Current Show: The Prince of Egypt
First preview: 5th February 2020
Booking until: 4th September 2021 (Resumes 1st July 2021)
Running time: Awaiting confirmation
Address: 268-269 Tottenham Court Road, London W1T 7AQ
Air Conditioning: No – air cooling system only
Current Owner: Nederlander Theatres
Box Office: +44 (0) 345 200 7982 (operated by Ticket Factory – fees apply)
Discounts, Day seats, Rush tickets & Lotteries
Box Office: +44 (0) 345 200 7982 (operated by Ticket Factory – fees apply)
Stage Door: +44 (0) 20 7927 0900
Access Bookings: Call +44 (0) 20 7927 0900 and ask for Box Office
Society of London Theatre also offers useful information for visitors with a disability or specific access need.
Nearest Tube: Tottenham Court Road
Buses: 10, 14, 19, 24, 25, 29, 38, 55, 78, 93, 134,176 and 390.
Check out Transport for London’s excellent TFL Journey Planner
Luxury: The Soho Hotel, 4 Richmond Mews, London W1D 3DH
Mid: Radisson Blu Edwardian Kenilworth Hotel, 97 Great Russell St, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 3LB
Budget: Travelodge Covent Garden, 10 Drury Lane, London WC2B 5RE
Although it may be hard to believe today, surrounded by busy shops, frenetic traffic and the towering Centrepoint building, the area immediately surrounding Tottenham Court Road station was, just a few hundred years ago, still largely countryside. Nearby stood a leper hospital, founded by Matilda, Queen consort of King Henry I in the 12th Century and in medieval London, gallows here saw the gory dispatch of multiple criminals (and no doubt just as many innocent souls) including the protestant martyr, Sir John Oldcastle, who was hung and roasted here.
The Dominion Theatre itself stands on the site of former cinema, The Court Cinema which opened in 1911 and stood until 1928. Opening as The Court Electric Theatre in 1911 and occupying a site roughly the same size of the Dominion’s Foyer today, the cinema was renamed the Court Imperial Playhouse in 1915 and was closed by authorities in 1928, allegedly for screening a film which had not passed censorship (perhaps an early forerunner of the nearby Soho ‘adult’ cinemas).
The remainder of the site now occupied by the Dominion was Meux & Co’s Horse Shoe Brewery (a brewery had occupied the site since at least 1764 when the area was open fields). In 1814, tragedy struck the Horse Shoe Brewery when a 22 foot high wooden vat of fermenting porter burst in what became known as the London Beer Flood. Eight people drowned in beer (a lot less fun than it sounds) including a two year old boy.The brewery, which began trading in 1809 and covered some two to three acres of land, was finally demolished in 1922, and then from 14th July 1925 the site became home to ‘O’Brien’s West End Amusement Park’, also known as ‘Luna Park’, consisting of a 1,000 seat temporary Theatre, a ‘Continental Cafe’ and various side shows.
Eventually the Court Cinema and the Luna Park behind it would all be removed to make way for The Dominion Theatre, construction of which began in March 1928 for Moss Empires with a design by Williamand Thomas Ridley Milburn.
The Dominion project was financed via a public share issue, building what was at the time London’s largest theatre at a cost of £460,000 (nearly £30m today). The aim was to build a large enough theatre to house large musical spectaculars whilst allowing more affordable prices to be charged.
No expense was spared in the design and décor of the theatre’s interior. An entrance carved in Portland stone welcomed audiences to a spacious and luxuriously carpeted foyer, from which a marble staircase ascended to the circle landing. Interiors were decorated in late French Renaissance style with cool soft blue walls highlighted with silver. A retiring room behind the dress circle was fitted with soda fountains and throughout the rest of the building, lounges, bars, retiring rooms and a luxurious royal box ensured that the needs of every tier of society were catered for.
In contrast to many of London’s older theatres, The Dominion was built with the comfort of its audience as a priority with ample legroom even for taller patrons. A wide proscenium and an equally spacious auditorium ensured that every seat commanded a full view of the stage. Centre and side gangways allowed plenty of room to get in and out, and the theatre even had its own subway to Tottenham Court Road Underground Station to allow patrons egress without braving the elements, although this has since been blocked off.
Great importance was placed on the comfort of the artists appearing here, with large, comfortable dressing rooms with hot & cold water, radiators, wardrobes, bathrooms and even stage lifts to all floors provided – something those appearing in Victorian theatres could have only dreamed of.
The original seating capacity was a staggering 2,835, with 1,340 in the stalls, 818 in the dress circle and 677 in the balcony (upper circle) level. A 54 foot wide auditorium also allowed for scenery on a grand scale. Facility for the showing of motion pictures was also included in the original construction – something which would provide fortuitous for this and many other West End theatres during difficult times. The Directors of the Dominion Theatre for its construction and opening included Sir Alfred Butt MP, Chairman and Managing Director of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and R H Gillespie, Managing Director of Moss Empires.
