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Originally Posted On: https://www.westend.com/top-10-west-end-musicals/
With such an incredible choice of West End shows, it can be hard to decide where to start. Even if you’re a seasoned showgoer, it can be challenging to filter through the flashing lights on Shaftesbury Avenue to find the best of the best. From drama and romance to comedy and fantasy, there’s something for every mood and every occasion.
While some theatres have been around since the 17th century, there’s never been a better time to catch a musical. Over 15,000,000 people went to the theatre in the capital in 2017, the highest number recorded since records began in 1986. Top-quality shows produced by leading talent in the theatre and music world, and many transfers from Broadway, meaning the standard is higher than ever, and it’s worth seeing more than one.
Our definitive list of the top 10 currently showing all-time classics, award-winning record breakers and the critically-acclaimed new kids on the block to help you pull together a list of your ‘must-sees’. Get booking those tickets!
The Lion King
The Lion King
The Lion King is one of Disney’s best loved stories is just as magnificent on stage as it is on screen. Including the songs you know and love, devised by Elton John and Tim Rice, this is a great show to introduce kids to musical theatre, or to indulge your own inner child. Famously based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the story stands the test of time for its themes of family rivalry, love and coming of age. The live stage version is often celebrated in particular for the creative set, costumes and use of puppetry which will transport you directly to the Pride Lands in an immersive experience. Upon its opening, the costumes were recognised with an Olivier Award along with the choreography. The Broadway production received Tony Awards for the costumes, set design, direction, choreography and lighting as well as winning Best Musical the year after it opened in 1997.
The show debuted in the West End in 1999 and has been running continuously ever since, currently at the Lyceum Theatre, proving its longstanding popularity. In 2014, it over took The Phantom of the Opera to hold the title of top-earning title in box-office history for both stage productions and film. The West End cast of The Lion King has even performed for the royal family at the Royal Variety Performance twice during the production’s history – Book Tickets
Hamilton is the real-life story of Alexander Hamilton – one of America’s foremost Founding Fathers, and the first Secretary of the Treasury. Born on a Caribbean island, Alexander Hamilton grew up a penniless orphan, with nothing to his name. With all the odds stacked against him, he made his way to America in search of a better life, and few could have predicted what would follow. Joining the revolutionaries in their quest for independence, Hamilton soon earned himself a reputation, ultimately becoming George Washington’s right-hand man. After successfully leading his troops to victory, Hamilton found a new career in politics, helping to lay the foundations for a new nation: the United States of America.
Often considered one of the most successful shows of all time, Hamilton is a worldwide phenomenon. The show was revolutionary, forever-changing musical theatre. Its use of hip-hop and R&B to retell American history was unlike anything that had ever been done before. Much like the man himself, Hamilton the Musical is a trailblazer with a lasting legacy.
The show first opened in 2017, where it received 5-star reviews from all of the major publications. It took Britain by storm and was sold out for months on end. The following year, the show’s popularity continued to grow, breaking the record for the most Olivier Award nominations ever received by any show. It ultimately won 7 awards, which was similarly record-breaking.
Hamilton explores numerous themes that resonate with audiences across the globe, which can in part be used to explain its resounding success. At its heart, the show is a tale of love and loss. The characters find themselves compelled to confront their mistakes and re-evaluate their worldview, just as we often have to in the present day. It’s quite literally a tale as old as time…
A trip to see Hamilton will be unforgettable and, to some, it may even be life-changing, so don’t miss out!
Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, a 1900-page, five-volume epic about the French Revolution seemed like an unlikely candidate for a musical when it was announced but its currently the longest running production in the West End. Playing at the Queen’s Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue since 1985, it has captivated generations of theatregoers. Commonly referred to as simply ‘Les Mis’, the story is an emotional rollercoaster where the characters and songs will take you through heartbreak and despair to bittersweet triumph and hope. If you enjoyed the 2012 film adaption, you’re bound to fall in love with it on stage. There’s nothing quite like the raw emotion of seeing songs like I Dreamed A Dream and One Day More performed live.
