Next Show: Moulin Rouge
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Address: 16 Denman St, Soho, London W1D 7DY
Air Conditioning: No
Current Owner: Ambassador Theatre Group
Box Office: +44 (0) 3330 096 690 (calls charged)
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Box Office: +44 (0) 3330 096 690 (calls charged)
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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: Piccadilly Circus
Buses: Number 24, 29 or 176 to Piccadilly Circus
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Designed by architects Bertie Crewe and Edward A Stone for renowned cinema and theatre producer Edward Laurillard, the Piccadilly Theatre opened on Friday 27th April 1928 with a production of Jerome Kern’s Blue Eyes, starring Evelyn Laye, one of the period’s brightest stars.
The theatre was built by Griggs and Sons on land which had previously housed derelict stables. The theatre’s simple façade gave away little of the grand Art Deco designs waiting to welcome its audience. Interiors by Marc-Henri Levy and Gaston Laverdet featured shades of sage green and silver.
The auditorium was on three levels, with, at its centre, a large Crystal Lustre weighing four tons and comprising 200 individual lamps.
Behind the stage were thirty luxurious dressing rooms with hot and cold water. An electric passenger lift ensured ease of access to the higher-level dressing rooms for the convenience of artists.
The Piccadilly Theatre’s construction preceded a building boom for West End theatres. Within just two years of its opening, it would be joined by the Prince Edward Theatre, the Cambrige Theatre, the Phoenix Theatre and Whitehall Theatre (now the Trafalgar Theatre), the rebuilt Adelphi Theatre and finally, in December 1930, by the Leicester Square Theatre.
The Piccadilly Theatre was briefly taken over by Warner Brothers in its infancy, making history when it screened the very first feature length ‘talking picture’ shown anywhere in Europe. The Jazz Singer, starring Al Jolson, premiered on 27th September 1928, almost a year after it had been seen by the American public. It should be noted however that some sites list this premiere as The Singing Fool and sources dispute which film was actually shown first in Britain.
The theatre reverted to its primary use as a theatre in November 1929, with a production of Sigmund Romberg’s musical The Student Prince.
This was followed by the plays Here Comes the Bride and Open Your Eyes. Then, in 1931, the review Folly to be Wise opened, running for 257 performances. Remarkably, some footage still exists, including a comic acrobatic turn from the fabulous Cicely Courtneidge.
The 1930s continued with A Sleeping Clergyman, Counsellor at Law and Queer Cargo. These were followed by a period during which the Windmill Theatre (featured in the film Mrs Henderson Presents) extended its productions into the Piccadilly. This included the Revudeville Pot-Pourri, a two-hour revue produced by Vivian Van Damm.
Other plays during the decade included All For Joy, Caesar’s Friend, The Lake, Young Mr Disraeli and The Barretts of Wimpole Street.
In 1937, a new form of entertainment called Choose Your Time presented variety shows comprising cartoons, newsreels, and orchestra. Included in the program was a short play, Talk of the Devil, starring John Mills and Yvonne Arnaud.
August 1938 saw George and Margaret transfer here from the Wyndham’s Theatre. The play, written by out-of-work actor Gerald Savory, proved to be a hit and featured a cast including the gifted Irene Handl in a brief but scene-stealing appearance as The New Maid. The show ran here until February 1939, lasting for over 700 performances in the West End. It later returned for a brief run in November/December and was then taken to Broadway where it was directed by Noël Coward.
In 1939, the Piccadilly also hosted a run of Terrence Rattigan’s play French Without Tears. The production began life at the Criterion Theatre before visiting the Streatham Hill Theatre and the Golders Green Hippodrome en route to the Piccadilly. The show’s cast included Rex Harrison and Jessica Tandy.
Later that same year, Glynis Johns appeared in Esther McCracken’s play Quiet Wedding. The year closed with a transfer of The Corn is Green, starring Sybil Thorndike. This was followed in 1940 by George Bernard Shaw’s The Devil’s Disciple, which had previously toured England.
The Theatre was closed during the Blitz but reopened in July 1941 with a production of Noël Coward’s ‘Blithe Spirit’ starring Margaret Rutherford as the eccentric clairvoyant, Madame Arcati. The show would later transfer to the St James Theatre (now The Other Palace) and then the Duchess Theatre.
Later wartime productions at the Piccadilly included Macbeth with John Gielgud and musical comedies Sunny River and Panama Hattie.
Towards the end of World War II, the theatre sustained damage during flying bomb attacks, forcing its closure for several months.
