The Mayflower, Southampton
One of the older regional theatres in the UK, the Mayflower can host enormous musicals to entertain equally impressively-sized audiences. It is a common stop for most touring musicals.
Founded in the 1920s in a group of six theatres including the Dominion Theatre, the Mayflower Theatre was the pinnacle of luxury for performers and audience members when it opened. It began doubling as a cinema when the popularity of movies skyrocketed, but like most theatres had to take a break with bomb damages from the Second World War. Once it reopened, people lined up around the corner to buy a ticket for the first musical on sale.
While the Mayflower (then known as the Gaumont) continued successfully as a theatre, its primary source of income keeping it afloat was the films it screened - which is why the dawn of television threatened it. Luckily, rock 'n' roll music saved the day and the multi-purpose venue became a prime ground for stars such as Buddy Holly, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. This trend helped sustain the theatre into the eighties, but by then a planned conversion into a bingo hall was already in the works as musicians opted for arenas and concert halls.
Luckily, a petition with almost 100,000 signatures was collected to save the theatre, and it was bought up by the Council. It reopened in 1987 as the Mayflower, and became a home for annual pantomimes. But it wasn't until the 1990s when touring musicals raked in at the box office that the theatre actually became profitable, and to this day it continues to showcase the best musicals the UK has to offer.