Piccadilly Theatre

Theatre in/near Soho, existing between 1928 and now

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Theatre · Soho · W1D ·
MAY
19
2014

The Piccadilly Theatre is an Art Deco masterpiece in the West End.

Piccadilly Theatre (2007)
Credit: Turquoisefish
Built by Bertie Crewe and Edward A. Stone for Edward Laurillard, its simple facade conceals a grandiose Art Deco interior designed by Marc-Henri Levy and Gaston Laverdet, with a 1232-seat auditorium decorated in shades of pink. Gold and green are the dominant colours in the bars and foyer, which include the original light fittings. Upon its opening on 27 April 1928, the theatre's souvenir brochure claimed, "If all the bricks used in the building were laid in a straight line, they would stretch from London to Paris." The opening production, Jerome Kern's musical Blue Eyes, starred Evelyn Laye, one of the most acclaimed actresses of the period.

The Piccadilly was briefly taken over by Warner Brothers, and operated as a cinema using the Vitaphone system, and premièred the first talking picture to be shown in Great Britain, The Singing Fool with Al Jolson. The theatre reopened in November 1929, with a production of The Student Prince, having a success in January 1931 with Folly to be Wise, running for 257 performances.

Following a conversion into a cabaret restaurant, the theatre reopened in April 1936 as the London Casino, which became noted for its lavish stage shows. The building sustained considerable damage when it was hit by a stray German bomb during World War II. After renovations in the early 1950s, it returned to its original name and became a venue for plays, revues and musicals.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the Piccadilly improved its reputation with a series of successful transfers from Broadway: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, A Streetcar Named Desire and Man of La Mancha made their London debuts at the theatre. The Beatles recorded a number of songs at the Piccadilly on 28 February 1964 for the BBC Radio show, 'From Us to You'. In 1976, the Jerome Kern and Guy Bolton musical Very Good Eddie ran for 411 performances at the theatre. The cast included Prue Clarke.

In 1986, the venue was the setting for ITV's popular Sunday evening variety show, Live From the Piccadilly, hosted by Jimmy Tarbuck. The 1990s witnessed an expansion in ballet and dance, notably the most successful commercial ballet season ever to play in the West End, including Matthew Bourne's acclaimed production of Swan Lake.

The Donmar Warehouse production of Guys and Dolls ran at the Piccadilly from 19 May 2005 to 14 April 2007. It was followed by Paul Nicholas and David Ian's production of Grease which opened on 8 August 2007 and was the longest running show in the theatre's history before closing in April 2011.


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Piccadilly Theatre (2007)
Turquoisefish


 

Soho

Soho is a world-famous area of the City of Westminster and part of the West End of London.

The name "Soho" first appears in the 17th century. Most authorities believe that the name derives from a former hunting cry. James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, used "soho" as a rallying call for his men at the Battle of Sedgemoor on 6 July 1685, half a century after the name was first used for this area of London. The Soho name has been imitated by other entertainment and restaurant districts such as Soho, Hong Kong; Soho, Málaga; SOHO, Beijing; SoHo (South of Horton), London, Ontario, Canada; and Palermo Soho, Buenos Aires. SoHo, Manhattan, gets its name from its location SOuth of HOuston Street, but is also a reference to London’s Soho.

Long established as an entertainment district, for much of the 20th century Soho had a reputation as a base for the sex industry in addition to its night life and its location for the headquarters of leading film companies. Since the 1980s, the area has undergone considerable gentrification. It is now predominantly a fashionable district of upmarket restaurants and media offices, with only a small remnant of sex industry venues.

Soho is a small, multicultural area of central London; a home to industry, commerce, culture and entertainment, as well as a residential area for both rich and poor. It has clubs, including the former Chinawhite nightclub; public houses; bars; restaurants; a few sex shops scattered amongst them; and late-night coffee shops that give the streets an "open-all-night" feel at the weekends. Record shops cluster in the area around Berwick Street, with shops such as Phonica, Sister Ray and Reckless Records.
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