London Palladium

London Palladium

Infobox Theatre
name = London Palladium

caption = The London Palladium in 2004, with "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" posters
address = Argyll Street
city = Westminster, London
country =
designation = Grade II* listed
latitude = 51.514944
longitude = -0.140806
architect = Frank Matcham
owner = Really Useful Theatres
capacity = 2,286
type = West End theatre
opened = 1910
yearsactive =
rebuilt =
closed =
othernames = Corinthian Bazaar National Skating Palace The Palladium
production = The Sound of Music
currentuse =
website =

The London Palladium is a 2,286 seat West End theatre located off Oxford Street in the City of Westminster.


The grade II* listed building dates from 1910, although the facade (originally that of Argyll House which is why the pub opposite is called The Argyll Arms) dates back to the 19th century. It was originally a temporary wooden building called "Corinthian Bazaar", which featured an aviary and aimed to attract customers from the recently closed Pantheon Bazaar (now Marks and Spencers) on Oxford Street. The theatre was rebuilt a year later by Fredrick Hengler, the son of a tightrope walker, as a circus venue that included an aquatic display in a flooded ring. Next it became the "National Skating Palace" - a skating rink with real ice. However the rink failed and the Palladium was redesigned by Frank Matcham, a famous theatrical architect who also designed the London Coliseum, for a site that previously housed Hengler’s Circus. The building now carries Heritage Foundation commemorative plaques honouring Lew Grade and Frankie Vaughan.

The theatre retains many of its original features and was Grade II* listed by English Heritage in September 1960 [ [ English Heritage listing details] accessed 28 Apr 2007] .



The theatre started out as "The Palladium", a premier venue for variety performances. From 1928 it was managed by George Black and was even a cinema for three months. During the 1930s became the regular home for The Crazy Gang. The ‘London’ part of the name was added in 1934. Black controlled the large Moss Empires group of theatres. Responsible for bookings at the London Palladium was Val Parnell.

The Val Parnell era

Val Parnell took over as Managing Director in 1945. He adopted a controversial, but very successful, policy of presenting high-priced big-name acts, including Petula Clark, Judy Garland, Sophie Tucker, Bing Crosby, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Frankie Laine, Johnnie Ray, and Norman Vaughan. From 1955-1967 the theatre was the setting for the top-rated ITV variety show "Sunday Night at the London Palladium" hosted first by Tommy Trinder, then by Bruce Forsyth. The programme was broadcast live every week by ATV, which was owned by the famous theatrical impresario Lew Grade. Production was by Val Parnell.

Val Parnell became associated with a property development company and began to sell Moss Empires' theatres for redevelopment. When it became known in 1966 that this fate awaited the London Palladium, The Victoria Palace and even the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, Prince Littler organised a take-over to save the theatres and Val Parnell retired to live in France.

In 1968, Sammy Davis, Jr. starred in "Golden Boy", the first book musical to be produced in the venue [] .


In January 1973, glam rock band Slade played a gig in the theatre which resulted in the venue's balcony nearly collapsing. In 1976, and released in 1977 Marvin Gaye recorded his live concert on a Double LP Entitled "Live at the London Palladium" in which is considered Gaye at his finest while recording a live album, it also included his number one hit "Got to Give It Up".

In the late 1980s the venue was once again the setting for the popular ITV1 variety show, "Live From the Palladium," compered by Jimmy Tarbuck.

During this time, the theatre was under the ownership of the "Stoll Moss Theatres Group".

Really Useful era

In 2000, ownership of the theatre changed once again when it was acquired by Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Group, and in 2002, the famous (but outdated) revolving stage was removed to make way for more modern technology.

From April 2002 to 4 September 2005, the Palladium played host to a theatrical version of "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" with songscore by the Sherman Brothers. Throughout its three and a half year run at the venue, the production starred many celebrities (see below). This show proved to be the most successful show to date, in the theatre's long history and reunited, 50 years later, the show's choreographer Gillian Lynne with the theatre in which she appeared as the Palladium's Star Dancer during the early 50s.

For Christmas 2005-6, the venue staged Bill Kenwright's production of "Scrooge - The Musical" which closed on 14 January 2006. The show starred Tommy Steele, making a return to the Palladium. From February 2006, the theatre played host to a new musical production entitled "Sinatra At The London Palladium", which featured a live band, large screen projections and dancers performing Frank Sinatra's greatest hits.

Andrew Lloyd Webber and David Ian's new production of "The Sound of Music" opened at the Palladium in November 2006. Rufus Wainwright held two sold out Judy Garland tribute concerts at the theatre on the 18th and 25th of February 2007.

On 20 May 2007, the London Palladium was also the setting for the 2007 BAFTA awards, which were broadcast on BBC television.

Recent and present productions

*1991: "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" starring Jason Donovan, Linzi Hateley and Phillip Schofield
*1994: "Oliver!" directed by Sam Mendes, starring at various times Jonathan Pryce, Sonia Swaby, Robert Lindsay, Jim Dale and Russ Abbott
*1998: "Saturday Night Fever" directed by Arlene Phillips, starring Adam Garcia and Ben Richards
*2000: "The King and I" starring Elaine Paige and Jason Scott Lee
*2002: "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" directed by Adrian Noble, starring at various times - Michael Ball, Emma Williams, Nichola McAuliffe, Brian Blessed, Gary Wilmot, Jason Donovan, Brian Conley, Christopher Biggins, Scarlett Strallen, Louise Gold, Tony Adams, Richard O'Brien, Paul O'Grady, Wayne Sleep, Lionel Blair, Stephen Gately, Derek Griffiths and Alvin Stardust
*2005: "Scrooge - The Musical", by Leslie Bricusse, starring Tommy Steele
*2006: "Sinatra at the London Palladium"
*2006: "The Sound of Music" directed by Jeremy Sams, starring Connie Fisher, Lesley Garrett and, later, Summer Strallen
*2008: "MJP Showcase. A show by an young group of actors, dancers and singers, featuring music from many different musicals and movies.


*The Palladium had its own telephone system so the occupants of boxes could call one another. It also had a revolving stage.
*Despite being retired from touring for six years, Kate Bush appeared at The Secret Policeman's Ball in 1987 and sang a duet with Rowan Atkinson about bears.
*Ian Dury and Cass Elliot played their last shows there before dying.
*Elkie Brooks became the first UK female singer to perform a whole week of sell out shows (6)in 1978.


* "Guide to British Theatres 1750-1950", John Earl and Michael Sell pp. 122-3 (Theatres Trust, 2000) ISBN 0-7136-5688-3

External links

* [ History of the London Palladium] from Television Heaven's "Sunday Night at the London Palladium"
* [ Pantomime at the London Palladium]
* [ The Official London Palladium Site]
* [ Theatre History with many pictures and original Programmes.]
* [ Moss Empire theatres in the 1950s]

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