The Piccadilly Theatre opened on 27th April 1928. The theatre was designed by Bertie Crewe and Edward A. Stone, both very well versed in the architecture of theatres, for Edward Laurillard who was a well-respected theatre producer. The famous French artists Marc-Henri Levy and Gaston Laverdet were hired to design the interior of the theatre, adorning it in rich shades of pink. The bars and foyer were decorated in grandiose Art Deco golds and greens, a large contrast to the simple façade of the building.
After the opening production (Blue Eyes, a musical by Jerome Kern) the theatre was turned into a cinema by Warner Brothers and was the house of the very first talking picture to be show in England – Al Jolson in The Singing Fool. Fortunately, in November 1929, the theatre was returned to its original state and began showing live productions again, including the successful Folly to be Wise in January 1931.
Suffering considerable damage during World War II, the venue had to be partially rebuilt and reopened again in April 1945 with a production of Agatha Christie’s Appointment with Death. The theatre then didn’t find particularly good luck with the productions it played host to, seeing a number of flops in the following years including the 1960 production of Bachelor Flat which lasted for four performances! Fortunately the theatre’s luck turned around during the 1960s and 1970s with transfers of productions from Broadway, including Man of La Mancha in 1968 and A Streetcar Named Desire in 1974.
The Piccadilly Theatre is also known for the ITV variety show Live From the Piccadilly which began in 1986, playing on Sunday evenings and hosted by Jimmy Tarbuck. Jimmy Tarbuck is not the only notable performer to have graced the stage here, with Ian McKellen, Judi Dench, Barbara Dickson, Lynn Redgrave, Julia McKenzie and Dame Edna all appearing in productions over the years.
The theatre is currently owned by the Ambassador Theatre Group.
The auditorium has three levels - Stalls, Royal Circle and Grand Circle.
The Stalls offers very good views of the stage, with a noticeable rake in the seating. The overhang of the Royal Circle affects the view from Row R onwards.
The overhang of the Royal Circle affects the view from Row F onwards, but the seating at this level is very well raked which allows for excellent views.
The Grand Circle is well raked, allowing good views of the stage, but the legroom is rather slim at this level.