At its grand opening on Friday 27th April 1928, the Piccadilly Theatre was one of the largest theatres in London, with its souvenir brochure claiming, ‘If all the bricks used in the building were laid in a straight line, they would stretch from London to Paris’. The Opening Night’s production of Jerome Kern’s musical Blue Eyes, starred one of the most popular actresses of the time, Miss Evelyn Laye.
In its early days, the Piccadilly functioned as a cinema and made entertainment history when it premiered the first talking picture to be presented in Britain, The Singing Fool with Al Jolson, with Jolson opening The Jazz Singer in 1928 and appearing afterwards on-stage at the Piccadilly to sing Mammy.
The Piccadilly has presented most forms of stage entertainment from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? to A Night with Dame Edna. There have been various Royal Shakespeare Company productions such as Edward II starring Ian McKellen, and Henry Fonda with his West End debut in the play Clarence Darrow.
The 1990s saw a rise in the number of musicals, ballet and dance, notably the most successful commercial ballet season to ever play in the West End, Adventures in Motion Pictures’ Swan Lake. The Piccadilly has been residence to a season of plays directed by Sir Peter Hall, starring celebrated names such as Judi Dench, Michael Pennington, Julia MacKenzie and Eric Sykes. Also hosted at the theatre was the musical Spend Spend Spend starring Olivier award-winning actress, Barbara Dickson, Shockheaded Peter which was a sell-out run, Noises Off with Lynn Redgrave, Ragtime, the National Theatre’s acclaimed production of Jumpers, Grease the Musical, Guys and Dolls and Jailhouse Rock. Recent shows include the world premiere of Ghost the Musical and the world premiere of Viva Forever. The Piccadilly was home to Dirty Dancing the Classic Story on Stage, which plays to February 2014, before Jersey Boys opens in March 2014, transferring from the Prince Edward Theatre.
16 Denman St, Soho, London W1D 7DY