Victoria Palace Theatre Facade

Victoria Palace Theatre Facade

Victoria Palace Theatre  Interior

Victoria Palace Theatre Interior

 

The Victoria Palace Theatre is a West End theatre in Victoria Street, in the City of Westminster, opposite Victoria Station. The theatre began life as a small concert room above the stables of the Royal Standard Hotel, a small hotel and tavern built in 1832 at what was then 522 Stockbridge Terrace, on the site of the present theatre – not, as sometimes stated, on land where the train station now stands. The proprietor, John Moy, enlarged the building, and by 1850 it became known as Moy's Music Hall. Alfred Brown took it over in 1863, refurbished it, and renamed it the Royal Standard Music Hall.

The hotel was demolished in 1886, by which time the main line terminus, Victoria Station and its new Grosvenor Hotel, had transformed the area into a major transport hub. The railways were at this time building grand hotel structures at their termini, and Victoria was one of the first. Added to this was the integration of the electric underground system and the building of Victoria Street. The owner of the music hall, Thomas Dickey, had it rebuilt along more ambitious lines in 1886 by Richard Wake, retaining the name Royal Standard Music Hall.

The Royal Standard was demolished in 1910, and in its place was built, at a cost of ₤12,000, the current theatre, The Victoria Palace. It was designed by prolific theatre architect Frank Matcham, and opened November 6, 1911. The original design featured a sliding roof that helped cool the auditorium during intervals in the summer months.

Under impresario Alfred Butt, the Victoria Palace Theatre continued the musical theatre tradition by presenting mainly varieties, and under later managements, repertory and revues. Perhaps because of its music hall linkage, the plays were not always taken seriously. In 1934, the theatre presented Young England, a patriotic play written by the Rev. Walter Reynolds, then 83. It received such amusingly bad reviews that it became a cult hit and played to full houses for 278 performances before transferring to two other West End theatres.

Intended by its author as a serious work celebrating the triumph of good over evil and the virtues of the Boy Scout Movement, it was received as an uproarious comedy. Before long, audiences had learned the key lines and were joining in at all the choicest moments. The scoutmistress rarely said the line 'I must go and attend to my girls' water' without at least fifty voices in good-humoured support.

A return to revue brought new success. Me and My Girl was a hit in its original production at the theatre, opening in 1937 starring Lupino Lane. In 1939, songs from this show formed the first live broadcast of a performance by the BBC, and listeners could sing along to The Lambeth Walk. In early 1945, towards the end of the war in Europe, variety was presented under the stewardship of Lupino Lane. Headlining the bill from his radio series was Will Hay, with his schoolboy retinue of Charles Hawtrey and John Clark, and among the "turns" was Stainless Stephen, a comic acrobat comedian duo, and Victor Barna (then world champion table tennis player) giving an exhibition, who would invite audience members up on to the stage to see if they could beat him in ten points. From 1947 through 1962, Jack Hylton produced The Crazy Gang series of comedy revues, with a glittering company of variety performers including Flanagan and Allen, Nervo and Knox, and Naughton and Gold.

The long-running Black and White Minstrel Show played through the 1960s until 1972. In 1982, a production of The Little Foxes, saw Elizabeth Taylor making her London stage debut. Another unusually long-running show at the theatre was Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story, that played for 13 years in London, beginning in 1989 (transferring to the Strand Theatre in 1995). After this, the theatre presented mostly revivals of well-known musicals. In 2005, Billy Elliot the Musical opened, garnering rave reviews and Olivier awards.

The theatre was purchased by Stephen Waley-Cohen in 1991. At the opening in 1911, a gilded statue of ballerina Anna Pavlova was positioned above the cupola of the theatre. This was taken down for its safety during World War II, and was lost. In 2006, a replica of the original statue was restored in its place.

In 2014, the theatre was sold to Delfont Mackintosh Theatres. After Billy Elliot ended its run in April 2016, the theatre closed for a multi-million pound refurbishment. In December 2017, the Broadway musical Hamilton re-opened the refurbished Victoria Palace.

