Current Show: Come From Away
First previewed: 30th January 2019
Booking until: 7th January 2023
Running time: 1h40m (no interval)
Address: 110 Charing Cross Rd, London WC2H 0JP
Air Conditioning: No
Current Owner: Ambassador Theatre Group
Box Office: +44 (0) 3330 096 690 (calls charged)
Discounts, Day seats, Rush tickets & Lotteries
Box Office: +44 (0) 3330 096 690 (calls charged)
Stage Door: +44 (0) 20 7438 9600
Many of London’s theatres are accessed from below or above street level. If you need to avoid steps, it is advisable to contact the theatre directly by telephone or email as they will be able to advise you on which seats are most easily accessed. Many have specially adapted wheelchair spaces.
Theatres may be able to provide additional facilities for customers with a hearing or visual impairment and some shows may also offer specific, adapted performances. It’s best to check with the venue directly via one of the following methods:
Access Bookings: Call +44 (0) 800 912 6971
Society of London Theatre also offers useful information for visitors with a disability or specific access need.
Nearest Tube: Tottenham Court Road or Leicester Square
Buses: Number 14, 19, 22b, 24, 29, 38 or 176
Check out Transport for London’s excellent TFL Journey Planner
The Phoenix Theatre is located on Charing Cross Road, between Cambridge Circus and Tottenham Court Road. Although the box office is located on Charing Cross Road, the auditorium entrance is around the corner on Phoenix Street. Beneath the theatre, you’ll also find the Phoenix Arts Club which is popular with London’s theatre crowd – a great place to meet before the show.
The Phoenix Theatre was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, Cecil Massey and Bertie Crewe. The theatre’s interior was designed by Theodore Komisarjevsky, with a safety curtain featuring Jacopo del Sellaio’s The Triumph of Love.
The theatre was built by Bovis Ltd. for Sidney Bernstein, founder of Granada Television, and occupies a site which once housed a factory, and later a Music Hall, the Alcazar.
The Alcazar was unusual in that it housed three stages, with the audience wandering from one to the next as each ‘turn’ finished their act. It acted as an informal audition space, where theatre managers could come to see new acts perform with no financial risk to themselves.
One of many possible variations explaining the expression ‘break a leg’ is said to date from this time: Artists were only paid if they made it onstage – ‘breaking a leg’ past the wings in front of the paying public.
Unfortunately, The Alcazar’s owner Lucien Samett was unable to make his business model work, and the Alcazar eventually became a fun palace, with gambling, slot machines and scantily clad ‘artistes’ providing entertainment to the visiting public.
An official unveiling ceremony for the theatre by renowned theatrical manager C B Cochran took place on 7thSeptember. The Phoenix Theatre officially opened on 24th September 1930 with the premiere of Noël Coward’s Private Lives. Coward himself starred in the play, with Adrienne Allen, Gertrude Lawrence and Laurence Oliver completing the cast. Private Lives ran for 101 performances before transferring to New York. While we cannot see that production, fortunately we can hear a little of it today.
The Phoenix was one of many theatres to open in the West End in a 1930 building boom. The first was the Prince Edward Theatre, followed by the Cambridge Theatre, the Phoenix, the Whitehall (now the Trafalgar Theatre), the rebuilt Adelphi Theatre and the Leicester Square Theatre. While the Phoenix was purposed for theatre, its design also facilitated use as a cinema, reflecting the times into which it was born.
Films were often shown between theatrical productions in the 1930s, with early screenings including The Beggar Student, Shanghaied Love and The Virtuous Wife.
The next theatrical success at the Phoenix was Louis Weitzenkom’s Late Night Final which ran from June 1931 for 132 performances.
In 1932, the theatre changed hands, with ownership transferring to Victor Luxemburg. Luxemberg initially experimented with variety shows with mixed success, before returning to more conventional productions.
Plays in the theatre’s early years included a transfer from the Whitehall Theatre (now the Trafalgar Theatre) of Norman Ginsbury’s historical Viceroy Sarah. Then, in 1936, Noël Coward returned to the Phoenix Theatre with a series of plays under the banner Tonight at 8.30. These triple bill productions ran for 157 performances and included a short play called Still Lives, which was later turned into the classic film Brief Encounter.
In 1938, another series of plays were produced, sponsored by Michael St Denis and Bronson Albery in partnership with the London Theatre Studio.
Between late 1938 and 1939, the theatre mainly showed films, before changing hands once again, with Jack Bartholomew taking over. At the opening of World War II, Bartholomew revived live performances with Elmer Rice’s Judgement Day. The cast featured a young Jon Pertwee, who would later become the third Doctor Who.
In 1943, John Gielgud starred in William Congreve’s Restoration Comedy Love for Love and then in 1945, Cicely Courtneidge appeared starred in Under The Counter.
On 8th September 1948 a double bill of Terrence Rattigan plays opened: Harlequinade, a comic play, and The Browning Version – seen by many as Rattigan’s finest work.
In 1950, the theatre staged Frederick Lonsdale’s final play, The Way Things Go with a cast including Glynis Johns and Kenneth More.
1952 marked another return by Noël Coward, this time with his play Quadrille.
Great stage and screen actor Paul Scofield appeared here several times in the 1950s, including Hamlet in the title role, in Much Ado About Nothing with John Gielgud and in The Family Reunion, directed by Peter Brook.
