In a canny coincidence, current theatre manager Gareth Parnell shares his surname with Val Parnell, who first staged Sunday Night at the London Palladium 55 years ago (its last performance was in 1976). Gareth Parnell's Sunday Night at the London Palladium will comprise an evening of entertainment with acts “dating from pre-war Vaudeville to the modern-day musical era”.
For tickets, email [email protected]. The cost is a minimum £10 donation per ticket. All proceeds will be divided between two charities – the Theatrical Guild and U-Can Ask Angels.
In advance of Sunday’s celebrations, Mark Fox delves into the London Palladium’s illustrious history and explains more about how this unique event came about.
Variety from the start
The London Palladium, designed by Frank Matcham, opened on Boxing Day 1910 with a variety bill including Ella Shields of “Burlington Bertie” fame, Nellie Wallace and classical actor Martin Harvey. The site had previously been occupied by a Corinthian Bazaar, Hengler’s Circus and the National Skating Palace, so had long been recognised as a place of entertainment.
In subsequent years the Palladium became famous as the “Ace Variety Theatre of the World” and was a venue to which all performers aspired. Among the greats that have played here are Bob Hope, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Sophie Tucker, Ethel Merman, Howard Keel, Arthur Askey, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Tommy Steele, Julie Andrews, Ken Dodd, the Two Ronnies and Cliff Richard.
For many years, the building was home to the Crazy Gang, with successive shows featuring Flanagan and Allen and their madcap comrades as well as being the most used venue for the annual Royal Variety Performance.
Sunday Night is born
With the advent of television, the weekly broadcasts of Sunday Night at the London Palladium became an institution and, with hosts including Bruce Forsyth and Jimmy Tarbuck, made the venue even more famous.
In 1979 Yul Brynner arrived in a spectacular production of The King and I which heralded further musicals in recent years, including Andrew Lloyd Webber’s production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cameron Mackintosh’s Oliver!, Saturday Night Fever, The King and I starring Elaine Paige, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Tommy Steele in Scrooge, Sinatra at the Palladium, The Sound of Music and, current resident, Sister Act. The Wizard of Oz begins performances in February 2011.
A loving tribute
With such a rich and varied history, the centenary of the London Palladium is definitely something to be celebrated, and the current building staff are so keen to show how much they love the building that they have organised this special one-off Sunday concert performance featuring tributes to some of the highlights of the past century.
They will not be able to include everything so not everyone’s favourite performers can be guaranteed but with nods to the Andrews Sisters, Sammy Davis Jr, Mamma Cass Elliot, Judy Garland, the Supremes, the Beatles and numbers from some of the more recent musicals, there is sure to be plenty on the bill to please.
Performing at the London Palladium was considered to be the pinnacle of any great entertainment career, and the building occupies a special place in the heart of anyone who has ever been involved with it. Gareth Parnell's Sunday Night at the London Palladium is a loving birthday message from the current staff to the theatre. They hope you will join them to celebrate.