26th December 1910. The London Palladium.
Many of the vanished Empire Theatres were designed by Frank ‘Matchless’ Matcham including the London Coliseum, Victoria Palace, and The London Palladium which opened Today on Boxing Day 1910, with a variety show and one act play, The Conspiracy.
The Palladium with 3435 seats in London’s Argyll Street, was Walter Gibbs’ answer to compete with Sir Edward Moss’s, London Hippodrome and Sir Oswald Stoll’s, London Coliseum.
In 1912 Charles Gulliver, who had taken over, ran the place hard with twice-nightly shows and three weekly matinees, and from the beginning The Palladium put on variety, music hall acts, melodrama, farce and operetta.
Other theatres of the time were Edward Stoll’s Coliseum (signs said no strong language). Blackpool Opera House, the Victoria Palace and the many Prince of Wales Theatres.
They were a new breed of theatre to escape the smelly, smoky and vulgar music halls, each of which had different weapons to throw at disliked performers: rivets were favourite in Glasgow!
Many northern comics failed at the Palladium which preferred the camp humour of southerners such as Max Miller and Frankie Howard.
In 1928 The Palladium was bought by the General Theatre Company who turned it into a cinema, which only lasted for three months. Then impresario George Black took over and put on spectacular variety with Crazy Week with the Crazy Gang, which eventually moved to its own designated Victoria Palace.
Between 1930 and 1938 Pantomime was popular, with Peter Pan a ‘must’ for Christmas.
On Black’s death in 1946 Val Parnell took over when the theatre became owned by Moss Empires.
The Royal Command Performance became an annual event in 1921 at the suggestion of King George V, becoming The Royal Variety Show.
It has been held intermittently at The Palladium, as well as for the greatest number of times, from 1930 to 2014.
This variety theme was picked up by ITV’s Sunday Night at the London Palladium from 1955 to 1967 by Val Parnell though Tommy Trinder, ‘You lucky people’ upset impresario Lou Grade and was sacked and replaced by Bruce Forsythe with his merry quip: ‘I’m in Charge’.
The longest number of performances, of the recent past, was 1414 by Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
It ended September 2005 after 3 and a half years.
Now the Palladium is owned by The Really Useful Theatre Group
Ref: arthurlloyd.org uk/london-palladium/Pic Images.