In March 1968, a musical based on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales opened, running for 2,082 performances. By the time the show finally closed in March 1973, it had become one of the West End’s longest runs. The cast included Steptoe and Son‘s Wilfred Brambell who notably appeared during a five-year hiatus from his TV role as Albert Steptoe.
During the run of Canterbury Tales, on 16th December 1969, Noël Coward’s long association with the Phoenix Theatre was marked with a special midnight matinee. This celebrated Coward’s 70th birthday and included the renaming of the foyer bar as the ‘Noël Coward Bar’. Coward was also honoured with a star-studded dinner at the Savoy Hotel.
The midnight production, titled A Talent to Amuse, featured a cast which reads like a who’s who of British theatre royalty, including: Richard Attenborough, Jeremy Brett, Richard Briers, John Gielgud, Joyce Grenfell, Celia Johnson, Danny LaRue, Anna Neagle, Cliff Richard, Patricia Routledge, Una Stubbs and June Whitfield.
After Canterbury Tales closed in 1973, Noël Coward’s play Design for Living enjoyed a revival, with a cast including Connie Booth, Vanessa Redgrave and Jeremy Brett. This ran for six months, followed by a short run of Peter Luke’s Bloomsbury, featuring Penelope Wilton and Daniel Massey.
From October 1974 until April 1975, Neil Simon’s The Gingerbread Lady ran, featuring Elaine Stritch.
In 1978, another long-running play opened – Tom Stoppard’s Night and Day. The play united John Thaw and Diana Rigg as Richard Wagner and Ruth Carson in a satirical look at the British news media. Night and Day won the Evening Standard Award for Best Play and ran for two years.
When Night and Day closed in 1980, it was followed by Michel Legrand’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. This preceded several short-lived musicals including silent movie era- inspired The Biograph Girl, which lasted just 57 performances.
The Phoenix Theatre’s first pantomime opened in 1983, starring Irish pop singer Dana in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Griff Rhys Jones appeared here in 1984 in the satirical farce Trumpets and Raspberries. Then, in 1985, Alan Bleasdale’s musical play Are You Lonesome Tonight opened, running for almost a year and starring Martin Shaw as Elvis and Simon Bowman as Young Elvis.
In 1988, Kenneth Branagh starred here in repertory, playing the title role in Hamlet and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, alongside Sophie Thompson and Samantha Bond.
1989 saw Derek Jacobi bring another Shakespeare character, Richard III, to life and Dustin Hoffman star as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.
The 1980s ended with another short-lived musical, Stephen Schwartz’s The Bakers Wife, starring Alun Armstrong and Sharon Lee-Hill. The show closed on 6th January 1990 after 56 performances.
On September 25th 1990, the original West End production of Stephen Sondheim’s Into The Woods opened. Running for 5 months, the production starred Imelda Staunton as The Baker’s Wife and Julia McKenzie as The Witch, with Nicholas Parsons as The Narrator.
In 1991, the Abbey Theatre Dublin’s production of Brian Friel’s Dancing at Lughnasa transferred here, winning the Olivier Award for Best Play. Later that year, Willy Russell’s record breaking Blood Brothers arrived, transferring from the Albery Theatre (now the Noël Coward Theatre). The show had already been running for three years when it arrived, and it would stay for another 21 years, finally closing on 10th November 2012.
Blood Brothers remains one of the longest running shows in West End history. During its time at the Phoenix Theatre, notable actors appearing have included Stephanie Lawrence, Lyn Paul, Spice Girl Mel C and Marti Webb. Fans of Australian soaps may also have spotted Stefan Dennis (Paul Robinson in Neighbours), who briefly played the role of Mickey in London in the mid-1990s.
After Blood Brothers closed, limited runs of Goodnight Mr Tom and Midnight Tango enjoyed favourable reviews. These were followed in 2015 by the original West End production of Once. The show, adapted from an Oscar winning Irish film, had already enjoyed great success on Broadway and was warmly received by London audiences, running for almost two years.
In June 2015, a musical adaptation of popular British movie Bend It Like Beckham opened but could not quite recapture the success of the film. This was followed by limited runs of musicals Guys and Dolls and Dirty Dancing. The Phoenix’s next show was The Girls, another movie-to-musical adaptation. With a score by Take That’s Gary Barlow, The Girls tells the moving and uplifting story of a group from the Yorkshire Women’s Institute who bravely stripped bare to raise money for Leukaemia Research. The show ran for approximately six months.
The Girls was followed in August 2017 by a short-lived revival of Evita. This was replaced in October by a horrific movie-to-stage adaptation of The Exorcist. Directed by Sean Mathias, the production featured a cast including Adam Garcia, Jenny Seagrove and Peter Bowles, accompanied by the disembodied voice of Sir Ian McKellen.
In 2018 another long-running West End Musical, Chicago, took up residence. The cast featured several notable new and returning cast-members, including Cuba Gooding Jr, Josefina Gabrielle, Ruthie Henshall, Martin Kemp and Alexandra Burke.
Chicago was replaced in early 2019 by another Broadway hit, the Canadian-penned musical Come from Away. Telling the tale of passengers aboard planes diverted during the 9/11 attacks, this emotional musical celebrates the small Newfoundland town, Gander, which unexpectedly, and briefly, found itself the refugee capital of the world.
Performances of Come from Away were suspended in March 2020 by another moment of global crisis – the Coronavirus pandemic. The show reopened in July 2021 and will run until January 2023.
The Phoenix Theatre is currently owned by Ambassador Theatre Group and is Grade II listed.
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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.