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The London Palladium, Argyll Street, Oxford Circus, London

Formerly - The Corinthian Bazaar / Hengler's Grand Cirque / The National Skating Palace / The Royal Italian Circus

Recommended Books on the London Palladium

The London Palladium whilst celebrating it's 100th anniversary in December 2010 - Photo M.L.

Above - The London Palladium whilst celebrating it's 100th anniversary in December 2010 - Photo M.L.

 

 

The opening Variety Programme for the London Palladium on the 26th of December 1910 - Courtesy Chris Woodward - Click to see Entire Programme. See a Seating Plan for this Theatre with non commercial and independent opinions on the best seats to book - From Seatplan.co.ukSee London's West End TheatresSee Theatreland MapsThe London Palladium opened on the 26th of December 1910 with a Variety Show and one act play called 'The Conspiracy' (See Opening Programme Right). The Theatre was designed by the renowned Theatre Architect Frank Matcham and built at a cost of £250,000, with an auditorium constructed on three levels, stalls, dress circle, and upper circle, with a massive seating capacity of 3,435. Yet despite its size the Theatre is surprisingly intimate, with actors and audiences alike always adoring it. In December 2010 the Theatre, which is one of the most well known in London, celebrated its 100th anniversary.

Right - The opening Variety Programme for the London Palladium on the 26th of December 1910 - Courtesy Chris Woodward - Click to see Entire Programme.

1912 Variety Programme for the newly opened London Palladium under Charles Gulliver's Direction. - Click to see Entire Programme.Originally on the site now occupied by the London Palladium was the London home of the Dukes of Argyll; Argyll House. In the 1800s the first Earl of Aberdeen lived here until his death in 1860 when the building was demolished and the land excavated so as to build 'Bonded Wine Cellars.' Above the cellars, in 1870, The Corinthian Bazaar was erected as a temporary structure.

Left - A 1912 Variety Programme for the newly opened London Palladium under Charles Gulliver's Direction. - Click to see Entire Programme.

The land was later acquired by Charles Hengler, who had worked in the Circus all his life. He altered and renamed the building Hengler's Grand Cirque and it opened in 1871. The original architect for this building was J.T. Robinson and it had a capacity of 1,090 but the building was eventually condemned as it was made entirely out of wood. In 1884 Hengler had the building enlarged and almost completely rebuilt by C.J. Phipps. However when Hengler died in 1887, even though his sons continued with the enterprise, Circus was already on its way out.

Another Circus Showman called Edward Wulff took over the running of the building for a short period but was unsuccessful so in 1895 the place was turned into a skating ring, called the National Skating Palace, which was famed at the time for having real ice.

 

Variety Programme for the 31st of December 1928 at The London Palladium, directed by George Black.Programme for The Royal Italian Circus / Formerly Hengler's Grand Cirque - Circa 1905 - Click to see Entire Programme.Ten years later in 1905 another go at Circus was tried out in the building when it was renamed The Royal Italian Circus.

Left - A programme for The Royal Italian Circus, formerly Hengler's Grand Cirque , circa 1905 - Click to see Entire Programme.

Right - A Variety Programme for the 31st of December 1928 at The London Palladium, directed by George Black.

But this venture failed as the London Hippodrome had already opened and was a major success with its new form of Circus and Music Hall combined, and the London County Council had near enough condemned the building demanding major alterations and improvements which were too expensive for the present owners, consequently the building closed down and the lease became the property of the syndicate who were already drawing up plans for a new Music Hall on the site; the London Palladium.

 

Variety Programme for the 6th of July 1936 at The London Palladium, directed by George Black.Two days before this new Theatre opened The ERA printed a review of the building in their 24th of December issue saying: 'Brilliant in white and gold, with seating in warm red, the house sounds the last word in luxury and appointment, and the magnificent sweep of the dress circle presents a remarkable appearance from the stage.

Right - A variety Programme for the 6th of July 1936 at The London Palladium, directed by George Black.