* Recent Productions *

  • Fame – The Musical (3 October 2000 – 8 September 2001) by Jacques Levy and Steve Margoshes.
  • Kiss Me, Kate (30 August 2001 – 24 August 2002).
  • Grease (2 October 2002 – 6 September 2003) starring Ben Richards and Lee Latchford-Evans.
  • Tonight's the Night (7 November 2003 – 9 October 2004).
  • Billy Elliot the Musical (11 May 2005 – 9 April 2016[7]) by Lee Hall, starring Tim Healy and Haydn Gwynne.
  • Hamilton: An American Musical (21 December 2017 - present) by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
  • ** –– **

    * The Royal Standard Music Hall *

    Originally on this site there was a small hotel / tavern in Stockdale Terrace, Victoria called the Royal Standard Hotel which was built in 1832. Here 'Harmonic Meetings' were held in a room above the stables, but by 1840 the proprietor, John Moy, had obtained a new Licence which allowed for singing and dancing in the premises.

    Following the success of this entertainment Moy enlarged the building and began putting on Music Hall Bills. The building soon became known as Moy's Music Hall, but in 1854 it was renamed The Royal Standard Concert Rooms.

    Alfred Brown, who took over the premises in 1863, refurbished it and opened the, now renamed, Royal Standard Music Hall on December 26th of that year. The audience were seated at tables and the stage was actually part of an adjoining room. This new Music Hall soon became very popular, so popular in fact that in 1886 Richard Wake completely demolished it and then rebuilt a new enlarged Royal Standard in its place to cash in on its popularity.

    The ERA reviewed this new building in 1891 saying:- 'Entirely Re-built, Enlarged, and Re-decorated, being at the present time the most comfortable Hall of entertainment in London. No expense has been spared both on the Stage and in the Auditorium, to study the comfort of the Public. The lighting of the Hall by electricity has now been completed, and by the brilliance of light and coolness throughout, testifying to its complete success.

    The Refreshment department has always been the careful study of the Proprietor. There is a large and Handsome Grill Room, open from 12 a.m. to 12 p.m.; Billiard Room, with two tables by Burroughes Watts; large Public Bars on the ground floor; and the continued and increased popularity of this Establishment sufficiently attests the estimation in which it is held.' The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA in 1891.

    Arthur Lloyd is known to have performed at the Royal Standard Music Hall in 1890 and 1892. The last owner of the Royal Standard Music Hall was Thomas S. Dickie who bought it in 1896. Two years later he had the place renovated and improved, reopening it on Monday October the 3rd 1898. The Stage Newspaper reported on the reopening in their 6th of October edition saying:- 'After being closed for some time this popular music hall was reopened on Monday night, under, as before, the proprietorship of Mr. T. S. Dickie, and the management of Mr. Fred Law. Some alterations which have been effected in the hall are to its improvement.

    The place has been thoroughly overhauled, papered, and painted. The principal alterations, however, are with the restaurant and public-house connected with the establishment, which will not be completed for a few weeks.

    War was the sketch that filled the house with enthusiasm on Monday. War, the Spanish-American incident so graphically illustrated by Mr. Frederick Maxwell, Mrs. Lois Du Cane, and company, is a safe card for any manager to play. The Mayvilles (Harry and Elsie), "Liliputian Wonders," proved an entertaining couple, and another sprightly pair are the Donnells (Kate and James), who gave duets briskly and danced in smart fashion.

    Harry Nation, a comic singer in the proper sense of the word, amused the audience with "Innocent Lambs" and "The Old brigade." Corbett showed versatility in changing from "My 'Enery," a low comedy ditty, to "The Work Girl," a pathetic lay calculated to bring tears to the eyes of the sympathetic, which won abundant applause. The Three Phydoras, described as "marvellous eccentrics"; the Zetina Family; Joe Lawrence, "the upside-down comedian"; Henri Cazman, in a new act; Rice, Rose, Davis, and The Half; Mam'zelle Flossie, an exceedingly capable artist, clever alike in song and dance; Nat Clifford; and Miss Billie Barlow, a universal favourite, made up the bill. Mr. Victor Opferman's valuable services as musical director are retained.' - The Stage, October 6th 1898.

    * The Victoria Palace Theatre. *

    The Victoria Palace Theatre was designed by the renowned Theatre Architect Frank Matcham, and built by Henry Lovatt Ltd on the site of the former Royal Standard Music Hall at a cost of £12,000. The Theatre opened on the 6th November 1911. This new Theatre which, due to extra land being bought by Alfred Butt, was a lot bigger than the Royal Standard, was also the last great variety house to be built in the West End.

