The Victoria Palace Theatre has a long and vibrant history that extends back to 1832 and has seen it host some high profile shows, display some awe-inspiring acting talent and eventually provide the home to one of the West End’s most popular shows – “Billy Elliot the Musical” – making it an intrinsic part of the London theatre scene. As such, it remains an historic and important venue and stands up alongside other theatres in Theatreland as a place not only to witness great shows but also to take a look at the designs of architects who operated at the turn of the century.
On the same location on Victoria Street, or Stockbridge Terrace as it was then known, the Royal Standard Hotel was found, having opened in 1832, and it was here in which audiences would arrive to get their first taste of the theatre on this site. It was in a small room above the stables of the hotel and as the 19th century progressed work was undertaken to expand this idea so the venue could really take off. So by the time the 20th century had rolled around it had gone through many incarnations and changed owners on multiple occasions.
But it was the 1910 reconstruction that brought us the Victoria Palace Theatre that we know today, with Frank Matcham handling the designs (who also designed venues such as the Coliseum and the London Palladium, in addition to further theatres across the country like the Buxton Opera House). What followed was an array of variety shows and music hall productions, with various long-running classics retaining their place on the stage in different decades. So it had managed to survive the onslaught of the Second World War and emerge as an exciting place to witness theatrical productions and as it was located in what was now a vibrant part of the capital, with Victoria Station found across the street, meaning it was attracting many punters.
And in the last few decades this has been proven by the abundance of world-class shows that have been brought to the stage of the Victoria Palace Theatre. These have included notable musicals produced by some of the biggest names in the business and they have ensured that audiences continue to flock to the theatre well into the future, whatever shows remain on or take to its stage.
Over the last century the Victoria Palace Theatre has welcomed a great deal of productions to its stage, which have ranged from plays, music hall and variety to the blockbuster musicals that retain their place on its stage in the modern day. As a result there have also been a range of well known names to work to the boards, from different generations of theatre history, meaning that the venue has always been a place to witness the stars of the day.
In its early years the venue boasted shows such as “Young England”, a play that became enormously popular for all the wrong reasons, with audiences flocking to the production just to see if it was as bad as everyone was saying. A patriotic play dealing with the Boy Scout movement, it would end up remaining on the stage for an impressive number of performances.
But it was not a tradition that the management of the Victoria Palace Theatre wanted to retain and as the century progressed the quality of the show would increase, with examples including “Me and My Girl” in the 1930s and “The Crazy Gang” on many occasions from the 1940s to 1960s. So the venue was steadily building up a reputation and eventually it would make way for the biggest shows in town.
As a result, the shows that are associated with the Victoria Palace Theatre in the modern day include well known names such as “Fame”, “Grease” and “Kiss Me Kate”, amongst others. “Fame” made its way to the stage in 2000 and remained for a year, presenting London theatre audiences with a show that had made headlines when it was first released in the Unites States in 1988. One of the follow-ups, “Grease”, ran from 2002 to 2003, but even this high profile show would fail to compare to the show that made its way to the stage in 2005 – “Billy Elliot the Musical”.
Based on the hit movie “Billy Elliot”, it focuses on a young boy as he follows his dreams of being a ballerina, set against the backdrop of the coal miners’ strikes in the North East of England in the 1980s. Over the course of its run, it has seen many young performers take on the role of Billy, whilst audiences have enjoyed the music provided by the legendary Elton John (with Lee Hall providing the book and lyrics – the same man behind the screenplay of the original movie).
Further Facts about the Victoria Palace Theatre
• The names for the venue when it was found above the Royal Standard Hotel included Moy’s Musical Hall and the Royal Standard Music Hall.
• Famous names to appear here include Lupino Lane, Will Hay, Tom Holland and Sally Dexter, amongst others.
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