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Phoenix Theatre

  • Theatre
  • Charing Cross Road

Time Out says

This plushy theatre plays host to some of the West End's biggest musicals

Phoenix Theatre made an auspicious West End debut in 1930, when it opened its doors with Noël Coward's 'Private Lives', with a cast including Gertrude Lawrence and a young Laurence Olivier. From the outside, it doesn't look like much. But step beyond its austere neoclassical facade and you'll discover one of the West End's most ambitious and showiest interiors, boasting endless Italianate gilt flourishes, a spectacular mirrored ceiling, paintings inspired by greats such as Tinteretto and Titian, and room for over 1000 audience members. In its early years, the Phoenix kept up its link with Coward, staging his collection of short plays 'Tonight at 8.30' (which included the drama that inspired 'Brief Encounter') - a link that's commemorated by the venue's Noël Coward bar.

It went on to stage a mix of highbrow dramas and musicals before committing to the latter genre in 1968, when it regaled audiences with a hugely successful (but now almost completely forgotten) musical version of 'The Canterbury Tales'. This medieval extravaganza launched just after the Lord Chamberlain's censorship of London theatres came to an end, and crowds were so delighted by its bawdy themes that it ran for 2,080 performances. But an even bigger success came when Willy Russell's long-running musical 'Blood Brothers' took up residency in 1991, and ran for nearly two decades with a bloody, moving epic of Liverpool gangs. Since ‘Blood Brothers’ left in 2012 the Phoenix Theatre has hosted a pretty eclectic range of shows, including 'Once', 'Bend it Like Beckham', 'Chicago' and 'The Girls', with a definite musical theatre bias. Its latest show is Broadway import 'Come From Away', which comes to the West End on a tidal wave of hype. 


Charing Cross Road
Tube: Leicester Square/Tottenham Court Road
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‘Come from Away’ review

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Musicals

Musicals don’t come much more low-key, wholesome or Canadian than ‘Come from Away’. Writers Irene Sankoff and David Hein cook up the straightforward world of the Newfoundland town of Gander using a very straightforward set of ingredients. The cast wear sensible shoes and lumberjack shirts. They tramp across a wood-decked stage that evokes the huge skies of their tiny island. They sing their way through a set of folk-tinged songs that tell stories of the five days after 9/11, when 38 planes made emergency landings on the island’s huge, disused airstrip. And it’s all totally, soul-feedingly wonderful. ‘Come from Away’ has been a massive sleeper hit across North America, Broadway included, and it’s easy to see why: it mixes down-home authenticity with the desperate intensity that comes in times of crisis. This is a moment where 7,000 temporary arrivals join a community of just 9,000 people. Logistics might not be the sexiest of topics for a musical, but one of the many surprising joys of this show is how gripping it makes things like the struggle to rustle up transport at a time when the local school bus drivers were on strike and had to be coaxed into crossing the picket line. Then there are beds, food, medication and interpreters to be sourced for passengers from across the world: one non-English-speaking couple communicates by cross-referencing Bible verses. Based closely on interviews with real Newfoundlanders, this is a picture of a community that stretches itself to break

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