Victoria Palace Theatre, London
There have been Music Halls on the present site of the Victoria Palace Theatre since the 1850s. The current theatre which opened in November 1911 was designed by the architect Frank Matcham, as a music hall, and was called The Victoria Palace.
At the time opening it was said about The Victoria Palace Theatre that, "in the scheme of internal treatment the main object has been to combine a maximum of comfort and convenience with a prevailing note of simplicity. The handsome entrance hall through which the visitor passes to the stalls, dress circle and boxes has walls of grey marble with embellishments of old gold mosaic and pillars of white Sicilian marble."
Originally accommodating some 1,700 people, the theatre's capacity has now been reduced to just over 1,500 seats.
For the first twenty years The Victoria Place generally presented 'Variety' bills interspersed with Christmas shows. From 1929 The Victoria Palace staged a number of revues, including The Show's The Thing with Gracie Fields. During the late 1930s and early 1940s The Victoria Palace Theatre then presented a range of productions including 'legit' theatre, most notably the musical comedy Me and My Girl. Written by L Arthur Rose, Douglas Furber and Noel Gay, this musical, which introduced London audiences to 'The Lambeth Walk', opened on 16 December 1937 and remained for 1,046 performance before it closed with the outbreak of the Second World War. Such was its popularity that it was revived at this theatre in 1944 and enjoying another successful run. The musical was later revived in a revised version at The Adelphi Theatre in the 1980s.
Although The Victoria Palace scored a huge hit with Me and My Girl, the theatre is probably best known for its association with The Crazy Gang which begun on 17 April 1947.
The Crazy Gang, who had had success previously at The London Palladium in the 1930s, comprised three comic double-acts - Flanagan and Allan, Naughton and Gold, and Nervo and Know - along with 'Monsewer' Eddie Gray. Their first show at The Victoria Palace Theatre, Together Again, played for 1,566 performances and this was followed by an almost continuous run of Crazy Gang Shows - up to their last show together on 19 May 1962.
Later that same month The Black and White Minstrel Show - who had already enjoyed success on television - now brought their variety style stage show to the Victoria Palace Theatre. It enjoyed a run of 10 years with only a brief gap and was again briefly revived here in 1973, bring the total number of performances up to 6,464. The early 1970s also saw a run of Carry On London based on the Carry On films and featuring Sid James and Barbara Windsor in the cast while in 1982 Elizabeth Taylor made her London stage debut in the Lillian Hellman play Little Foxes. More recently the very successful musical Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story opened in 1989 and stayed for six years before it transferred to the Strand Theatre. Buddy was replaced by another musical bio, this time based on Al Jolson and called simply Jolson which opened in October 1995 and enjoyed a run of 17 months. This was then replaced by the rather short lived new musical based on the Edward and Mrs Simpson story called Always which opened 10 June 1997 and lasted just 6 weeks.
Over the last few years The Victoria Palace Theatre has presented a number of musicals, including Annie, Fame The Musical, The Rocky Horror Show and Sweet Charity. Hopes are high that the current occupant of the theatre, Billy Elliot The Musical, will score a long run - but only time will tell!