Dates: 1900 – present
Opened on January 15, 1900, the circus variety theatre was designed for Edward Moss by the renowned theatre architect Frank Matcham. The first shows made use of the 100,000 gallon tank in which polar bears and sea lions would swim. The opening show was Giddy Ostend, starring music hall performer Little Tich, and a young Charles Chaplin.
The water tank was illuminated and was able to produce water fountains that shot water to the roof.
A troupe of acrobatic dwarves used to dive from the Minstrel’s Gallery at the top of the building into the pool.
Initially, the orchestra was located in the grand circle, not in an orchestra pit in front of the stage.
Works in 1909 enlarged the stage and advanced the proscenium to suit the theatre for variety rather than circus use and, from 1912, revue-style performances.
Harry Houdini performed some of his final and most spectacular acts at the Hippodrome.
Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake had its UK debut at the Hippodrome in 1910.
1921: A variety show ‘The Peep Show’ featured a scene called The Valley of Echoes, featuring lighting effects by ‘Wizard of Light’ Adrian Samoiloff.
Julie Andrews made her professional solo debut singing the aria ‘Je Suis Titania’ from Mignon as part of a musical revue called Starlight Roof on October 22, 1947
In the 1950s the Hippodrome was transformed into the legendary Talk of the Town, and featured a host of major stars from throughout the world including Shirley Bassey, Judy Garland, Sammy Davis Jr, The Jackson 5 and Tom Jones. This continued until 1982.
After various different reincarnations, including a nightclub under the management of Peter Stringfellow, in 2008 the venue returned to its roots as a circus venue for burlesque cabaret La Clique, which closed in June 2009.
Work to transform and restore the building began in 2009.