    The ERA enthused about the new Theatre in their 4th of November 1911 edition saying:- 'In the scheme of internal treatment the main object has been to combine a maximum of comfort and convenience with a prevailing note of simplicity. The handsome entrance hall through which the visitor passes to the stalls, dress circle, and boxes has walls of grey marble with embellishments of old gold mosaic and pillars of white Sicilian marble. Left and right from this vestibule there are cloakrooms and an elegant boudoir devoted to the comfort of the ladies.

    From the vestibule to the stalls, dress circle, and boxes it is but a very few steps and this ease of accessibility will be appreciated by all who, having entered the house, desire to reach their places in as little time as possible. For the further convenience of visitors to the tea room, dress circle and box levels there has been installed a lift, a feature which, doubtless, will be greatly appreciated. An elaborate heating system has been installed, which enables an even temperature to be kept throughout the winter, and in the summer the magnificent sliding roofs of the auditorium and main vestibule permit the house to be kept delightfully cool.' The above text in quotes was first published in the ERA, 4th November 1911.

    The Victoria Palace Theatre was to have an illustrious career. It opened on the 6th November 1911 with a variety bill and over the ensuing years every famous Music Hall and Variety name appeared there.

    The Theatre continued with plays, variety, repertory and revues, and in 1937 the musical 'Me and my Girl' opened, running for a record breaking 1,046 performances right up until the outbreak of war in 1939. The show was then revived again in 1944 and continued for another long run. The Theatre remained open during the war with, amongst others, George Black's 'Vanities,' 'La-Di-Da-Di-Da,' and Stanley Lupino in 'The Love Racket.'

    In 1945 the Theatre went back to its roots with various variety productions for a year but then on 17th April 1947 The Crazy Gang took over the Theatre and had incredible success there for 15 years until 1962. After the Crazy Gang left the Theatre then became famous for The Black And White Minstrels shows which ran until 1970 and were regular features on television too.

    In 1991 Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen took over the Theatre from its long time owners Stoll Moss Theatres. Cohen went on to lavish a great deal of time and money on the building, enlarging the Foyer, adding modern W.C. facilities, increasing the dressing rooms, adding a new bar on the ground floor where an alley originally ran along the side of the building, and, in 2006, he replaced the figure of Pavlova which originally crowned the dome but had been missing since being removed in the second world war.

    From 2012 the Victoria Palace Theatre began suffering major upheaval due to works on enlarging and upgrading Victoria Station. The Theatre became something of an island site whilst all the surrounding buildings were demolished and a long running dispute between the Theatre's owners and London Underground ensued. However, the works did reveal the Theatre's side and rear elevations for the first time since its construction some 100 years earlier.

    In 2014 Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen sold the Victoria Palace to Delfont Mackintosh Theatres who announced at the time that 'Billy Elliot' would continue to run at the Theatre until the Autumn of 2016 when planned extensions to the stage house would be carried out along with major refurbishment of the Theatre.

    The last performance of 'Billy Elliot' was eventually brought forward to Saturday the 9th of April 2016, and the Stage House demolition, rebuild, and refurbishment of the Theatre were originally scheduled to take place shortly after this. However, although the refurbishment of the Theatre was carried out, the rebuild of the stage house was put on hold so that the proposed opening of the Broadway hit 'Hamilton' for the Theatre's reopening could take place in November 2017. Plans were then put in place to build a new stage house around the old one whilst 'Hamilton' was running at the Theatre, and for the old stage house to be demolished, revealing the new one, once 'Hamilton' leaves the Theatre. A very innovative plan and one which has only been attempted a few times. The project includes a new Fly Tower and a larger Stage enabling the Theatre to accommodate much larger productions. The refurbishment plans for the Backstage areas of the Theatre also included a new rehearsal space and more dressing room accommodation for larger casts.

    Refurbishment of the rest of the Theatre was started once 'Billy Eliot' closed in April 2016, this part of the project included improved FOH facilities; adding a new extension to the side of the building which included a new lift, bars and toilet facilities; new boxes added to the rear of the Auditorium Stalls and Dress Circle; whilst the Stalls seating was altered to curved rows which it was hoped would provide better site lines and better use of the existing central aisle; FOH would also see the reopening of the original circular lightwell in the foyer and the reinstatement of the original box office location.

