The Shows in London West End Theatre Guide

The Shows in London West End Theatre Guide

– Last updated October 2015

The shows on in London range from big budget musicals through comedies and plays. This guide to West End theatre, is intended to give you a very brief overview of what’s on offer.


Musicals in London

Billy Elliot the musical is a gritty dramatic musical combining the music of Elton John with the story of the film of the same name. It is both funny and poignant and is currently on in London’s Victoria Palace Theatre. It tells the story of one boy’s dream to become a ballet dancer against the backdrop of the miners in the North-East of England in the 1980s, and their struggle against Margaret Thatcher.

Jersey Boys the musical is currently showing at the Piccadilly Theatre, London and features the music of Franki Valli and the Four Seasons. Their classic array of hits helps to tell the story of the four unlikely lads from Jersey and their rise to fame as one of the biggest acts of the last century. This show in London is highly recommended.

Les Miserables is at London’s Queens Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue. Based on the Victor Hugo novel, it is a truly epic story with a powerful score about one man’s fight from injustice to redemption against the backdrop of the French Revolution.

Mamma Mia! the musical is a feelgood, fun comedy musical featuring the hits of Swedish sensation Abba. A girl with a single Mum living on a Greek island is about to get married when she discovers her mother’s diary which reveals her father can be one of three possible candidates. Unbeknown to her Mum, Sophie invites all three men to her forthcoming wedding with hilarious consequences.

Matilda the Musical has stayed remarkably true to the original book by Roald Dahl. The musical tells the story of young Matilda, an incredibly bright and gifted child. However, despite her unique abilities, her disinterested parents have cast her aside as being simply bookish. In her frustration towards her family’s ignorance and callousness, she begins a tirade of pulling pranks on them. Matilda befriends Miss Honey at her new school who recognises her unique gift and resolves to ensure Matilda’s best interests are looked after. Prepare for a side-splitting and entertaining few hours with this magical musical! 

Stomp is an innovative musical celebration. A company of highly skilled actors, musicians and dancers have taken percussion to a new level, using everyday objects such as dustbin lids, drainpipes and the like and creating an exciting, vibrant cacophony of rhythmic music. Stomp is a show in London at London’s Ambassadors Theatre.

The Lion King is one of the most popular musicals of all time, and is showing at London’s Lyceum Theatre. Now in its 11th hit year, based on the Disney animated film of the same name, it is a truly wonderful story. The set designs and costumes are brilliant and use African influences as opposed to foam heads and costumes deployed at Disney parades. They have fused many different musical styles, from African tribal music through to power ballads and magical love songs penned by Elton John and Tim Rice. The story follows the tale of Simba and his journey to become the Lion King, exploring the concept of ‘The Circle of Life’.

The Phantom of the Opera the musical is probably Andrew Lloyd Webber’s greatest musical and his biggest success story, having now played for over 25 years at Her Majesty’s Theatre, London. The operatic score is amongst Lloyd Webber’s finest, and as shows in London go it is the city’s greatest love story in which a beautiful girl falls for a misguided, disfigured, misunderstood man. The staging and lighting are superb and the story is enthralling. The set and costumes evoke a real sense of being there in 19th century Paris. Some of the special effects are spectacular but it is the songs, the music and the wonderful cast who sing so beautifully. Phantom is definitely one for lovers or aspiring romantics.

Wicked  is the spectacular story of the witches of Oz, the prequel to the Wizard of Oz. And no, it is not a pantomime or particularly aimed at kids – it is simply a fantastic musical. How did The Wicked Witch of the West meet Glinda the Good (The Fairy Godmother)? How did the Witch become evil? Was she born evil or did she become evil, or is it simply her actions that are perceived as evil? Could it just be malicious newspaper gossip? The story attempts to explain this in a truly engaging way with fantastic music, brilliant songs and a truly amazing and spectacular set and costumes. Still showing at the Apollo Victoria Theatre, London, Wicked is one of the many highly recommended musical shows in London, tickets for which you can buy today.

Plays on in London

The National Theatre’s sell-out production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is currently showing at the Gielgud Theatre. It is a story of an autistic boy, Christopher, who heads out on a journey. We meet him standing beside Mrs Shears’ dead dog, Wellington. Christopher has an extraordinary brain for a fifteen year old boy and he thinks that he can crack the mystery of who speared Wellington with a garden fork. His detective work, forbidden by his father, takes him on a frightening journey that turns his world upside down.

The Mousetrap, at the St. Martin’s Theatre, is the longest running show, of any kind, in the world, now in its 61st year. Agatha Christie’s story is a classic whodunit, a murder in a remote hotel cut off during a snowstorm with eight eccentric characters snowed in at the guesthouse. There are plenty of twists and turns and the typical red herrings will keep you guessing right until the end. The Mousetrap is still a fresh dramatic play with some fine acting, a few laughs and a twist in the tale. Many shows in London can only dream of lasting as long as The Mousetrap has run!

War Horse, at the New London Theatre is a play based on the book of the same title by author Michael Morpurgo. Warhorse with its extremely touching storyline is set in the early 20th Century, and it follows a magnificent thoroughbred named Joey, who forms a strong bond from birth with young Albert Narracott who lives on the neighbouring farm. The story of War Horse is told in part by a fantastic cast of actors, alongside puppets created by the Handspring Puppet Company. War Horse truly deserves all the praise it has received!

Comedies on in London

The Play That Goes Wrong  is a comedy by Jonathan Sayer, Henry Lewis and Henry Shields, who are all part of the Mischief Theatre Company. The chaotic story is centred on the mayhem and mishaps of The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society, which is showcasing a 1920s murder mystery but, as the name of the play suggests, anything could go wrong! This hit comedy has been described as being somewhere between Fawlty Towers and Noises Off. It has earned great reviews and was winner of the 2014 Best New Comedy Award and the 2015 Olivier Award Winner for Best New Comedy. The Play That Goes Wrong is performing at the Duchess Theatre until September 2016. 
Book of Mormon  is a comedy musical written by the creators of Southpark. The story follows young Mormons Kevin Price and Arnold Cunningham, who are coming of age and are sent to Uganda for their two-year mission. Book of Mormon is not for the faint hearted – full of expletives, vulgar humour and highly offensive satire, it is nevertheless very cunning and at times even a touch principled. In fact, The Book of Mormon is probably more of a homage to musical theatre than a jibe at religion (though there’s plenty of harsh digs) – attributed to the writers’ brilliant understanding of how stories work.
Bend It Like Beckham  is a comedy musical that is based on the 2002 film of the same title. The story follows Jess a young Sikh and her friend Jules, two teenagers from London who are obsessed with playing football. Such is Jess’s infatuation with the game that she joins the local team, disobeying her parents’ wishes. Bend It Like Beckham the musical has music by Howard Goodall and lyrics by Charles Hart and is directed by award-winning director Gurinder Ghanda. The musical made its West End premiere in May 2015 at the Phoenix Theatre where it is showing until February 20, 2016. 

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