Alhambra Theatre of Variety

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The Alhambra Theatre of Variety was a popular music hall located at Leicester Square, in the West End of London, England. It was built originally as the Royal Panopticon of Science and Arts opening on 18 March 1854.

Alhambra Theatre of Variety
Leicester Square with the Alhambra formerly the Royal Panopticon ILN 1874.jpg
The Alhambra Theatre dominated Leicester Square in 1874
Address23–27 Leicester Square
Westminster, London
Coordinates51°30′37″N 0°07′49″W / 51.510278°N 0.130278°W / 51.510278; -0.130278Coordinates: 51°30′37″N 0°07′49″W / 51.510278°N 0.130278°W / 51.510278; -0.130278
TypeMusic hall
Years active1854– ??
ArchitectT. Hayter Lewis

Music hallEdit

Balcony at the Alhambra by Spencer Gore, painted 1910-1911.
Programme cover from The Bing Boys Are Here 1916.

The Alhambra Theatre of Variety became a model for Parisian music halls. Some years before the Folies-Bergere it staged circus attractions alongside popular ballets in 55 new productions between 1864 and 1870.[1]

The Alhambra Theatre of Variety was predominantly used for the popular entertainment of the day. The usual music hall acts were performed, as well as the début of Jules Léotard performing his aerial act, above the heads of diners in May 1861. Other entertainments included "patriotic demonstrations" celebrating the British Empire and British military successes. The theatre also staged ballet and light opera. In the 1860s, John Hollingshead took over the management and made it famous for its corps de ballet.

Early films were also a part of the entertainment, with Robert W. Paul, a former collaborator of Birt Acres, presenting his first theatrical programme on 25 March 1896.


The Alhambra Theatre of Variety moved into 23–27 Leicester Square, where previously the Royal Panopticon of Science and Art was housed for two years. The Alhambra Theatre of Variety opened 3 April 1858. Inside the building a central rotunda. There was a secondary entrance to the rear on Charing Cross Road.


  1. ^ Sarah Gutsche-Miller (2015). Parisian Music-hall Ballet 1871-1913. Boydell & Brewer. p. 4. ISBN 9781580464420.