The original story is considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century and there have been numerous adaptions for TV and film, but none have quite left their mark like the West End musical. The legendary production has won Most Popular Show at the Olivier Awards twice, once in 2012 and again in 2014. Many famous names have been cast in the London staging of it too (Les Misérables has also had stints on Broadway and another 49 countries worldwide) including Michael Ball, Matt Lucas and notorious Broadway diva, Patti Lupone – Book Tickets
Tina the Musical
Tina the Musical
Tina Turner is an exceptional pop star who deserves a musical that does justice to her incredible story. Her powerhouse voice alone could shake the rafters of any theatre, but her life story is equally as powerful as her music.
In the hands of Olivier Award-winning playwright Katori Hall and director Phyllida Lloyd, Tina: the Musical is elevated beyond the typical story of pop stardom. They recognize that Turner’s life is a mix of tragedy and triumph, intertwined with America’s history of racial division and discrimination, and transform it into a quasi-pop-rock opera.
Born Anna Mae Bullock in Nutbush, Tennessee, she first showcases her incredible voice at the local community church to the embarrassment of her mother, Zelma. With her parents’ turbulent relationship, her mother leaves home with her sister Aline, and Anna Mae is raised by her grandmother, Georgeanna. As a teenager, she works in the cotton fields.
During a visit to her mother and sister in St. Louis, Anna Mae is discovered at a nightclub by rising singer-songwriter Ike Turner. Impressed by her belting voice, he signs her up for his backing band and eventually as his wife, leading to a well-documented marriage rife with drug and domestic abuse. However, on breaking free from their toxic relationship, Tina finally takes flight on her path to stardom.
The story of their marriage is powerfully portrayed in the musical, with Hall’s book giving equal weight to Ike’s charisma and cruelty. However, it’s only after leaving him, both physically and emotionally battered, that Tina truly starts to soar on her own.
Tina’s musical score is exceptional, with hits like “Nutbush City Limits,” “River Deep Mountain High,” “Proud Mary,” “What’s Love Got to Do With It?,” “We Don’t Need Another Hero,” and “The Best” building to a crescendo that’s impossible not to get swept up in.
Nkeki Obi-Melekwe, who currently plays Tina, is a force of nature, embodying the feisty, ferocious talent of the real Tina Turner. Every time she unleashes her voice, it’s an awe-inspiring moment that catches the audience off-guard.
In short, Tina: the Musical is a must-see for anyone who loves the music of Tina Turner or is intrigued by her incredible life story – Book Tickets
If you are seeking an extraordinary theatrical experience that will leave you in awe, look no further than Moulin Rouge. This smash hit is currently being performed at the Piccadilly Theatre in London’s West End, and it is the perfect show for those who want to revel in a story about freedom, truth, and embracing your individuality. Baz Luhrmann’s iconic film has been brought to life in the heart of London’s theatre district, complete with a score of over 70 remixed songs that will have you humming along for weeks to come.
The plot of Moulin Rouge revolves around the love story between an American writer named Christian and Satine, a mesmerizing star of the Moulin Rouge nightclub. Despite their differences, they fall deeply in love with each other, only to have their relationship put in jeopardy by the club’s owner, Harold Zidler, and the wealthy Duke of Monroth. Christian enlists the help of his Bohemian friends to fight against the club’s entitled patrons and save Satine and the Moulin Rouge. This heartwarming story will tug at your heartstrings and make you believe in the power of love once again.
Moulin Rouge features breathtaking costumes, superb acting, and a score that will touch your soul. This captivating production will transport you to a place where individuality is celebrated, and everyone is welcome to be themselves. With afternoon and evening shows available from Monday to Saturday, this spectacular West End show is not to be missed.
If you are looking for a thrilling night out in London, book your tickets to see Moulin Rouge today. With Liisi LaFontaine and Jamie Bogyo in the lead roles of Satine and Christian, respectively, you will instantly connect with the talented cast as they bring this beautiful love story to life on stage. Don’t miss your chance to experience Moulin Rouge – Book Tickets
The seventh-longest-running West End musical, Mamma Mia opened for the first time in 1999 and has one of the best international successes of any show, having been performed in over 50 countries worldwide. The original story of a young woman on a Greek island trying to find her father in the run-up to her wedding is set to the songs of Swedish pop sensation ABBA and is as much loved for the music as it is for the uplifting, fun-filled storyline. Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus from ABBA, who composed the original songs, were involved in the inception of the musical despite being sceptical when first approached. Its roaring success as it comes close to entering its fourth decade should certainly have convinced them of the idea by now.
