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Thursday, 11 April, 2002, 14:49 GMT 15:49 UK
Sir Elton heads historic theatre
Sir Elton John
Sir Elton will chair the Old Vic's Theatre Trust
Pop legend Sir Elton John has been appointed as chairman of a trust that owns London's Old Vic, a theatre which was once run by Sir Laurence Olivier.

The trust bought the 180-year-old venue in 1998 to save it from closure, and Sir Elton will join Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey, who is on the trust's board.

The Old Vic
The original Old Vic was built in 1818
The venue's acting company was run by Sir Laurence and Ralph Richardson after World War II, and it has seen performances from many famous names including Sir John Gielgud.

It is hoped that Sir Elton's involvement will "energise and enthuse the theatre-going public", the Old Vic's chief executive Sally Greene said.

The Theatre Trust predicted that Sir Elton would lead the Old Vic into a new phase of development and growth, paying tribute to his "profound love and respect" of theatre.

Sir Elton confessed to being proud of his new role.

Sir John Gielgud
Sir John Gielgud celebrated his 80th birthday at the venue
"I am immensely excited about contributing to the future of this great theatre," he said.

"The Old Vic is one of the most important theatres in Great Britain, having been the home to some of the greatest actors and companies of the last century."

Sir Elton has been more and more involved with theatre over the past few years - but until now, that involvement had been limited to writing scores for musicals.

He has composed the music for The Lion King and Aida, and is working on a score for a stage version of the film Billy Elliott.

The Old Vic post is not his only chairmanship - he holds the same role at Watford football club.

History

Opened in 1818, the Southwark theatre is regarded as being one of the most important in London.

Sir John led the first Old Vic Company in 1929, while Sir Laurence and Ralph Richardson led the rebuilding after it was damaged in the Blitz.

A young Dame Judi Dench and Dame Maggie Smith joined its company early in their careers before it became the first home of the National Theatre in 1963.

It has also seen acclaimed performances from Peggy Ashcroft, Alec Guinness, Vivien Leigh, Michael Redgrave and Peter O'Toole.

In 2000, Spacey launched a drive to raise 1m for the Old Vic after appearing there in a well-received production of The Iceman Cometh.

See also:

27 Jul 00 | Entertainment
Spacey backs British theatre
07 Oct 98 | Entertainment
New look for Old Vic
03 Jul 98 | Entertainment
Old Vic theatre saved
04 Mar 02 | Music
Dame Liz 'marries' Sir Elton
21 Feb 02 | Music
Sir Elton slates pop industry
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