The Novello theatre opened on 22nd May 1905 and is a Grade II listed building. The building has been through multiple name changes: in 1909 it was renamed The Strand Theatre, in 1911 it became the Whitney Theatre and it reverted to The Strand again in 1913. During this time a number of renovations and refurbishments took palace, including the removal of some auditorium boxes at dress circle level.
The most dramatic refurbishment took place in 2005, when after six months of work costing over £3.3m, the venue's name was finally and decisively changed to The Novello theatre in honour of the musician and singer Ivor Novello, who lived above the premises for more than 40 years.
Some notable productions at the theatre include Joseph Kesselring’s black comedy Arsenic And Old Lace, which enjoyed a run of 1337 performances in 1942 and the 1955 production of Sailor Beware, which gave Peggy Mount her first big break. In 1963 the Stephen Sondheim musical comedy A Funny Thing Happened On the Way To the Forum suffered the unfortunate coincidence of opening the same day the US President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. It still achieved a run of 22 months, finally closing in December 1965.
The longest-running comedy in the UK, No Sex Please We're British, opened at the Novello on 3rd June 1971 and continued until it transferred to the Duchess Theatre in August 1986. In more recent years the theatre was home to seasonal plays from the Royal Shakespeare Company, which staged productions of Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Comedy of Errors and As You Like It between 2005-06. The RSC returned for another season in 2006-07 following a short run of the musical Footloose.
The Novello saw productions of Betty Blue Eyes, Crazy for You and Noises Off wow audiences in the 1990s. In September 2012 Mamma Mia! transferred to the Novello following five years at the Prince Edward and eight years at the Prince of Wales. Today the venue is owned and run by Delfont Mackintosh Theatres, who bought the building in March 2003.