Hippodrome, London
The Hippodrome is a building on the corner of Charing Cross Road and Leicester Square in the City of Westminster, London. The name was used for many different theatres and music halls, of which the London Hippodrome is one of only a few survivors. The name hippodrome was derived from animal acts forming a significant part of the entertainment.


The London Hippodrome was built in 1900 by Frank Matcham for Edward Moss for £250,000 as a hippodrome for circus and variety performances. The venue gave its first Circus show on 15 January 1900. Entry to the venue was through a bar, dressed as a ship's saloon and the performance space featured both a proscenium stage and an arena that sank into a 230 ft, 100,000 gallon water tank (400 ton, when full) for aquatic spectacles. The tank featured eight central fountains, and a circle of fountains around the side. Entrances at the side of the auditorium could also be flooded, and used for the entry of boats. Shows included equestrian acts, elephants and polar bears, and acrobats would dive from a Minstrel Gallery above a sliding roof, in the centre of the proscenium arch. The auditorium featured cantilevered galleries, removing the columns that often obstructed views in London theatres, the whole was covered by a painted glass retractable roof, that could be illuminated at night. The building included the headquarters of Moss Empires.

Theatre 1909-1951
In 1909, it was reconstructed by Matcham as a music-hall and variety theatre with 1340 seats in stalls, mezzanine, gallery, and upper gallery levels. It was here that Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake received its English première by the Ballets Russes in 1910. The Albert de Courville (1887”“1960) revues were performed here from December 1912. In 1919, the Hippodrome hosted the first official jazz gig in the United Kingdom, by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. Its reputation was for revue and musical comedy, among them The Five O'Clock Girl and also Mr. Cinders , both in 1929, and Ivor Novello's Perchance to Dream in 1938. From 1949 to 1951 it was the London equivalent of the Folies Bergères.

Talk of the Town
In 1958, the original interior was demolished and the London Hippodrome was converted into the cabaret restaurant, "Talk of the Town", featuring many of the popular artists of the time, including appearances by Diana Ross & The Supremes, Judy Garland, Eartha Kitt, Shirley Bassey and The Temptations, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Engelbert Humperdinck, Val Doonican, Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones, Lulu, Matt Monro, Cliff Richard, Stevie Wonder, Sacha Distel and Neil Sedaka. In February 1964, Ethel Merman made her only appearance in Britain in a season of cabaret. The Seekers' final concert was recorded for the album ' The Seekers: Live at The Talk of the Town' in 1968. This form of entertainment, in its turn fell out of public favour, and the venue closed in 1982. In 2009 The Hipppodrome was named by the Brecon Jazz Festival as one of 12 venues which had made the most important contributions to jazz music in the United Kingdom.

Night club years
Renovated yet again, the building was reopened as a nightclub/restaurant called "The London Hippodrome" by nightclub tycoon Peter Stringfellow in 1983. Some years later, Stringfellow sold it to a chain company called European Leisure. Under the stewardship of David Chipping and then Nigel Collinson the club went on to win many BEDA and DI awards, regularly attracting crowds in excess of 2,000. Following its sale to Luminar the club soon went out of fashion and it wasn't until April 2004 that the Hippodrome regained its standing when it was transformed into "Cirque at the Hippodrome". The interior was taken back to hues of reds and golds and Burlesque was the theme. Cirque at the Hippodrome won the BEDA award for best UK nightclub in 2004. It was revealed in October 2005 that the club had lost its public drinks licence and would no longer be able to serve alcohol as the local police didn't want what they called 'vertical drinking' in Leicester Square. The police also shut down most of the venues in the local area. Following this, in December 2005, the club was eventually forced to close, following reports of violence involving rival gangs after they had left the building.

The Hippodrome Casino
The Hippodrome is currently undergoing an extensive restoration programme taking it back to Matcham's original designs for use as a casino and is set to open late in 2011.

Notable Performers
  • The Andrews Sisters
  • Count Basie
  • Shirley Bassey
  • Tony Bennett
  • The Carpenters
  • Petula Clark
  • Alma Cogan
  • Sammy Davis Jr.
  • John Denver
  • Phyllis Diller
  • Sacha Distel
  • Val Doonican
  • Billy Eckstine
  • Ella Fitzgerald
  • Judy Garland
  • Buddy Greco
  • Anita Harris
  • Lena Horne
  • Harry Houdini
  • Engelbert Humperdinck
  • The Jackson 5
  • Tom Jones
  • Eartha Kitt
  • Danny La Rue
  • Lulu
  • Ethel Merman
  • Liza Minnelli
  • Matt Monro
  • Buddy Rich
  • Cliff Richard
  • Neil Sedaka
  • The Seekers
  • Frank Sinatra
  • Dusty Springfield
  • The Supremes
  • The Temptations
  • Mel Tormé
  • Pegleg Tony, the one-legged juggler
  • Sophie Tucker
  • Caterina Valente
  • Frankie Vaughan
  • Sarah Vaughan
  • Roger Whittaker
  • Stevie Wonder