The auditorium of the London Palladium in a photograph taken in May 2011 - Courtesy Philip Marshall.In the great Palm Court at the back of the stalls, one thousand persons can be comfortably served with tea. This is a very striking feature of the Palladium and the Palm Court is of all Norwegian Rose granite which, especially, looks extremely attractive. In this Palm Court a ladies' orchestra will play daily between performances.

Left - The auditorium of the London Palladium in a photograph taken in May 2011 - Courtesy Philip Marshall.

The decorations are very beautiful, Rose du Barri hangings adorn the boxes, and upholstery of the same colour has been employed in the stalls, while the orchestra is enclosed by a marble balustrade, Generally speaking, the colour scheme of the walls is pink, white and gold, with coloured marbles, and certainly there is not a dull note anywhere. The walls of the main vestibule are painted silver. Perhaps the most unique feature is the box to box telephone that has been installed. It will therefore be possible for the occupants of one box, recognising friends in another box, to enter into conversation with them.'

The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 24th December 1910.

 

The auditorium of the London Palladium in 1949 - From the Moss Empires Jubilee Brochure of 1949

Above - The auditorium of the London Palladium in 1949 - From the Moss Empires Jubilee Brochure of 1949

A 1970s Seating Plan for the London Palladium

Above - A 1970s Seating Plan for the London Palladium

A photograph of Charles Gulliver standing outside the London Palladium during the production of 'Sky High' in 1925 - Courtesy Chris Woodward.A flyer forthe London Palladium under Charles Gulliver's management - Courtesy Chris Woodward.From the beginning The London Palladium was a Variety House where all manner of shows were put on including Music Hall, Melodrama, Farce, Operetta, and of course Variety, and everyone who was anyone played there.

Charles Gulliver took over in 1912 and ran the Theatre hard by putting on twice nightly shows and three matinees a week.

Right - A photograph of Charles Gulliver standing outside the London Palladium during the production of 'Sky High' in 1925, and Above Right - A flyer forthe London Palladium under Charles Gulliver's management - Courtesy Chris Woodward.

1917 variety Programme for the London Palladium during Charles Gulliver's management.Left - A variety programme for the week commencing 8th October 1917 at the London Palladium during Charles Gulliver's management.

1922 saw the very successful 'Rockets' which ran for 490 performances (See brochure below), followed by 'Whirl of the World' in 1923 which ran for 627.

Then there was 'Sky High' in 1925, which ran for 309 performance (see photograph above), and 'Folies Bergeres,' 'Palladium Pleasures of Life,' in 1926, and 'The Apache,' in 1927, all of them successful.

 

The cover of a brochure for 'Rockets' at the London Palladium in 1922 - Courtesy Chris Woodward.

Above - The cover of a brochure for 'Rockets' at the London Palladium in 1922 - Courtesy Chris Woodward.

 

Twice Daily Variety Programme for the London Palladium during the General Theatre Corporation ownership.In 1928 The Palladium was bought by The General Theatre Corporation and remarkably they turned it into a Cinema, but this was a dismal failure and only lasted three months.

The auditorium of the London Palladium in a photograph taken in May 2011 - Courtesy Philip Marshall.Left - A Twice Daily variety programme for the London Palladium during the General Theatre Corporation's ownership.

Right - The auditorium of the London Palladium in a photograph taken in May 2011 - Courtesy Philip Marshall.

George Black took over the running of the Theatre shortly afterwards and his own style of spectacular Variety Shows was extremely successful. It was black who started a new kind of entertainment at the Palladium called 'Crazy Week' which eventually became the 'Crazy Gang Shows,' with titles such as 'Life Begins at Oxford Circus,' 'Round About Regent Street,' 'All Night at Oxford Circus,' 'London Rhapsody,' and 'These Foolish Things.' The Crazy Gang were so successful that they later had a home of their own and ran for years at the Victoria Palace Theatre.

 

The original Moss Empires letter box from the London Palladium now displayed safely inside the Theatre - Courtesy Philip Marshall.Pantomime was a regular feature at the London Palladium for many years, and the Pantomime 'Peter Pan' became so popular that it was a fixture at Christmas at the Theatre every year from 1930 to 1938.