The Piccadilly reopened on 31st March 1945 under new management – The Piccadilly Theatre Ltd. – with Agatha Christie’s Appointment with Death. The cast included Joan Hickson as Miss Pryce. Like Margaret Rutherford, Hickson would go on to portray another of Agatha Christie’s great detectives, Miss Marple, on screen.
The theatre’s first post-war production was a musical revue, Sigh No More, which opened just eight days after the armistice was signed. Written and produced by Noël Coward, this was Coward’s first post-World War II musical and starred Cyril Ritchard, Madge Elliott and Joyce Grenfell. The show also featured Coward’s long-term partner Graham Payn. At the time, Payn was 27 years old, but remarkably, footage still exists from his days as a child soprano.
The second half of the 1940s saw productions including Ivan Goff’s Portrait in Black, Vivien Leigh in Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth (directed by Laurence Olivier), Tess of the D’Urbervilles, The Voice of the Turtle and Off the Record.
A new decade began with George Ralli’s play The Purple Fig Tree. This was followed by His Excellency which transferred from the Princes Theatre (now the Shaftesbury Theatre), The White Sheep of the Family and the return of Joan Hickson in The Gay Dog.
In 1953, a Vivien Ellis revue Over The Moon, played a short engagement, followed by the play Two Bouquets with a cast including Round The Horne regular Hugh Paddick. In December, the Wynyard Browne play Full Fact opened, starring Paul Scofield.
A series of plays followed, including Cockles and Champagne, The Party Spirit, The Jazz Train and Romance in Candlelight.
From December 1955 until April 1956, Edward Woodward and Denis Quilley appeared together in the musical A Girl Called Jo. This was followed by Romanoff and Juliet, written by and featuring the great Peter Ustinov.
In the final years of the 1950s, the Piccadilly was home to shows including A Dead Secret starring Dinsdale Landen, Paul Scofield, future star of Eastenders Gretchen Franklin and Arthur Lowe, best known for his later portrayal of Captain Mainwaring in Dad’s Army. Other shows included The Rape of the Belt starring Richard Attenborough, Shadow of Heroes featuring Peggy Ashcroft, Hook Line and Sinker with Joan Plowright, Gretchen Franklin and Bernard Cribbins.
1960 was a year of mixed fortunes for the Piccadilly. It is notable for its biggest flop, the play Bachelor Flat which closed after only 4 performances. However, in a reversal of fortune, this was also the year in which the Piccadilly was acquired by theatre impresario Donald Albery (after stiff competition from Bernard Delfont), adding to his West End empire.
In 1961, Derek Nimmo and Evelyn Laye starred in The Amorous Prawn which transferred here from the Saville Theatre. The show continued for over a year, followed in 1962 by Castle in Sweden starring Lally Bowers.
Donald Albery was instrumental in bringing hit New York productions and stars to the Piccadilly Theatre stage, enhancing the theatre’s reputation as a premier West End venue. In 1964, Uta Hagen and Arthur Hill reprised their Broadway roles of Martha and George in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? These roles were covered by ‘alternates’ at matinee performances, with Constance Cummings as Martha and Jerome Kilty as George. Cummings and Kilty would go on to perform these roles full time, first at the Globe Theatre (now the Gielgud) and later the Garrick Theatre.
1964 proved to be a golden year for the Piccadilly. On 28th February, during the run of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, the BBC chose the venue to record From Us To You, featuring a live performance of a number of songs by The Beatles.
In 1965, David Mercer’s Ride a Cock Horse starred Wendy Craig, Sian Phillips and Peter O’Toole in the tale of a northern, working-class writer trying to adjust to success and love in London.
In 1967, the long-running musical Oliver! transferred here (after a seven-month hiatus) from the New Theatre (now the Noël Coward Theatre). The show ran here for a further ten months.
While the Piccadilly Theatre itself sits back from the main road junction of Piccadilly Circus and can’t be seen here, the following footage shows the main intersection (just metres away from the theatre) giving a flavour of the area at the time.
In 1968, the musical Man of La Mancha played a seven-month run at the Piccadilly Theatre, with Richard Kiley reprising the lead role of Don Quixote which he had created on Broadway. The production was so successful that it returned in June 1969 for a further four-month engagement.
1970 saw Christopher Marlowe’s Edward II unite Ian McKellen and James Laurenson as lovers Edward II and Piers Gaveston in one of British Theatre’s oldest representations of a gay relationship. Played in rep with Shakespeare’s Richard II, the company also featured Nigel Havers and Timothy West.