The show doesn’t come as decorated with awards as some of its West End neighbours (it was nominated for several Tonys and Oliviers but only took home Best Performance in a Supporting Role at the Oliviers). However, its popularity with audiences around the world speaks for itself. Theatre gossip has it that on any given day there are at least seven performances of Mamma Mia! taking place in the world. There’s also the much-loved film adaption and its sequel, starring Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried, which has opened up the show to a whole new audience who have been eagerly buying tickets to see it in its original format – Book Tickets
The Phantom of the Opera
Phantom of The Opera
For those who like their musical theatre more traditional, filled with drama, mystery, love and obsession, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s telling of the Phantom of the Opera is just the ticket. Based on the classic novel and adored on the West End stage since 1986, London’s second longest-running show is widely considered a masterpiece. The tale of a disfigured musician in love with a beautiful soprano at the Paris Opera House is wonderful escapism for an evening accompanied by an impressive 29-piece orchestra.
In the West End it has been seen by more than 140 million people. Worldwide, it was the first ever musical to have grossed over $6 billion at the box office with productions taking place in over 28 countries, including a Broadway production where it is the longest-running musical in history. It has received as much critical acclaim as it has praise from audiences with over 70 major theatre awards to its name. As well as winning the Olivier Award for Best New Musical and Best Actor in a Musical when it opened, it has since picked up further recognition at the most prestigious British theatre awards for Most Popular Show in 2002 and the Magic Radio Audience Award in 2016, voted for by the public – Book Tickets
Wicked the Musical is the fantastical retelling of the witches of Oz and has just celebrated its 5000th performance in the West End. Originally opened on Broadway in 2003 it’s become a modern classic in musical theatre, arriving in London in 2006 at the Apollo Victoria Theatre where it remains today. The show sits with The Lion King and The Phantom of the Opera as the only musicals to have grossed over $1 billion in box office sales. While it didn’t win any of the four Olivier Awards it was nominated for upon its opening, it has since won Most Popular Show in 2010 and 2015.
The family-friendly production is a prequel to the Wizard of Oz, based on a novel of the same name, and tells the story from a new perspective which will make you completely rethink it. Its popularity has made it commonly referenced in film and TV. Notably, the musical’s standout tune, Defying Gravity, was performed twice on the popular song-filled show Glee. It’s widely thought that the production itself will be turned into a film once audience numbers start to dwindle for the live production, but that doesn’t look like it will happen any time soon – Book Tickets
Showing at London’s Trafalgar Theatre, Jersey Boys tells the story of four ordinary guys from Jersey who had big dreams. Their music captivated audiences, and their sound on stage was like nothing anyone had heard before. While they won the hearts of fans worldwide with their iconic sound, things were not always as bright behind the scenes.
This musical features a documentary-style performance where the actors interact with the audience, leaving you feeling like you’ve made four new friends. It’s hard not to be inspired after watching the journey of four average Joes making their way to stardom from humble beginnings. With beloved hits like “Beggin’”, “Sherry”, “Bye Bye Baby”, and more, this show is sure to get you dancing and reignite your love for rock and roll.
Matinee and evening performances run from Wednesday to Monday each week, giving you plenty of chances to catch this life-changing performance live. The New York Post raves that it’s “too good to be true,” while The Guardian notes that it “delivers a cracking story and a seemingly endless catalogue of hit songs.” If you’re ready to get a glimpse into the private lives of rock stars while enjoying their greatest hits, Jersey Boys is not to be missed – Book Tickets
Matilda The Musical
Another children’s classic brought to life on the West End stage, Matilda brings together the magical story imagined by Roald Dahl with toe-tapping songs created by composer and comedian Tim Minchin. The musical stays largely true to the original story, with a few delightful twists that keep it fresh for those who know the tale off by heart. The production, produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company, opened at the Cambridge Theatre in 2011 and the following year it broke the record for the highest number of Olivier Award wins by a musical, swooping seven accolades including Best Actress in a Musical which was shared by the four leads who rotate their role as the title character. A total of 22 children are a part of the cast who deliver impressive performances on par with their adult co-stars.
The show’s success led to it being transferred to Broadway and a film version is rumoured to be in the making. The cast have performed for VIPs including the royal family at the Royal Variety Performance and even for the President of China during a state visit to the UK – Book Tickets