Built on the site of a 19th century circus and ice skating rink, the London Palladium opened on Boxing Day in 1910 and was sold to the public as the best venue in the world for variety performances.
In its first few years the venue programmed twice-nightly performances along with three matinees including a mix of operettas, melodramas, farces, variety and solo performances. The Palladium was, and is still, a regular venue for the Royal Variety Performance. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s it hosted the show a total of 11 times, attended each year by a member of the Royal Family. In more recent years the theatre hosted the 2013 Royal Variety Performance.
The Palladium stayed open during World War II, despite an unexploded German parachute mine that became stuck above the stage, having fallen through the roof. The theatre’s management called in the help of the Royal Navy to dispose of the bomb - a very lucky escape!
In 1945 the venue appointed Val Parnell as Managing Director. Parnell used his connections and influence to present big name American acts on the stage of the Palladium, including Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Liza Minnelli, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra.
In 1955, the television show Sunday Night at the London Palladium began broadcasting live from the stage to homes across the UK and Atlantic. The much-loved variety show ran from 1955 to 1967, with a brief revival in 1973 and 1974. The regular hosts of the show were Tommy Trinder, Bruce Forsyth, Jimmy Tarbuck and Jim Dale.
In 1968, the first full book musical was performed at the theatre, Golden Boy, starring Sammy Davis Jnr. This paved the way for a long line of musicals in the future. However, it was not until Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group took over the theatre in 2000 that musicals became a staple.
Musicals in the first decade of the Really Useful Period included The King And I in 2000 and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in 2002, which featured a life-size flying car. Scrooge The Musical became a regular Christmas show with productions in 2005, 2006 and 2012. A revival of The Sound of Music opened in 2006 after a much publicised television show called How to Solve A Problem Like Maria, in which the public voted for the woman to play the iconic role of Maria in the production. And the stage musical version of the cult film Sister Act arrived in early 2009.
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s revival of The Wizard of Oz opened in 2011 following a nationwide televised search for the lead role of Dorothy Gale in a show called Over The Rainbow. This was followed in 2013 by the first ever West End revival of the Broadway smash hit musical A Chorus Line. Although loved by critics, the show closed after just six months.
The current show is Andrew Lloyd Webber's famous musical, Cats.