Programme for a Variety Show at The London Palladium 1st March 1948 during it's ownership by Moss Empires.When George Black died in 1946 Val Parnell took over the running of the Palladium when it also became owned by Moss Empires.

Right - The original Moss Empires letter box from the London Palladium now displayed safely inside the Theatre - Courtesy Philip Marshall.

The George Black style continued under Val Parnell until 1948 when he tried his hand at Variety for the Theatre again, and with spectacular success. And of course, who can forget 'Sunday Night at The London Palladium,' a regular 'must see' for just about everyone in Britain on a Sunday night from 1955-1967 and again from 1973-1974 produced by Val Parnell, and later with his son Jack Parnell leading the orchestra.

Above Left - A programme for a Variety Show at The London Palladium 1st March 1948 , during the Theatre's ownership by Moss Empires.

 

The Entrance Foyer at the London Palladium in a photograph taken in May 2011 - Courtesy Philip Marshall.The London Palladium is also famous for hosting the annual Royal Variety Performance, although it has actually been held at many different Theatres over the years. You will find details of all the Royal Variety Performances from 1958 to the present day here.

Right - The Entrance Foyer at the London Palladium in a photograph taken in May 2011 - Courtesy Philip Marshall.

In the 1980s The Palladium became home to a string of successful large scale musicals, such as 'The King and I' with Virginia McKenna and Yul Brynner, 'Barnum' with Michael Crawford, 'Singing in the Rain' with Tommy Steele, and much less successful, the huge and lavish 'Ziegfield' which couldn't be saved even by Topol himself. Later there was 'Show Boat' 'Saturday Night Fever,' and 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' which was such a large production that the famous split Revolve at the Palladium was finally removed and scrapped, although a number of pieces were retained at the Theatre including a section of track and a running wheel. When the revolve was removed the central section of the stage was then replaced with a demountable Steeldeck style stage. Interestingly the revolve which was used for the production of 'Sister Act' which opened in 2009 closely resembled the original but was only a temporary structure designed to be removed at the end of the production.

 

The finale of the 1948 Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium - From the Moss Empires Jubilee Brochure of 1949.

Above - The finale of the 1948 Royal Variety Performance at the London Palladium - From the Moss Empires Jubilee Brochure of 1949.

 

The London Palladium on the night of the first preview of the revival of the 1975 production of 'A Chorus Line' on the 5th of February 2013 - Photo M.L.

Above - The London Palladium on the night of the first preview of the revival of the 1975 production of 'A Chorus Line' on the 5th of February 2013 - Photo M.L.

A Programme for the London Palladium production of 'A Chorus Line' in February 2013 .A Programme for the Drury Lane production of 'A Chorus Line' in July 1976 - Courtesy Linda Chadwick.In February 2013 the Palladium became home to the revival of Broadway's smash hit of 1975, 'A Chorus Line'. I saw the Broadway cast in the show myself when it was produced at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, in July 1976.

The revival, which I also saw, on its first preview at the London Palladium on the 5th of February 2013, was an almost exact recreation of the original and well worth seeing, whether you saw the original production or not.

Left - A Programme for the London Palladium production of 'A Chorus Line' in February 2013.

Right - A Programme for the Drury Lane production of 'A Chorus Line' in July 1976 - Courtesy Linda Chadwick.

The London Palladium is currently owned and run by the Really Useful Group whose own website can be found here.

 

Some Photographs of the London Palladium

The Entrance Foyer at the London Palladium in a photograph taken in May 2011 - Courtesy Philip Marshall.

Above - The Entrance Foyer at the London Palladium in a photograph taken in May 2011 - Courtesy Philip Marshall.

The Entrance Foyer at the London Palladium in a photograph taken in May 2011 - Courtesy Philip Marshall.

Above - The Entrance Foyer at the London Palladium in a photograph taken in May 2011 - Courtesy Philip Marshall.

The Staircase leading up to the Circle and Val Parnell bar at the London Palladium in a photograph taken in May 2011 - Courtesy Philip Marshall.

Above - The Staircase leading up to the Circle and Val Parnell bar at the London Palladium in a photograph taken in May 2011 - Courtesy Philip Marshall.

