The Piccadilly Theatre was built in 1928 by Bertie Crewe and Edward A. Stone for Edward Laurillard. It has a 1,232 seat auditorium with a memorable and unique Art Deco design. The theatre was as spectacular on its opening day as it is now, as the original brochure claimed that “if all the bricks used in the building were laid in a straight line, they would stretch from London to Paris.”
In its early years, the Piccadilly Theatre was briefly taken over by Warner Brothers and operated as a cinema using the Vitaphone system. There, it premièred the first talking picture to be shown in Great Britain, The Singing Fool with Al Jolson. He also opened the Jazz Singer in 1928 and appeared afterward on-stage to sing Mammie. Since then, the Piccadilly has presented most forms of stage entertainment – from hard-hitting drama Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? (with its original Broadway cast), to A Night With Dame Edna.
Having been opened under the name The Piccadilly Theatre, it was relaunched in 1936 as a cabaret restaurant called London Casino. It was badly damaged in World War II and underwent many renovations before reopening under its original name of The Piccadilly Theatre in the early 1950s.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the theatre hosted many Broadway productions as they migrated to the West End including A Street Car Named Desire and Man Of La Mancha. Also during the 1960s, The Beatles recorded some songs there for a BBC Radio production.
There have been a variety of Royal Shakespeare Company productions there including Edward II starring Ian McKellen, and Henry Fonda also made his West End debut in the solo play, Clarence Darrow.