Phoenix Theatre -
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Phoenix Theatre history

Designed by a group of architects, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, Bertie Crewe and Cecil Masey, the Phoenix theatre opened on 24th September 1930 and is a Grade II listed building seating 1012 people over three levels.

The theatre’s mundane exterior, shared with a selection of shops on Charing Cross Road, belies an ornate interior in pre-Baroque Renaissance style. The Russian director Theodore Kormisarjevsky chose this great period in Italian culture for the sense of wonder it generates, feeling its artistic sensibility would stimulate and excite the audience.

In the 1970s the theatre’s main entrance moved from Charing Cross Road to Phoenix Street, a short walk away. The advance box office, however, only moved a stone’s throw from the original entrance on Charing Cross Road.

The theatre is known for its affiliation with Noel Coward and its opening production was the premiere of Private Lives. This production of the famous comedy featured Noel Coward himself as Elyot, Gertrude Lawrence as Amanda, Laurence Olivier as Victor and Adrienne Allen as Sybil. Private Lives played for three months before relocating to Broadway, and Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence returned to the theatre in 1936 with Tonight at 8.30, a selection of nine one-act plays.

The tail end of the 1960s saw further changes to the theatre including the bar being renamed ‘The Noel Coward Bar’. This was followed by a midnight matinee special A Talent To Amuse, organised by the theatre’s owners in honour of Coward’s 70th birthday and intended to raise money for the Combined Theatrical Charities. The night saw over 100 stage stars performing extracts from Coward’s work, and was compèred by Richard Attenborough and Robert Morley.

Other productions of note include 1968’s Canterbury Tales, a Chaucer classic which ran for over 2000 performances. Tom Stoppard’s Night and Day ran for two years and Willy Russell’s musical Blood Brothers transferred from the Albery Theatre in 1991, the longest-running show at the Phoenix – it ran until 2012.

Since the close of Blood Brothers the theatre hosted a short run of Goodbye Mr Tom before taking on the Broadway hit musical Once in April 2013.