At its grand opening in April 1928, the Piccadilly Theatre was one of the largest theatres to be built in London - as its souvenir brochure claimed, 'If all the bricks used in the building were laid in a straight line, they would stretch from London to Paris'. The opening production starred one of the most acclaimed actresses of the period, Miss Evelyn Laye.
In its early days, the Piccadilly operated as a cinema and made entertainment history when it premiered the very first talking picture to be shown in Britain, The Singing Fool with Al Jolson. He also opened the Jazz Singer in 1928 and appeared afterwards on-stage to sing Mammie. The Piccadilly has presented most forms of stage entertainment from Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (with its original Broadway cast) to A Night with Dame Edna. There have been a variety of Royal Shakespeare Company productions including Edward II starring Ian McKellen, and Henry Fonda also made his West End debut in the solo play, Clarence Darrow.
The 1990s witnessed an expansion in musicals, ballet and dance, notably the most successful commercial ballet season ever to play in the West End, with Adventures in Motion Pictures' Swan Lake. The Piccadilly has been home to a season of plays directed by Sir Peter Hall, starring famous names such as Judi Dench, Michael Pennington, Julia MacKenzie and Eric Sykes. It has also hosted the smash-hit musical Spend Spend Spend starring the Olivier award-winning actress, Barbara Dickson, the sell-out run of Shockheaded Peter, Noises Off starring Lynn Redgrave, Ragtime, the transfer of the National Theatre's acclaimed production of Jumpers, Jailhouse Rock, Guys and Dolls and Grease the Musical. Recent productions include Ghost the Musical and Viva Forever. The Piccadilly is currently home to Dirty Dancing – the Classic Story on Stage, which plays from July 2013 to February 2014.