Piccadilly Theatre in 2007
|Owner||Ambassador Theatre Group|
|Type||West End theatre|
|Capacity||1,232 on 3 levels|
|Production||Death of a Salesman|
|Opened||27 April 1928|
|Architect||Bertie Crewe and Edward A. Stone|
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 1,232-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.
The building sustained damage when it was hit by a stray German bomb during World War II.
In 1960, the Piccadilly was acquired by Donald Albery and became part of his group of London theatres. 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 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 Piccadilly has played host to such renowned stars as Henry Fonda, Ian McKellen, Judi Dench, Michael Pennington, Barbara Dickson, Lynn Redgrave, Julia McKenzie, Eric Sykes, and Dame Edna. Its productions have run the gamut from Edward II to Spend Spend Spend to Noises Off to Blues in the Night to a season of plays directed by Sir Peter Hall.
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 to make way for Ghost the Musical, which transferred to the Piccadilly in June 2011 following its world premiere at the Manchester Opera House.
On 6 November 2019 during an evening performance of Death of a Salesman, a section of plasterboard of the ceiling above the rear upper circle of theatre collapsed onto the audience with four people being taken to hospital. The incident was caused by a localised water leak. The local authority deemed the theatre safe to re-open two days later.
Recent and present productions
- Ragtime (19 March 2003 – 14 June 2003) starring Maria Friedman
- Noises Off (13 August 2003 – 8 November 2003) by Michael Frayn
- Jumpers (20 November 2003 – 6 March 2004) by Tom Stoppard
- Jailhouse Rock – The Musical (19 April 2004 – 23 April 2005) by Rob Bettinson and Alan Janes
- Guys and Dolls (19 May 2005 – 14 April 2007) by Frank Loesser, Jo Swerling, and Abe Burrows, starring at various times – Ewan McGregor, Jane Krakowski, Jenna Russell, Douglas Hodge, Nigel Harman, Sarah Lancashire, Patrick Swayze, Don Johnson, Ben Richards, Adam Cooper, Sally Ann Triplett, Amy Nuttall, Samantha Janus, Neil Morrissey, Alex Ferns, and Claire Sweeney
- Grease (24 July 2007 – 30 April 2011) by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, starring Danny Bayne, Susan McFadden, Siobhan Dillon, Noel Sullivan and Ray Quinn
- Ghost the Musical (19 July 2011 – 6 October 2012) by Bruce Joel Rubin, Dave Stewart, and Glen Ballard. Starring at various times – Richard Fleeshman, Caissie Levy, Andrew Langtree, Siobhan Dillon, Sharon D. Clarke, Da'Vine Joy Randolph
- Viva Forever (27 November 2012 – 29 June 2013) by Jennifer Saunders, produced by Judy Craymer
- Dirty Dancing (13 July 2013 – 22 February 2014) based on the film of the same name.
- Jersey Boys (15 March 2014 – 26 March 2017) based on the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
- Annie (23 May 2017 – 18 February 2018), starring at various times Miranda Hart, Craig Revel Horwood and Meera Syal.
- Strictly Ballroom (from 24 April 2018), starring Will Young.
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (29 November 2018 – 27 April 2019), revival of National Theatre production.
- The Lehman Trilogy (11 May 2019 – 31 August 2019), transfer from National Theatre, directed by Sam Mendes, starring Simon Russell Beale, Adam Godley and Ben Miles
- Death of a Salesman (5 November 2019 – 4 January 2020) starring Wendell Pierce and Sharon D Clarke
- Pretty Woman (begins performances February 2020)
- Moulin Rouge! (begins performances March 2021)
- Piccadilly Theatre History, at Arthur Lloyd website accessed 23 August 2007
- Very Good Eddie at BroadwayWorld, accessed 7 May 2010
- "Piccadilly Theatre: Ceiling collapses, injuring audience members". BBC News. 6 November 2019. Retrieved 6 November 2019.
- "Piccadilly Theatre ceiling collapse 'caused by water leak'". BBC News. 8 November 2019. Retrieved 8 November 2019.
- "Ghost the Musical to Open in Manchester and London 2011". Ghost the Musical. 17 September 2010. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
- "Ghost the Musical confirms closing date at Piccadilly, 6 Oct". Whats on Stage. 14 June 2010. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
- "Spice Girls unveil West End show". BBC. 26 June 2012. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
- "Spice Girls musical Viva Forever 'premieres in December'". Whats on Stage. 1 June 2012. Retrieved 26 June 2012.
- O'Hanlon, Dom (29 September 2016). "Jersey Boys to close in London's West End after nine years on 26 March 2017".
- "Annie the Musical – Cast". Annie. Retrieved 4 December 2017.
- Further reading
- Earl, John; Sell, Michael (2000). Guide to British Theatres 1750–1950. Theatres Trust. p. 131. ISBN 0-7136-5688-3.