Unfortunately, the theatre opened in turbulent times on Thursday 3rd October 1929, just days after the London Stock Exchanged crash and at the start of the Great Depression. The first show, a musical comedy entitled Follow Through and based on two female golfers, lasted for a disappointing 148 performances. Despite already being a hit with Broadway audiences, critics felt that the sheer scale of the Dominion’s auditorium made the performances at times feel lost, and added “The piece began with golf, went on with golf and ended with golf…for three hours.”
The next show, Silver Wings fared still worse. This was followed by a critically-savaged two week variety season, headed by Maurice Chevalier. A little over a year from opening, and already struggling as a theatre, the venue’s potential as a cinema was realised – something which almost certainly saved the Dominion in its early years. This new cinematic lease of life began with a new edit of the 1925 silent film The Phantom of the Opera, to which sound and dialogue was added. H G Wells attended the first screening. On 6th October 1930 the Dominion was taken over by Associated British Cinemas(ABC) who operated the theatre for four months, staging the Pantomime Aladdin for the 1930 Christmas season, which ran until February 1931.
The theatre was then leased to United Artists, commencing with a screening of the premier of City Lights, starring Charlie Chaplin, with Chaplin himself attending the premier and speaking from the stage at the end of the film. Chaplin also had his own Private Cinema in the Theatre, today used as a workshop. After alternating use as a live venue and cinema, on 15th January 1933 the Dominion Theatre was taken over by Gaumont British Theatres and became a cinema full-time. A Compton theatre organ was installed and a large cafe opened over the main foyer.
The Dominion remained a cinema for much of the next two decades, closing only temporarily during the Blitz early in October 1940 and reopening on 12th January 1941.
Occasional live shows resumed in 1957 including week-long performances by Sophie Tucker and Tommy Steele. Judy Garland appeared from 16th October until 16th November 1957 in her one woman show. These live shows interrupted film screenings until 28th December 1957 with the Norman Wisdom film Just My Luck. The cinema staged one final theatrical production with a month of performances of The Broken Dateperformed by Le Ballet-Theatre Paris in February 1958.
The Balcony was closed off in 1958 in order to house projection equipment, reducing the maximum seating capacity to just over 2,000 on two levels.
The Theatre reopened on the 21st April 1958 as a so-called “Roadshow Cinema” with the film South Pacificwhich enjoyed a record breaking run of 4 years and 22 weeks here, before finally ending on the 30thSeptember 1962.
In 1963, Elizabeth Taylor attended the European opening of the film Cleopatra which played for almost two years and then on 29th March 1965 the Julie Andrews film classic The Sound of Music was shown until 29thJune 1968, the longest run of screenings for the film anywhere in the world. These screenings were interspersed with occasional live entertainment (predominantly concerts rather than theatre shows).
On October 16th 1977 the Dominion played host to the preview screening of the Hollywood blockbuster, Star Wars, which overwhelmed audiences with its relatively new Dolby Stereo sound and stunning special effects.
In 1981, The Dominion was converted back to primary use as a venue for live theatre and concerts, although it continued to occasionally show films, notably Return of the Jedi in 1983. The same year, Dolly Parton filmed a television special here. Other stars appearing during this era included Duran Duran, Bon Jovi, Boy George, David Bowie and U2.
Since then, the theatre has been used primarily to stage large-scale, spectacular musicals. In 1986, Dave Clark’s Time, a hugely technical and innovative stage musical enjoyed a run of nearly two years despite being plagued with technical issues and poor reviews. The interior was altered extensively to accommodate the production – including painting the auditorium black, which proved highly controversial.
In 1989, a stage version of the cult TV soap Prisoner Cell Block H enjoyed a week-long run here (not to be confused with the Musical of the same name which played in the mid-1990s at the Queen’s Theatre – now the Sondheim).
In June 1990 a new musical based on Saint Bernadette of Lourdes, opened. Bernadette is now a West-End legend. Written by the husband and wife team of Maureen and Gwyn Hughes, it was supported by the Daily Mirror, who urged their readers to become “angels” and invest. Just over half the £1million required to stage the musical was raised through 2,000 small shareholders, many investing sums as low as £100. A former chauffeur famously put up £500,000 of his life savings, and the show’s producer re-mortaged his house, thus raising the £1.25 million needed. The opening night was enthusiastically received by a house packed with hundreds of investors, but the next day, the critics were damning. Comments like “three thousand angels and not a prayer” and “Pass the loaves and fishes, they need a miracle” were perhaps not what the producers were hoping for to market the show. Despite a blessing from the Pope, the show closed after just 28 performances, losing its entire investment. Sadly, little evidence remains of the show other than a youtube clip of one of the songs (below) and the factoid that a 14-year old Martine McCutcheon had a small role in the show.