    One of the major changes to the auditorium, which was completely refurbished during the renovations, was to widen the proscenium arch by 1.49 metres in order to provide better site lines for seats at the side of the auditorium, and to accommodate the larger depth of the new stage once it is revealed after 'Hamilton' closes, this was achieved by removing the plaster panels on either side of the proscenium and inserting an additional plaster panel above the stage. Sadly the Theatre's Safety Curtain, which was repainted by the Theatre's Master Carpenter many years before, and designed to reflect a crowded audience back at them, had to be replaced during the refurbishment to accommodate the enlarged proscenium opening.

    Whilst the Theatre was closed and being refurbished from 2016 to 2017 major redevelopment all around the building left the Theatre looking like a scene from the 2009 film 'UP'. The new buildings rapidly swamped Matcham's 1911 Theatre, and looked completely out of place in context with its historic architecture. The Nova Victoria building, which now towers over the Theatre, soon won the less than coveted Carbuncle Cup award of 2017 ('the award no one wants to win') for being the UK's worst building, described by them as a 'bright red hideous mess'! The Carbuncle Cup is run by the Building Design Magazine (BD), and their judges for the award described the building as "crass, over-scaled and a hideous mess".

    ACCESS

    * –– *

    Venue Access Information.

    Discounts are offered, subject to availability, for disabled theatregoers and one companion, including wheelchair users and Patrons who have specific access requirements. To discuss your visit and availability please: Call Now On 0344 482 5137 or email mailto:access@delfontmackintosh.co.uk

    Hearing. There is a Hearing-Impaired infra-red system in the auditorium and induction loop at Box Office. They also provide occasional sign language interpreted performances. Guide Dogs, Hearing Dogs & registered Assistance Dogs. Guide dogs are allowed in to the auditorium. Alternatively, staff are happy to dog sit.

    Wheelchairs. Wheelchair access to the auditorium is available via Allington Street located to the left of the theatre. Please make yourself known to a member of staff on arrival at the venue, who will arrange for an Access Host to advise you on the best route to your seat. If you cannot transfer out of your chair companions can sit beside you. They also have a number of transferable seats available. Wheelchair seats/transfers must be booked in advance. They have a low-level counter box office and an Access Host is available from their front of house team to help you in any way they can, should you require any assistance.

    Toilets. There are toilets located on all levels and a wheelchair access adapted toilet is located at the rear of the stalls. Please note: The Grand Circle is steeply stepped and may not be suitable for vertigo sufferers.

    Paperless Ticketing. The producers of HAMILTON are determined to combat the unauthorised profiteering by third party resellers and ticket touts and to protect patrons from having to pay highly-inflated prices. Therefore, Delfont Mackintosh Theatres are operating a new paperless ticketing system, HAMILTON Paperless Ticketing, powered by Ticketmaster. No traditional tickets will be issued in advance. The payment card you use to originally purchase your tickets will gain you admission to the theatre on the night.

    Upon arrival at the theatre, patrons will be required to present their original email confirmation, their original payment card and a Government-issued photo ID such as a driving license or passport as proof of ID. The cardholder must be present and attend the performance. The theatre will then swipe the patron's card to produce seat location slips which gain them and their party admittance into the auditorium. All members of the party should enter the theatre at the same time.

    Facilities. There is a licensed bar and toilets on every level. There is a cloakroom at the theatre located to the right of the main entrance in the theatre foyer. However they are only able to store a limited amount of coats and small bags so they request that you arrange to leave suitcases and large bags elsewhere before your visit. There is luggage storage available at Victoria Train Station.

    Once you have entered the theatre you will not be able to leave the building and re-enter and you must arrive with your full party. If required there are toilet facilities available in Victoria Station and a number of restaurants located close to the theatre.

    Security. For your comfort and security, you will be subject to additional checks on your visit - they appreciate your patience and understanding while these are taking place. Please arrive at the theatre one hour before the performance to allow time for these security checks to take place, latecomers will not be admitted until a suitable break in the performance.

    When arriving by London Underground, it is recommended to use the Cardinal Place or Victoria Street exits.

     

    Location : Victoria Palace Theatre, Victoria Street, London SW1E 5EA

    Transport: Rail : Victoria (National Rail) then 3 minutes. Underground: Victoria (District Line, Victoria Line, Circle Line) then 3 minutes. London Buses routes : 11, 24, 148, 211, 507, 700, 715, 716, 717, 719, 720, 721, 722, 728, 750, 751, N11, N44 and N136 stop close by.

    What's On

    Seating Plan.

    Access Line : 0344 482 5137

    Tel: 0844 482 5138