The Charing Cross Theatre (formerly known as New Players Theatre) is a company that offers something a little different to other venues around town thanks to its unique location and size. It is a venue that has plenty of history behind it, but it is also a venue that has been granted numerous new leases of life over the last century and today stands as an intimate space to witness some acclaimed and unique pieces of theatre. So at its current location under the arches at Charing Cross Station it has attracted some memorable shows and it is likely to continue to do so well into the future.
A lot has happened since the Charing Cross Theatre opened its doors at its original home back in 1936. It arrived after the so-called theatre boom when the likes of architects from Frank Matcham to C J Phipps designed some of the best known West End venues around, so it has less been established for less than a century. But despite its relative youth it has witnessed a lot of history passing though its doors, not just in the form of celebrity endorsements and well known stars appearing on its stage, but also due to the outbreak of the Second World War, and its reconstruction in 1989.
Prior to the outbreak of the war the venue had built up an impressive reputation and this was thanks to the variety of shows and the skills of the performers. But once the war spread across Europe it was under threat. The Charing Cross Theatre was not the only venue to face the outbreak of the Blitz during its run, indeed venues like the Queen’s Theatre were damaged by German bombs during the conflict, but the Charing Cross was particularly vulnerable. This is because it was on the upper floors of a glass-roofed old building and the result was the need to find a temporary new home during the war.
Once the war was over the new venue at its location below the Arches in Charing Cross was established and this is where audiences travelling to witness productions at the Charing Cross Theatre will witness shows today. Since the war it has drummed up great success again whilst staging some well known performers and it is thanks to the recent revival that audiences can still enjoy this unique and acclaimed London theatre location.
There have been various different types of shows to appear at the Charing Cross Theatre and an early success came in 1937 under the name “Ridgeway’s Late Joys”, a late evening show that featured a cast that included the famous English comedy actress Patricia Hayes, who would go on to appear in various television shows as the decades progressed. Her co-stars were Meg Jenkins (who appeared in the film “Oliver!” in 1968), Richard Haydn (who voiced the caterpillar in Disney’s “Alive in Wonderland” in 1951) and Harold Scott, and with this team of players it proved to be a big hit.
Further big names would arrive at the venue as time moved on, with the venue welcoming an array of music hall stars. Amongst the names to appear during this time was Peter Ustinov, who made his professional debut with the “Late Joys”. Ustinov would go on to become a well known actor and writer whose credits would include “We’re No Angels”, “Romanoff and Juliet”, “Bedknobs and Broomsticks” and “Logan’s Run”, among others. So it is clear that the Charing Cross Theatre was an important part of culture as it was launching the careers of some of the country’s future stars.
This is a tradition that would continue after the war was over as well and then in more recent years the Charing Cross Theatre, at its current location under the Arches in Charing Cross, has welcomed shows such as “The Full Monty” and “Barbra and Frank”, in addition to a wealth of others.
“The Full Monty”, of course, was based on the famous British movie of the same name and appeared at the Charing Cross Theatre from December 2009 to January 2010 and was directed by Thom Southerland. Relocating the action from Sheffield to Buffalo, New York we follow unemployed steelworkers that come up with a unique plan to make some money – to become male strippers and perform the famous ‘Full Monty’. If they overcome their anxieties and fears they might just pull it off.
“Barbra and Frank” appeared at the Charing Cross Theatre almost a year later from November 2010 and imagined as show featuring Barbra Streisand and Frank Sinatra in “The Concert that Never Was”. With Sharon Owens and Sebastian Anzaldo taking on the lead roles the result was a glimpse of a musical showcase that would have gone down in history.
In the new decade there is going to be a lot to look forward to as the Charing Cross Theatre continues, with 2011 welcoming the likes of “Double Falsehood”, “The Exonerated” and more.
Further Facts about the Charing Cross Theatre
• Famous names that have appeared here include Harold Scott, Megs Jenkins, Richard Haydn, Patricia Hayes, Robert Eddison, Bernard Miles, Frith Banbury, Alec Clunes, Peter Ustinov, Daphne Anderson, Maggie Smith, Patsy Rowlands, Marian Studholme, Marion Grimaldi, and Margaret Burton, plus many others.
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