clientele in mind — it was situated opposite one of London's leading Edwardian playhouses, the Gaiety. Sadly, that theatre was replaced by a post-war office block, but the Waldorf continues to be flanked by two major West End theatres — the Strand (where The York Realist is now playing) and the Aldwych, where Mother Claps' Molly House has transferred from the National.
Several more theatres — the Duchess, the Fortune and, of course, Drury Lane — are only a couple of minutes' walk away. The hotel has another theatrical connection that has been given a higher profile recently: It adjoins the Aldwych flat above the Strand theatre where Ivor Novello lived for some 40 years and where, as a blue plaque now states, he died in 1951. The flat is now a suite of offices leased by producers Duncan Weldon and Thelma Holt.
It was in this flat that Novello wrote the hugely popular First World War song "Keep the Home Fires Burning," and he would enjoy hearing his latest show tunes played by the Waldorf's resident orchestra, which in the 1920's and 1930's was one of the best-known in London and made many records.
As a hotel, the Waldorf has tended to have a fairly comfortable, old-fashioned air that is still reflected in the Edwardian elegance of its rooms and suites, but a massive make-over will see the great majority of these turned into state-of-the-art modern rooms over the next year or so.
The modernization of the hotel's image has been emphasized by the gentle dropping of the Palm Court's traditional teas in favor of first-night parties and film launches, including that of The Lion King and, more recently, of "Iris," the Oscar-nominated film about novelist Iris Murdoch, starring Dame Judi Dench.
—By Paul Webb at Theatrenow