1970 continued with Who Killed Santa Claus? starring Honor Blackman and Vivat! Vivat Regina!, the latter playing for over a year.
In 1972, Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera transferred from the Prince of Wales Theatre. Running for around three months, this starred Barbara Windsor alongside Miriam Margolyes and Vanessa Redgrave.
The Arthur Laurents/Stephen Sondheim/Jul Styne classic musical Gypsy arrived in May 1973 with Angela Lansbury taking the lead role of Rose. Then, in 1974 Tennessee Williams’ play A Streetcar Named Desireunited Claire Bloom as Blanche Dubois and Martin Shaw as Stanley Kowalski.
David W Rintels’ play Clarence Darrow opened in July 1975, running for several months and bringing Henry Fonda to the West End stage.
The Jerome Kern and Guy Bolton/Philip Bartholomae musical Very Good Eddie ran here for 411 performances in 1976/7 and was amongst that season’s Olivier Award nominees for Best New Musical.
In 1977, Zoë Wanamaker and Jeremy Irons appeared together in an RSC production of John O’Keeffe’s play Wild Oats. This was followed by another RSC production in 1978 – Peter Nichols play Privates on Parade with a cast including Denis Quilley and Nigel Hawthorne.
Between December 1978 and April 1979, the Piccadilly Theatre became the home of Barry Humphries as his alter ego Dame Edna Everage in A Night With Dame Edna. This was followed by The French Have a Song for It featuring Helen Shapiro.
The 1970s closed with Can You Hear Me at the Back? with a cast including Stephanie Beacham and Hannah Gordon.
The first production to open in the new decade was another RSC production. Once in a Lifetime featured a number of actors who are now household names, including Tony Robinson, Richard Griffiths, Zoë Wanamaker, David Suchet and Glynis Barber. The RSC’s West End seasons continued with Pam Gems’ Piaf, with Tony Robinson and Zoë Wanamaker appearing once again, this time alongside Jane Lapotaire in the title role of Edith Piaf.
Jane Lapotaire would go on to reprise the role of Edith Piaf on Broadway, winning the 1981 Tony Award for Best Actress in a play for her performance as the diminutive French chanteuse.
In August 1980, Willy Russell’s Educating Rita opened, with Julie Walters as Rita for the first seven months of what would become a two-year run for the play. This was followed in 1982 by a production of Hamlet starring Anton Lesser as Hamlet, and Ken Stott in the supporting role of Rosencrantz.
In 1983, a cabaret / musical spectacular called simply ‘I’ began previews. However, beset with problems, the show was pulled before opening night. Drastically reworked, the show finally opened on 27th June retitled ‘Y’. Eventually, a huge cast of performers including Kit & The Widow and quick-change artist Arturo Brachetti enjoyed a run of just over a year.
September 1984 heralded the arrival of Pump Boys and Dinettes, originally a hit off-Broadway musical about six friends who run the local gas station and diner on Highway 57. The original London cast included Kiki Dee as Rhetta, later transferring to the Albery Theatre (now the Noël Coward Theatre).
1985 welcomed the Richard Crane/David Essex musical Mutiny! Based on the novel Mutiny on the Bounty, the show starred David Essex as Fletcher Christian and included a young Sinitta – just before her pop career exploded.
In 1986, the Piccadilly hosted ITV’s popular Sunday evening variety show, Live from the Piccadilly. The show’s compere was Jimmy Tarbuck.
In 1987, Fascinating Aida played a short season of cabaret here, followed by a production of Lady Day, with Dee Dee Bridgewater reprising the role of Billie Holliday she had previously played at the Donmar Warehouse. Later that year, another Donmar Warehouse production transferred here; Blues in the Night featured a cast including Maria Friedman as ‘Girl with a Date’ and ran for almost a year.
In 1989, mighty musical Metropolis opened, running for six months. Despite dividing critics, the show was respected for its ambition and featured a strong cast, including Judy Kuhn and Brian Blessed.
The 1980s ended with Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. Opening in October 1989, the cast included Dorothy Tutin, Alexander Hanson and Susan Hampshire, running until February 1990.
The first new production of the 1990s was another highly contentious show – King. With a book by Lonnie Elder III and Richard Nelson, music by Richard Blackford, and lyrics by Alistair Beaton and Maya Angelou, this proved to be a deeply troubled project. Telling the life story of Martin Luther King, before the show even reached opening night, its writers, directors, a producer and a leading actor had all either been fired or walked away. Maya Angelou disassociated herself from the show, saying “there hasn’t been a single black man in the writing of this show”. The critics were no kinder, and the show closed six weeks later with losses of £3million.