The Val Parnell bar at the London Palladium in a photograph taken in May 2011 - Courtesy Philip Marshall.

Above - The Val Parnell bar at the London Palladium in a photograph taken in May 2011 - Courtesy Philip Marshall.

The auditorium and stage at the London Palladium in a photograph taken in May 2011 - Courtesy Philip Marshall.

Above - The auditorium and stage at the London Palladium in a photograph taken in May 2011 - Courtesy Philip Marshall.

The London Palladium during production for 'The Sound Of Music' in October 2006. - Photo M.L.

Above - The London Palladium during the production of 'The Sound Of Music' in 2006.

The London Palladium during the run of 'Sister Act' in July 2009 - Photo M.L.

Above - The London Palladium during the run of 'Sister Act' in July 2009 - Photo M.L.

The London Palladium during the run of 'I Can't Sing' which opened at the Theatre on the 26th of March 2014 but was unsuccessful and closed on the 10th of May.  Photo M.L.

Above - The London Palladium during the run of 'I Can't Sing' which opened at the Theatre on the 26th of March 2014 but was unsuccessful and closed on the 10th of May.

 

The London Palladium's 100th Anniversary

Birthday cake celebrating 100 years of Great Entertainment at the London Palladium - Photo M.L.

Above - Birthday cake celebrating 100 years of Great Entertainment at the London Palladium.

The London Palladium's Cinderella Bar shortly before guests arrived to celebrate the Theatre's 100th Birthday on the 12th of November 2010. - Photo M.L.The London Palladium opened on Boxing Day, the 26th of December 1910, and so in December 2010 the Theatre celebrated its 100th anniversary.

Several events were held at the Theatre to mark this event, one of which was on the 12th of November in the Cinderella Bar of the Palladium when many people involved with the Theatre over the years gathered to toast the Palladium's anniversary and catch up with faces from the past.

Right - The London Palladium's Cinderella Bar shortly before guests arrived to celebrate the Theatre's 100th Birthday on the 12th of November 2010.

If you are interested in reading more about this World Famous Theatre see my recommended books section below.

 

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Andre Ptaszynski, Owner and Chief Executive of Really Useful Theatres make short speeches about the Palladium's history before toasting the Theatre's 100th anniversary - Photo courtesy Roger Fox

Above - Andrew Lloyd Webber and Andre Ptaszynski, Owner and Chief Executive of Really Useful Theatres make short speeches about the Palladium's history before toasting the Theatre's 100th anniversary - Photo courtesy Roger Fox, who is pictured below with Terry Powell.

Roger Fox, Theatre Consultant and Chairman of the ABTT Historical Research Committee, and Terry Powell, assistant to the late Tod Kingman, designer of many memorable Palladium productions.

Above - Roger Fox, Theatre Consultant and Chairman of the ABTT Historical Research Committee, and Terry Powell, assistant to the late Tod Kingman, designer of many memorable Palladium productions. Both of whom have been endlessly supportive of, and regular contributors to, this website.

Introduced as the 'Tiller Girls' Jackie Simmonds, Rosalie Kirkman, Shirley Caught, June Vincent, & Rosemarie Russell cut the cake celebrating the London Palladium's 100th anniversary.

Above - Introduced as the 'Tiller Girls' Jackie Simmonds, Rosalie Kirkman, Shirley Caught, June Vincent, & Rosemarie Russell cut the cake celebrating the London Palladium's 100th anniversary.

 

Recommended Books on the London Palladium

Live from the London Palladium by Neil Sean

Live from the London Palladium by Neil Sean Why the London Palladium? That was the question posed to me by a non-theatrical friend and like all of us in the business I simply answered "It’s the greatest variety theatre in the world."

My new book "Live from the London Palladium by the stars who appeared there" is simply a feast of glitter, glamour and gossip.

As an entertainment reporter now for Channel 10 ( Australia ), Fox News, and NBC news, plus so many more media adventures, this role allowed me to top up and interview the remaining greats of showbiz, from Palladium faves like Debbie Reynolds and Mickey Rooney, and also going back to my own audio archive when as a young boy I was allowed to interview variety greats like Larry Grayson, Les Dawson, Tommy Trinder, Sir Bruce, Marti Caine, Frank Carson, and Barry Manilow, all on my trusty Dansette tape recorder with a C60 cassette... Remember you had to turn it over after 30 minutes to continue.

