The Dominion Theatre is a West End theatre and former cinema on Tottenham Court Road, close to St Giles Circus and Centre Point, in the London Borough of Camden. The Dominion was home to the long-running musical We Will Rock You, which played at the theatre from 14 May 2002 until 31 May 2014. It was also home to the London auditions of Britain's Got Talent, and from February to April 2016 to War of the Worlds.
|Address||Tottenham Court Road|
|Public transit||Tottenham Court Road|
|Designation||Grade II listed|
|Type||West End theatre|
|Capacity||2,163 on 2 levels |
2,074 (for WWRY)
|Architect||W & TR Milburn|
|Hillsong Church (Sundays, 2005-present)|
Over several years, the theatre has undergone a rolling programme of refurbishment which has included reclaiming the area above the main foyer as a studio for rehearsals or events (2008), and reclaiming the offices in Nederlander House, which were originally part of the theatre but had been rented as commercial office space. Within this area, originally listed on the theatre plans as a 'Boardroom', a new Boardroom space has been created (2011). Following the closure of We Will Rock You, the theatre remained dark for 15 weeks, during which time owners undertook a mass programme of refurbishment, including replacing carpets, painting and restoring architectural features, refurbishing seats, renovating the 'front of house' toilets and bars, and updating much of the backstage facilities, including the flying system. This £6 million restoration programme was completed in 2017 with the unveiling of a brand new double-sided LED screen, the largest and highest resolution projecting screen on the exterior of a West End theatre.
Since re-opening on 16 September 2014, the Dominion Theatre has been home to a number of short run musicals and spectaculars, including Evita (September 2014), White Christmas (November 2014), Lord of the Dance (March 2015) and the London premiere of Elf (October 2015). Between March 2017 – January 2018, the Dominion Theatre was home to An American in Paris.
In addition to hosting musicals in recent years, the theatre has also hosted a number of regular charity events, including MADTrust's West End Eurovision (2012, 2013, 2014) and West End Heroes (2013, 2014, 2015). 'West End Heroes' was produced by the theatre and brought together stars from current West End Shows, with musicians, from all the armed forces. The second event, in 2014, was hosted by Michael Ball.
Construction of The Dominion began in March 1928 with a design by W and TR Milburn and a budget of £460,000. The site was the location of the former Horse Shoe Brewery, which was the site of the 1814 London Beer Flood. The first performance was 3 October 1929. The Tottenham Court Road façade features a ground level entry sheltered by a broad marquee with the second through fourth levels framed by large pilasters. The central portion is concave and faced with Portland stone. A three-bay bow window extends the height of the second and third storeys and is surmounted by sculpture of two griffins. Behind the griffin statue are three square openings which hold decorative iron grates. The griffins were removed in 1932 to mount an aeroplane for the musical Silver Wings. The remainder of the bow window was hidden during the run of We Will Rock You by a large shimmer curtain and statue of Freddie Mercury. These elements were reinstalled as part of the restoration. In addition to restoring the Tottenham Court Road façade, the stonework and windows of the dressing room block at the rear of the theatre were cleaned and replaced.
When the Dominion was built, it was linked to the building on Great Russell Street now known as Nederlander House. This building had been separated from the theatre and rented as office space for many decades. In 2011, the Dominion spent £200K reinstating the connection between the theatre, with this building returning its use to that the original theatre builders intended. It is now home to the theatre management offices plus a refurbished Boardroom space on the top floor. This Boardroom is marked as such on the original 1929 plans and it is now being hired out by the theatre's Dominion Events department for meeting, training and conference bookings. Other areas above the main foyer, which the Rank Organisation converted to office space, have been restored and now house 'The Studio' a rehearsal and audition space.
The auditorium, as of 2021, has a seating capacity of 2,069 in two tiers of galleries, down from the 1940 capacity of 2,858 following the closure many decades ago of the upper circle. The theatre retains its 1920s light fittings and art deco plasterwork.
After initial success, including the London premiere of Charlie Chaplin's City Lights in February 1931, with Chaplin himself attending, the theatre began a financial slide until the company was liquidated 30 May 1932. In 1933, Associated Provincial Picture Houses assumed control of the facility and adapted the auditorium for films. In 1940, Associated became part of the Rank Organisation.
The Dominion temporarily closed because of the Blitz early in October 1940 and reopened on 12 January 1941. After World War II, the theatre hosted both movies and live shows. Bill Haley and the Comets opened their UK tour at the Dominion in February 1957. Its first major live show was The Judy Garland Show which ran for a month in 1957 and it has been a popular venue for musical theatre since. Soon after, the theatre received a Todd-AO system with two Philips 70 mm / 35 mm projectors and a 45 feet (14 m) wide screen. The film version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's South Pacific opened 21 April 1958 and played four years and 22 weeks grossing $3.9 million. In 1963, Elizabeth Taylor appeared at the European opening of Cleopatra which played for almost two years. On 29 March 1965 the film The Sound of Music was screened here until 29 June 1968, the longest run of screenings of the film at any venue in the world. The re-release of David Lean's 1962 Lawrence of Arabia had its screening here from 11 September 1970.
During the 1980s, it became a popular venue for music concerts. It was where Tangerine Dream recorded the album Logos in 1982, which contains a tribute tune called "Dominion". Dolly Parton filmed her 1983 concert at the Dominion and released it as a television special, Dolly in London. Other performers to appear during this era included Duran Duran, Adam and The Ants, Billy Bragg, Bon Jovi, The Boomtown Rats, Boy George, David Bowie, Ian Drury and the Blockheads, Manfred Mann, Sinead O'Connor, The Stranglers, Thin Lizzy, U2 and Van Morrison. In 1986, the Dominion hosted the musical Time, whose producers altered the interior extensively to accommodate the production.
Since the early 1990s the Dominion has hosted several musicals including a new production of Grease by David Ian and Paul Nicholas, Scrooge: The Musical, Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake, Disney's Beauty and the Beast, a return of Grease, and Notre Dame de Paris. In 2002, the hit stage musical We Will Rock You, based on the songs of Queen, created by Queen guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor together with British comedian Ben Elton opened. The show was scheduled to close in October 2006 before embarking on a UK tour, but due to popular demand was extended indefinitely.
In 2012, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of We Will Rock You, the theatre created the Freddie Mercury Suite, which displays pictures from the Queen singer's lifetime. This area was previously housed memorabilia of Judy Garland. In March 2014, producers announced that We Will Rock You would close on 31 May 2014.
The Theatre played host to a "re-imagined" production of Jeff Wayne's musical version of The War of the Worlds from February to April 2016 and featured direction by Bob Thompson, an onstage orchestra conducted by Jeff Wayne and Liam Neeson as the Journalist in 3D holography.
The Dominion has had a variety of owners during its history. The Rank Organisation and Apollo Leisure operated it from 1988 to 1999. In 1999, SFX Entertainment acquired Apollo Leisure and in 2001 Clear Channel Entertainment, part of the US based multinational, purchased SFX. Clear Channel spun-off its venues as Live Nation UK who operated Clear Channel's venues on behalf of the Nederlander Organization. On 23 October 2009 the Nederlander Organization took full control of the venue, purchasing Live Nation's portion of ownership.
Since January 2005, Hillsong Church London have held church services each Sunday at the Dominion Theatre.
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