The next production was rather more successful. The Rocky Horror Show was already a tried and tested recipe. Opening on 16th July 1990, this production featured a cast including Adrian Edmondson as Brad and Gina Bellman as Janet, with Frank N Furter played by Tim McInnerny. The cast included Edward Tudor-Pole as Riff Raff – the one-time presenter of The Crystal Maze, Tudor-Pole would later play Mr Borgin, co-owner of Borgin and Burkes Knockturn Alley shop in the Harry Potter films.
In 1992, the now-legendary Moby Dick! The Musical enjoyed a brief run. Part Herman Melville, part St Trinians, this camp classic followed the girls of St Godley’s Academy for Young Ladies as they tried to save the school by staging Melville’s 1851 novel in the school swimming pool. Despite enthusiastic audiences, the show received scathing reviews and closed after four months, despite all efforts of producer Cameron Mackintosh.
Some footage exists from Act Two of Moby Dick! The Musical, though with poor sound and picture quality it’s a challenging watch.
The Piccadilly Theatre lurched from the frying pan into the fire with its next production, Which Witch. Surviving for less than two months, the show was written by Norwegian singers/composers Benedicte Adrian and Ingrid Bjornov. Like Moby Dick before it, the show was mauled by critics. Fortunately, a recording survives so you can decide for yourselves whether the critics were right.
The 1990s continued with a combination of plays, musicals and dance gracing the Piccadilly stage. These included a revival of Pam Gems’ Piaf starring Elaine Paige, The Roy Orbison Story which enjoyed a year’s run in 1994/95 and Jerry Herman’s Mack and Mabel with Caroline O’Connor in the lead role of Mabel Normand.
A hugely successful import was Matthew Bourne’s ground-breaking all-male Swan Lake. The production transferred from Sadler’s Wells, opening at the Piccadilly on 11th September 1996 and running until February 1997.
In 1997, Peter Hall directed Molière’s The School for Wives. The cast featured British sitcom royalty, including Eric Sykes, Allo Allo’s Carmen Silvera and To the Manor Born’s Peter Bowles.
Elvis The Musical ran for several months in 1997, followed by another Matthew Bourne ballet, Cinderella starring Adam Cooper.
Between 1998 and 1998, The Peter Hall Company presented a season of plays including Waiting for Godot, The Misanthrope, Major Barbara and Kafka’s Dick.
Theatrical couple Timothy West and Prunella Scales starred together in Pinter’s The Birthday Party in 1999. The year, and indeed the century, ended with the critically acclaimed musical Spend Spend Spend in situ. The show, starring Barbara Dickson, told the story of Yorkshire Housewife Viv Nicholson who, in 1961, won £152,319 on the football pools. Unable to cope with her newfound fortune, her life spiralled down in a whirlpool of changing husbands, fast cars and alcoholism. The show was choreographed by Craig Revel Horwood and ran until August 2000, winning Evening Standard and Critics Circle Awards for Best New Musical.
The first incoming show of the new millennium was musical La Cava. Transferring from the Victoria Palace, the show starred Oliver Tobias as King Roderic alongside Julie-Alanah Brighten and Paul Keating. This was followed by the wonderfully macabre Shockheaded Peter, devised by Julian Beach and Martyn Jacques. Part musical, part cabaret, this show used puppetry to breathe life into the German children’s fables of Stuwwelpeter in nightmarish and hugely entertaining style. The show would later transfer to the Albery Theatre (now the Noël Coward) and later to the Lyric Hammersmith.
In 2001, the National Theatre production of Michael Frayn’s farce Noises Off brought slapstick to the Piccadilly stage. The show initially played here from May 2001 until January 2002, before moving to the Comedy Theatre (now the Harold Pinter Theatre), returning to the Piccadilly from August 2003 for a final three month run.
George and Ira Gershwin’s musical My One And Only played in 2002, with Janie Dee and Tim Flavin in the lead roles. The show was choreographed, once again, by Strictly Come Dancing’s Craig Revel Horwood.
Continuing the Piccadilly’s critical rollercoaster, in November 2002, Romeo and Juliet – The Musical arrived to great fanfare. Sadly, the critics’ response was more car-horn than trumpet. Even the production’s main star, Jane McDonald, could not save the show in the role of Juliet’s nurse. Guardian critic Lyn Gardner gave the show just one star, describing it as “…truly tragic – but not in the way Shakespeare intended”.