Over 100 Stars, Exclusive Stories and PicsThe book has over 100 Palladium stars and looking back and watching, listening to the stars talk, is amazing... More so when you think I was just a kid asking all these celebrated stars about their careers and what it takes to become a legend... So if you want to really know why the London Palladium is so special this really is the book for you.

Neil Sean in the Palladium Dressing Rooms

I recall Larry Grayson really hit a point when he told me "It was the culmination of all the hard work... I think, looking back I went on like in a trance you know, because in your head you have dreamed it and actually done it, but yes nothing like the real thing at all really... It was magical."

 

Pictured together in the number one dressing room at the Palladium is the one and only Dad’s Army star Ian Lavender who was starring in the hit musical "Sister Act" at the time of the interview, he tells me "I was not so sure about doing the musical to be honest but then they said the magic words "It’s on at the Palladium", well truly after that I was in, it was that simple for me, and yes to be sitting here and looking out at that vast auditorium and thinking all the greats have looked and felt like me nightly on this stage... I was sold... Now I can’t wait to come back."

Joan Rivers and Neil Sean

As ever any project ends up been tinged with sadness and in this case it’s one of the greatest comedians of our time Miss Joan Rivers (shown above). I spoke with Joan for the last time a week before her sudden death and as well as revealing her time on that Palladium stage she spoke candidly about the wears and tears of a comic's life...

But as ever the Palladium is built on laughter so take a seat in the stalls and let the Skyrockets Orchestra sway over you while. Val Parnell presented another of his spectaculars... Sit back and let those famous red velvet curtains swish open to you enjoying "Live from the London Palladium" with a bill that also includes Tommy Steele, Max Bygraves, Liza, Kylie, Anita Harris and many more - all brand new unheard interviews from my personal archive. - Neil Sean 2014.

Click here to Buy the book on Amazon.co.uk.

 

The London Palladium - The Story of the Theatre and its Stars
by Chris Woodward

The London Palladium by Chris Woodward - Click here to buy the book at Amazon.co.uk.Readers of this page who have an interest in the history of the London Palladium would be well advised to look at Chris Woodward's wonderful book on the Theatre; 'The London Palladium - The Story of the Theatre and its Stars.'

The book chronicles the history of the site of the London Palladium from its earliest days when Argyle street was first developed in the 1730s and a large house was built for Archibald Campbell, the 3rd Duke of Argyle, through to its days as the Corinthian Bazaar, parts of which still survive in the present building; and Hengler's Circus, of which I have never seen so many wonderful programmes and images depicted all in one place, and with such lovingly researched history of this once famous Arena. After detailing the history of the site Chris's book goes on to tell the story of what is probably Britain's most cherished Theatre, Frank Matcham's wonderful London Palladium, from its opening on Boxing day 1910, through its career as a Music Hall and Variety Theatre, it's days as a television star for Sunday Night at the London Palladium, its Sunday concerts and long running musicals, right up to the present day, and all in such meticulously researched detail. The book is copiously illustrated with an image for almost everything the Palladium has staged over its hundred year history. An absolute must buy for anyone who has graced its stage, sat in the audience, seen it on Television, or simply walked past its facade and wondered to themselves 'what kind of a story can such a magnificent building tell.'

Click here to buy the book at Amazon.co.uk.

 

London's West End Theatres

Adelphi Aldwych Ambassadors Apollo Apollo Victoria Arts Cambridge Criterion Dominion Drury Lane Duchess Duke Of Yorks Fortune Garrick Gielgud Harold Pinter Haymarket Her Majesty's London Coliseum London Palladium Lyceum Lyric New London Noel Coward / Albery Novello Old Vic Palace Peacock Phoenix Piccadilly Playhouse Prince Edward Prince of Wales Queen's Royal Opera House Savoy Shaftesbury St. Martin's Trafalgar Studios / Whitehall Vaudeville Victoria Palace Wyndham's