110 Charing Cross Road,
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Ambassador Theatre Group (Official)
Operated by: Ambassador Theatre Group
Functions: Live Theatre
Styles: Italian Renaissance
Built on the site of an amusement hall, known as the Alcazar. The Phoenix Theatre was built by Sydney Bernstein, owner of the Granada Theatres Ltd. chain of cinemas. It was opened on 24th September 1930 with the World Premiere production of Noel Coward’s "Private Lives", which starred Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence in her first West End stage role. Also in the cast were Laurence Olivier and Adrianne Allen, the 3-month run was a total sell-out.
There are two entrances to the Phoenix Theatre, one on Charing Cross Road, which was designed by architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. For many years this served as the main entrance, but today is mainly used as an exit. The other much larger entrance is around the corner on Phoenix Street, which also gave the theatre its name. The theatre was designed by architect’s Bertie Crewe and Cecil Masey, with the interior in an Itallian Renaissance style conceived by the noted Russian set designer Theodore Komisarjevsky, who also designed many of the Granada Theatre’s chain of cinema interiors. Seating is provided in orchestra stalls (which are below street level), dress circle (at street level) and an upper balcony. Copies of paintings by Titian, Giorgione, Tintoretto and Pinturicchio are located in panels on the side walls and are the work of artist Vladimir Polunin, while the Safety Curtain has a huge reproduction of Jacobo del Sellaio’s ‘The Triumph of Love’, again painted by Vladimir Polunin.
The Phoenix Theatre was built as a live theatre, but was also fully equipped as a cinema. The UK Premiere of Rene Clair’s "Le Million" was screened at the Phoenix Theatre on 22nd April 1931, and the film played at the theatre until June 1931. The Phoenix Theatre became a public cinema again from 8th February 1939, but this was only a short lived venture. The theatre was also used extensively for film industry trade shows during the 1930’s, 1940’s and into the 1950’s. Films returned in 1976 and 1977, when children’s film matinees were screened.
Otherwise, as a live theatre, the Phoenix Theatre, despite its excellent location, has had only a few hit shows “Tonight At 8;30”, again with Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence in 1936, Cecily Cortneidge in “Under the Counter”(1945), Tom Stoppard’s "Night and Day"(1978) and Steven Sondheim’s "Into the Woods"(1990). Long run hits have been the musical "Canterbury Tales" in 1968 until 1973, and "Blood Brothers" musical, which transfered from the Albery Theatre in 1991 and had a 21 years run, ending in November 2012.
The Phoenix Theatre is operated by the Ambassador Theatres Group and is a Grade II Listed building.
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