In 2003, Maria Friedman returned to the Piccadilly stage in a semi-staged version of Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s musical masterpiece Ragtime. This was followed by the brief return of Noises Off and another National Theatre transfer, Jumpers starring Simon Russell Beale and Essie Davis.
The Elvis Presley inspired musical Jailhouse Rock ran for a year from April 2004-05. Then in May 2005, the ‘Donmar Warehouse in the West End’ production of Guys and Dolls opened. Directed by Michael Grandage, the show’s starry original cast included Ewan McGregor, Jenna Russell, Douglas Hodge and Jane Krakowski. Later replacements during the show’s two year run included Nigel Harman, Adam Cooper, Sarah Lancashire, Claire Sweeney, Sally Ann Triplett, Samantha Womack, Patrick Swayze and Don Johnson.
In 2007, Paul Nicholas and David Ian’s production of Grease arrived, remaining until April 2011 to become the Piccadilly Theatre’s longest running show. The leading roles of Danny and Sandy were cast by a TV audience through the ITV talent show Grease is the Word! The lucky winners were Danny Bayne (Danny) and Susan McFadden (Sandy).
The Piccadilly Theatre’s next show was Ghost the Musical, which had its world premiere at the Manchester Opera House before transferring to the West End. Opening in 2011, the show used impressive illusions to recreate some of the movie’s most iconic scenes. The cast included Richard Fleeshman as Sam Wheat, Caissie Levy as Molly Jensen and Sharon D Clarke as Oda Mae Brown.
The Piccadilly’s rollercoaster took a dip in December 2012 with the opening of Spice Girls inspired musical Viva Forever! Despite featuring some of the biggest pop hits of the late 1990s, the show was panned by critics and didn’t fare much better with audiences. Despite a book by Jennifer Saunders, and several rewrites, it transpired that Viva was not Forever and closed in June 2013.
Another movie-to-stage adaptation, the musical Dirty Dancing, enjoyed a run here at the Piccadilly Theatre from July 2013 to February 2014. This was followed by another transfer, this time the musical Jersey Boys which arrived from the Prince Edward Theatre.
The theatre’s succession of musicals continued in 2017/18 with a nine-month run of Annie. The show featured the surprise casting of comedian Miranda Hart as Miss Hannigan.
In 2018, Baz Luhrmann’s stage adaptation of Strictly Ballroom arrived for a six month stay, featuring Jonny Labey as Scott Hastings, Zizi Strallen as Fran and Will Young as Wally Strand (replaced by Matt Cardle for the final three months).
The next show was a transfer of the National Theatre’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which moved from its previous home at the Gielgud Theatre after a break of 18 months. During the show’s run, Sir Ian McKellen performed his one man show, Ian McKellen on Stage, for one night (15th February 2019) here at the Piccadilly Theatre.
The Lehman Trilogy, another NT transfer, opened in May 2019. The cast comprised Ben Miles, Simon Russell Beale and Adam Godley and the show ran for four months. This was followed by the play Heartbeat of Home.
On 4th November 2019, Death of a Salesman opened, starring Wendell Pierce and Sharon D Clarke in Arthur Miller’s classic deconstruction of the American Dream. Just a few days into the show’s run, on 6thNovember 2019, the Piccadilly Theatre made national news when a section of plasterboard collapsed from the ceiling above the upper circle, injuring several audience members. Four people were taken to hospital for treatment. The incident was caused by a water leak and, after inspections by the local council, the theatre was declared safe, reopening just days later. The Old Vic stepped in, housing three ‘scratch performances’ while the repairs were carried out.
In February 2020, another movie-to-musical adaptation arrived – Pretty Woman The Musical. The show would run for just a month before the Covid-19 pandemic forced the closure of all West End theatres. The show eventually reopened at the Savoy Theatre in July 2021.
When the Piccadilly Theatre finally reopened in November 2021, it did so with the Broadway production of Moulin Rouge. Adapted from Baz Luhrmann’s ground-breaking movie, the stage show cast Jamie Bogyo as Christian and Liisi LaFontaine as Satine.
In 1979, a moveable ceiling was installed which could close off the Grand (upper) Circle, reducing the theatre’s capacity when required. This was removed during a major refurbishment of the theatre in 2017.
The Piccadilly Theatre currently seats approximately 1230 and is run by the Ambassador Theatre Group. It is not currently a listed building.
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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.