The Dominion Theatre opened its doors on the 3rd October 1929. Designed by W. & T. R. Milburn, the theatre is located on the site of the former Horse Shoe Brewery. The Art Deco architecture and interior of the foyer is a fine example of design from the 1930s, with the period light fitting and plasterwork still present today. Its location is very well thought of, sitting at the point where Tottenham Court Road, Charing Cross Road and Oxford Street meet. It should prove even more desirable with the arrival of Crossrail in 2018.
With the theatre opening so close to the Wall Street Crash, its opening years were not easy going - the first couple of productions closed after less than 150 performances each. Even screening the premiere of Charlie Chaplin’s film, City Lights (with Chaplin himself attending), was not enough to turn the theatre’s luck around. The theatre was bought by The Gaumont-British Picture Corporation Ltd in 1933 and was adapted into a fully-fledged cinema. From the 1950s, the Dominion played host to healthy runs of several movies, including South Pacific (1958), Cleopatra (1963), and The Sound of Music (1965), whilst interspersed with live performances, most famously the Judy Garland Show in the winter of 1957.
It wasn’t until the 1980s that the theatre truly returned to being a live performance house – many famous faces played in concert at the venue, including Dolly Parton, Duran Duran, Bon Jovi, David Bowie and U2. The musical Time opened in 1986 and ran for two years, but not before a hefty renovation of the interior had taken place to accommodate the productions physical demands and special effects.
Facing demolition, with the intention of converting the site into a car park, the theatre was saved in 1991 after an aggressive campaign, and has played host to musicals almost exclusively since – shows from Grease, to the record-breaking run of We Will Rock You, The Bodyguard, and was also home to the Broadway-transfer of An American in Paris. As of 2018, the theatre hosts the transfer of Jim Steinman musical Bat Out of Hell after a successful run at the London Coliseum the previous summer.
Fun Fact – the Dominion Theatre is said to be haunted! Some patrons have heard the voice of a child giggling, and some have spotted the ghost of a brewery worker, perhaps belonging to one of the victims of the London Beer Flood of 1814.
The auditorium has two levels – the Stalls and Circle. It is a very large space, which offers excellent views of the stage.
In the Stalls, the rake of the seating is very good, offering excellent views from most seats and the legroom is excellent too. Just be advised that the last rows do feel a long way from the stage. And the overhang of the Circle does obstruct the view of the top of the stage from Row T onwards.
In the Circle, the seats are strongly raked (particularly from Row L onwards) which offers a great view, but makes the back rows feel very distant from the stage.