Designed by the renowned theatrical architect Bertie Crew, the Shaftesbury theatre opened on 26th December 1911 and is a Grade II listed building. Originally called the New Prince's theatre when it opened on Boxing Day in 1911, the venue changed its name to the Prince’s theatre in 1914. It was sold to EMI in 1962 and, after an extensive refit and redecoration, was re-opened in 1963 under its current name.
On 20th July 1973 part of the ceiling fell in, closing the production of the musical Hair and bringing with it the threat of demolition to make space for offices. Fortunately this was averted after a public campaign and the building's listing in March 1974, which meant it was protected from redevelopment. The theatre was refurbished in again 1986.
In its early years the venue was famed for housing operas and ballets, including large-scale performances of various Gilbert and Sullivan operettas, the Diaghilev Russian Ballet and a well-received production of Funny Face in 1928 starring Fred and Adele Astaire. In 1963, the musical How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying re-opened the theatre after its refit. But the most infamous production was probably the musical Hair, with its nude scenes, which opened just a few days after stage censorship finally ended in September 1968.
More recent productions at the Shaftesbury include Stephen Sondheim's Follies, Kander and Ebb’s Kiss of the Spider Woman, the Royal National theatre's production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel and The Who’s Tommy.
The Shaftesbury hit the headlines in early 2002 when local residents complained about the noise from the show Umoja and the local council served an ‘enforcement notice’ to close it down. Hairspray The Musical had a good run at the theatre from October 2007 to March 2010, followed by short runs of Flashdance in 2010 and Derren Brown’s mystical show Svengali in 2011. The theatre then became home to the London première of Rock of Ages, which ran for around 16 months from September 2011. The new Tim Rice musical, From Here to Eternity, opened on 23 October 2013.