What’s a trip to London without seeing a West End show? Here’s a guide to ease your navigation through the huge selection of musicals, divided into three categories.
The West End is one of London’s many attractions and is definitely worth visiting when in the city. The selection of shows is huge and it can be hard to know which ones to choose. We’ve listed some of the best musicals out there and divided them into three categories, to make your choice a bit easier. Get ready to be entertained by these world-class shows.
The classic musical
An increasing number of musicals appear on The West End but there are still some shows that will never go out of style. Here are three of the best and longest-running musicals in London.
Les Miserables is the longest-running musical on West End and has enchanted its audience for almost 30 years. Even though the tale is truly moving, it’s the music that really makes the show what it is. A grand orchestra accompanies beautiful ballads and epic anthems you may have already heard, as many of them have actually become hits in their own right. With its incredible set and costumes, Les Miserables brings you back to 19th century Paris and the French revolution. The compelling love story, combined with the fight against injustice, makes this a thrilling and emotional experience suitable for romantic evenings, as well as a family afternoon out. You’ll find it in the Queen’s Theatre.
The Phantom of the Opera
Breathing down Les Miserables’ neck on the list of the longest-running West End musicals is The Phantom of the Opera. In its 28th year, this glorious show is still stunning the crowd at Her Majesty’s Theatre with Andrew Lloyd Webbers enchanting score. The story is set at the Paris Opera House where the feared Phantom is hiding, but at the same time trying to resist his strong love for the beautiful soprano, Christine. Topped of by fantastic scenery and incredible special effects, this tragic love story fits perfectly for date night. The tale is a bit dark so this may not be the show to bring the youngest kids to.
After a break of several years, Cats is finally back on West End, this time with super star Nicole Scherzinger in a leading role. But be quick and don’t miss it as it is only running until the end of February at London Palladium. Every song tells the story of each cat and the show is more about the individuals than a narrative. Nevertheless, it’s exciting, the music is beautiful and the visuals are impeccable. The scenery and the award-winning costumes are actually worth the ticket price alone.
The Contemporary Musicals
Even though the classics are truly worth seeing, that doesn’t mean the newer shows are not. Actually, some of the more recent shows are by far the most popular ones, so make sure to book your tickets early.
Playing since 1999, Mamma Mia! is still one of the most popular musicals in London, playing at the Novello Theatre. This feel-good show, based on the ever so beloved music of ABBA, was made even more famous after the movie of 2008. Packed with colours, dance and everlasting hits, you will feel like you are attending a sparkling, summer party when you go to this show. In other words, Mamma Mia! is the ultimate entertainment on a rainy day.
The massively popular musical Wicked builds on the famous book and movie The Wizard of Oz. It tells the story of how the Wicked Witch of the West became who she is. Is she really wicked or is she just misunderstood? Even though the show has many fascinating and amusing references to the original film, it’s not necessary to have seen it to have a good experience. Get ready to enter a magical land of sparkling emeralds and captivating music.
The Book of Mormon
From the people behind the TV-series South Park comes The Book of Mormon. This is a relatively new show that opened with a bang and was sold out in record time. You should still be quick to get good tickets for this, as it remains the most sought after show on West End. It’s known to be hilarious, but think twice before bringing the kids. The Book of Mormon is, like South Park, best suited for liberal-minded audiences. With that said, the musical has won no less than 13 awards, so if you’re searching for some high-quality comedy, you’ll undoubtedly find it here.
The best shows for kids
What better family activity is there than experiencing an entertaining musical together and then talk about it all day long? Take a look at our top three shows for children.
The Lion King
Perhaps the best Disney classic of all-time, adapted to the musical stage, the well-known story of The Lion King has played in London for 15 years. It is a definite must-see for the whole family. Amazing costumes brings the animals to life on stage, making it a visual dream for adults as well as kids.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Go and see the recent Olivier Award winner, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, if you want to see a mysterious, yet light-hearted show, based on Roald Dahls’ popular book. The story, about a poor boy called Charlie and his journey inside the amazing chocolate factory, goes straight to the heart. The kids will love the scenery with chocolate gardens, a squirrel army and, of course, the weirdly wonderful Oompa-Loompas.
Combine joyful entertainment, witty dialogue and a somewhat educational story, with another Roald Dahl success. The tail of Mathilda, the clever girl with the magical powers, is truly charming and heart-warming. The children will love the show for sure and so will you, even if you leave the little ones at home.
The theatre scene is truly a central part of London’s culture and you’ll not regret spending at least one night in the audience. Hopefully this guide made it a bit easier to navigate through the jungle of West End shows. Book at the Radisson Blu Portman Hotel, London and stay at the heart of the West End.