It wasn’t just Bernadette that needed a miracle when, shortly after the show had departed, plans were drawn up to demolish the Dominion Theatre and replace it with a car park. Fortunately, an aggressive campaign ensued and the theatre was finally saved from destruction in 1991 and, several years later granted Grade II listed status.
Following this triumph, and the acquisition of the theatre by the Nederlander Group, the Dominion went on to cement its place as a home for the big musical throughout the 1990s with Grand Hotel (1992), Barnum (1992), Grease (1993), Scrooge (1996) and Walt Disney Theatrical’s Beauty and the Beast (1997), which won ‘Best New Musical’ at the 1998 Olivier Awards.
In 1997, a rear extension was added to the Dominion for Disney’s Beauty and the Beast to house the production’s wardrobe department and the Actors’ Green Room. Beauty and the Beast ran for two and a half years and the extension is now used as a scene dock and crew room.
The new millennium began with a musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s Notre Dame de Paris. The show was criticised for its austere staging and cliché-ridden translation (one critic described it as “all bats and no belfry”) but still enjoyed a healthy run of 16 months, closing in October 2001.
The theatre remained dark for several months, punctuated only by a brief return of the musical Grease for a 2 week run, and three performances of Bottom 4: 2001 An Arse Oddity with Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson.
In April 2002, theatrical rock phenomenon We Will Rock You began previews. Despite a thrilling score, packed with mega-hits by rock royalty Queen, the critics were less than impressed by the shows storyline: The Daily Mirror wrote that “Ben Elton should be shot for this risible story” and The Telegraph described the show as “guaranteed to bore you rigid”. Despite this critical mauling and disappointing early sales, an appearance by the cast in the Party at the Palace concert for Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee (broadcast globally) in early June 2002 set box office tills ringing, perhaps proving the continuing waning of the influence of critics on sales.
The smash hit show ran for 12 years, winning the Olivier Audience Award for Best Long-Running Show in 2011. The theatre became famous for the Freddie Mercury statue that adorned the facade of the theatre, although this was only installed later in the run.
When We Will Rock You closed after 12 years on 31st May 2014, the Theatre went dark for three months to allow Nederlander to carry out a multi-million pound restoration and refurbishment programme including a new counterweight system, hospitality suites and reinstating the Orchestra Pit. The refurbishment also included new carpets, reupholstering of seats, new lighting fixtures, handrails and toilets and upgrading the box office. The proscenium and ante-proscenium were re-gilded, previously boarded up arches were restored and a huge ornate stone depicting two griffins which had been removed from above the entrance windows was reinstated, returning the theatre to its original 1920s grandeur.
In Autumn 2014, a new production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Evita ran here, starring Portuguese actress Madalena Alberto as Evita and Popstar Marti Pellow as Che. Subsequent productions have included Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games, Elf The Musical, War of the Worlds, The Bodyguard, An American in Paris and Bat Out of Hell.
After Bat Out of Hell closed on the 5th of January 2019 more restoration was planned to take place before the Theatre’s next production, Big: The Musical.
In addition to hosting musicals, the theatre has also hosted a number of Royal Variety performances (1992-6 and 2001-2) as well as charity events, including MAD Trust’s West End Eurovision (2012, 2013, 2014) and West End Heroes (2013, 2014, 2015) which brought together stars from current West End Shows with musicians from the armed forces.
The Dominion Theatre is a Grade II listed building and even with its balcony closed remains one of the largest theatres in the West End with a seating capacity in excess of 2,000. Today, the balcony houses a modern room which is used as an events space called the Gallery. Should the Balcony ever be restored and reinstated, the theatre would have the largest seating capacity anywhere in the West End.
Since January 2005, Hillsong Church London has held services here on Sundays.
The Dominion Theatre is currently owned by Nederlander Dominion Ltd.
- The Prince of Egypt
- Irving Berlin’s White Christmas
- Big: The Musical
- Bat out of Hell – The Musical
- An American In Paris
- The Bodyguard
- The War of the Worlds
- Elf The Musical
- Aliens Love Underpants
- Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games
- Irving Berlin’s White Christmas
- We Will Rock You
- Bottom 4: 2001 An Arse Oddity
- Notre Dame de Paris
- Tango Passion
- Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake
Disclaimer: We take care to provide accurate information. Records prior to internet age can be difficult to verify so we only list productions back as far as the year 2000, however we hold some records prior to this date offline. If you would like more information, or are aware of any errors, please contact us here. “One night only” productions and private theatre hires are not listed.
Arthur Lloyd’s Theatre Website offers an encyclopaedic insight into the history of the West End’s theatres.
Theatricalia is a database of past & future theatre productions.
Thisistheatre also offers interesting insights into the history of London’s theatres.
The Theatres Trust offers information and support for our nation’s theatres.
London Theatres by Michael Coveney & Peter Dazeley, is available from Waterstones and Amazon and provides stunning photography and commentary on London’s iconic theatres.