Victoria Palace Theatre
The Victoria Palace Theatre opened on 6th November 1911, with a design by Frank Matcham. Matcham designed a sliding roof over the auditorium to help keep the temperature of the auditorium regulated at performances during the summer months. The theatre is built on the site of an old Music Hall. Originating in 1832 as a small concert hall above the Royal Standard Hotel’s stables, this building was expanded over the years and became known as the Royal Standard Music Hall in 1863. This building was demolished in 1886 and rebuilt as a larger venue alongside the larger hotels and buildings being built in the area for the expansion of Victoria station and the railway lines - Victoria was becoming a major transport hub, and the surrounding buildings needed to be able to accommodate the larger numbers passing through that part of London.
This building was eventually demolished in 1910 and made way for the Victoria Palace Theatre that stands today. The commissioner, Alfred Butt, had bought more of the surrounding land and thus was able to build an even larger venue on the site. The building was heavily praised on completion for its elaborate foyer, the installation of lifts for patrons and the advanced heating system used in tandem with the sliding roof. Many of these features are still present today.
The Victoria Palace Theatre kept the musical tradition of the Royal Standard Music Hall by presenting variety acts and revues, and straight plays that were performed here never really took off except for one – famously, in 1934, a production of Rev. Walter Reynolds’ Young England played here and was so badly reviewed that it enjoyed a cult success, playing 278 performances to full houses. After this initial run it transferred to a further two West End theatres. Lupino Lane starred in a production of Me and My Girl in 1937 which enjoyed success and led to Lane managing the theatre through the end of World War II, starting in early 1945 with a series of variety acts. Jack Hylton was the manager from 1947 to 1962, and he continued the tradition of presenting variety acts and comedy revues.
It wasn’t until the late 1980s that the theatre fully began its association with musical theatre. Proving to be a long-runner for the venue, Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story opened in 1989 and later transferred to the Strand Theatre (now the Novello Theatre) in 1995. It was during this run that the theatre was bought by Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen, who spent a large sum of money on extending the theatre’s foyer, upgrading the facilities and adding a new bar for patrons. He was also responsible for replacing a figure of the ballerina Anna Pavlova on the dome of the building – the original had been removed during World War II.
Successful productions of Jolson, starring Brian Conley, Annie and Kiss Me, Kate have resided in the theatre since, but it was the 2005 arrival of a very British musical that saw the theatre packed for 11 years – Billy Elliot The Musical. The show opened to rave reviews in May 2005, winning four Olivier Awards, and went on to win 10 Tony Awards in its Broadway transfer in 2009.
It was announced in May 2014 that Sir Cameron Mackintosh would be buying the theatre through his company Delfont Mackintosh Theatres and would be closing the theatre in 2016 for an extensive renovation which will include extending the stage, building a new fly tower, refurbishment of the dressing rooms and backstage area, and new front of house facilities.
The Victoria Palace Theatre was given a full refurbishment by Mackintosh and, despite taking slightly longer than first anticipated, was completed in late 2017 for arrival of Tony Award-winning, smash hit musical Hamilton which made its West End debut to five-star reviews across the board from the critics. Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical is a very American affair, telling the story of one of the Founding Fathers of the United States Alexander Hamilton through rap and hip-hop music. After causing a stir on Broadway, the show transferred to the West End and starred RADA graduate Jamael Westman in the starring role.
The auditorium has three levels - Stalls, Dress Circle and Grand Circle, and though the auditorium is due to retain its form during the current renovations, it is assumed that the seating arrangement will be upgraded.
|Billy Elliot||May 2005||April 2016||Review|
|Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs||December 2004||January 2005||Review|
|Tonight's the Night - The Rod Stewart Musical||November 2003||October 2004||Review|
|Grease||October 2002||Septeber 2003|
|Kiss Me, Kate||August 2001||August 2002||Review|
|Fame||October 2000||August 2001|
|The Pajama Game||October 1999||December 1999||Review|
|Soul Train||June 1999||August 1999||Review|
|The Rocky Horror Show||April 1999||June 1999|
|Annie||September 1998||February 1999||Review|
|Girls' Night Out||March 1998||May 1998|
|Fame||November 1997||January 1998|
|Always||June 1997||August 1997||Review|
|Jolson||October 1995||March 1997||Review|
|Buddy||October 1989||September 1995|