This theatre was initially designed by Walter Emden, but due to a disagreement with the owners, he was dropped from the project and CJ Phipps was brought in to oversee the construction of this building on what was a tight and difficult site, which included an underground river.
A contemporary report from when the building opened said: "It was altogether a pleasant and refreshing experience that awaited the public last night in Mr Hare's new theatre, the Garrick. They were introduced to what with propriety may be described as the most elegant and best appointed place of amusement in London - perhaps in the world. Situated in Charing Cross Road, near the north-east corner of Leicester Square, the Garrick Theatre enjoys the advantage of great accessibility; it may be said to be almost in the heart of the cluster of new springing up in the West End. But that is really the least of its merits, for no modern improvement, saving the iron curtain, which might perhaps in an emergency do more harm than good, has been neglected by the architect or the upholsterer. Mr Hare has provided some entirely novel contrivances for the benefit of his patrons. Thus the pit seats, 350 in number, are comfortable, cushioned revolving chairs, on the arm of which there is a ring for holding a stick or umbrella, and a cord for suspending an overcoat or a shawl, while the stalls, of which there are 170, are provided with a silk pocket for programmes and with a box large enough to contain a tall hat and an overcoat. There is, further, a comfortable smoking room opening upon the balcony in Charing Cross Road, and the whole building is warmed with hot-water pipes. Needless to say there is an abundance of exits and that the electric light, with a supplementary service of gas, is laid on everywhere. In point of seating capacity, although not in cubic feet, the Garrick ranks as one of the smaller theatres. It holds 1,200 people, every one of whom will have a perfect view of the stage. The scheme of decoration is dead gold and bright, cherry red, producing an agreeable sense of warmth and comfort."
Originally the theatre had seats on 4 levels, but the gallery (top) level has since been closed and the seating capacity reduced to 656. The gold leaf auditorium was restored in 1986 by the stage designer Carl Toms and in 1997 the front facade had a facelift.
The theatre has mostly been associated with comedies and comedy-dramas. Recent productions include a transfer in January 1982 from the Strand Theatre (now Novello) of the farce No Sex Please We're British which then subsequently transferred to the Duchess Theatre in August 1986. On 24 October 1995 the Royal National Theatre's multi-award winning production of JB Priestly's An Inspector Calls opened here having played successful seasons at the RNT's Lyttelton and Olivier theatres as well as the Aldwych Theatre and a season on Broadway.