Theatre History: The Palace Theatre

The Palace Theatre is a 1400 seat theatre set in an imposing red brick building, based in London near Cambridge Circus and is located at the junction of Charing Cross Road and Shaftesbury Avenue. The design was considered to be quite original when it opened as it made use of heavy steel cantilevers, which were built into the back walls and thus prevented the need for supporting pillars, which previously obstructed the view of the stage. The imposing structure is Grade II listed by English Heritage.

Richard D’Oyly Carte commissioned the theatre to be built in the late 1880s and was initially opened as the Royal English Opera House, but despite it originally being intended to be the home of English Opera, it was not successful and instead was reopened two years later as The Palace Theatre of Varieties, a music hall, in 1892. The name finally changed to the Palace Theatre in 1911 and has been known as such ever since.

In the late 1950s some refurbishment was undertaken and the interior was repainted, covering much of the original design but during the 1980s the theatre underwent a huge refurbishment being newly painted and restored and was transformed back to its former glory and now features the original marble walls, onyx panels, original features and new chandeliers.

The Palace Theatre has mostly been home to musical theatre ever since the mid 1920s and musicals shown there have included No, No, Nanette which with 665 performances made it the third longest running show of the 1920s. Other shows have included Rogers and Hart’s The Girl Friend and the last stage musical by Fred Astaire Gay Divorce.

Musical theatrical works shown at the Palace Theatre have also included Anything Goes, Cabaret and The Sound of Music which ran for 2,385 performances. Of the long running performances at the Palace Theatre Jesus Christ Superstar ran for eight years while Les Misérables ran for an amazing nineteen years, after transferring to the Barbican Centre in 1985.

As well as musical shows the Palace Theatre has also seen the likes of illusionist Derren Brown performing during his live tour and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Woman in White saw its world premiere here in 2004 before running for 19 months. Monty Python’s Spamalot ran for three years before finally being replaced in 2009 by Priscilla Queen of the Desert as the current running performance.