Opened as Astley's Amphitheatre in September 1854 under the management of G.B.W. Lewis, the Princess Theatre in Spring Street hosted equestrian entertainments combining trick horse riding, circus acts and drama. Equestrianism proved unsuccessful, and with George Coppin as leaseholder, the building, known as the Royal Amphitheatre, was remodelled in 1856. Transformed into the Princess in 1857, the theatre staged some important productions but was often unused as it was so far from the railway station. In 1885 the old building was demolished and the management triumvirate of Williamson, Garner and Musgrove commissioned architect William Pitt to design a replacement, which opened in December 1886 with Nellie Stewart in The Mikado. In March 1888 Stewart took the soprano role in the production of Faust in which Federici died at the close of the performance.
Notable productions towards the end of the century included Janet Achurch in Ibsen's A doll's house in September 1889 and the Sarah Bernhardt season in 1891. The theatre was refurbished in 1921 by architect Henry White. In 1934 F.T. Thring, whose radio station 3XY was housed in the building, produced the Australian musical comedy Collets' Inn. Fullers and Garnet H. Carroll held the lease and freehold between 1945 and 1986, hosting visitors including the Old Vic Company with Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, and the Ballet Rambert. Local talent starred in National Theatre opera, ballet and drama seasons in the 1950s. A popular season of The sound of music was presented in 1961. More recently, after extensive refurbishment by developer David Marriner, the theatre has presented big musicals such as Les miserables, Phantom of the opera and The producers.