September Withers treads the boards to preview the best musical theatre in London, from the hard-hitting to the fabulously frivolous.
In the beating heart of the Big Smoke, a stage light is switched; an audience is hushed; a spell is cast. With bright, dazzling lights and unforgettable live performances, London’s West End boasts some of the greatest musical theatre in the world, bringing cultural and political issues into the limelight.
From Hamilton to Wicked, the Lion King to Les Mis, these shows are much more than simple entertainment. Prepare to be blown away by some of the best performances in town.
Take a GWR train to London Paddington station and then onward travel to the venue.
Gillian Lynne Theatre
You’re not hardcore unless you live hardcore! Not our words but the words of Dewey Finn, the main character in School of Rock. We love this rocktastic musical, based on the Jack Black movie, because it doesn’t take itself too seriously and we could all learn a lesson from that.
Wannabe rock star Dewey is failing to make ends meet when he weasels his way into a prestigious prep school and poses as a substitute teacher. As he gets to know his students, he discovers their musical talents and decides to enlist his fifth-graders into The Battle of The Bands. But can he do so without their parents and the school’s headmistress finding out?
Let your hair down and bring your best air guitar, because this musical will have you on your feet, screaming for more!
Based on the film of the same name, Waitress is a musical with a big heart and a lot of pies.
Jenna Hunterson is a waitress at Joe’s Pie Diner. Her job, and the two friends she works with, are her only escape from abusive husband Earl. So when Jenna finds herself with an unexpected bun in the oven, she’s forced to take control of her own life.
Featuring original music by Grammy nominee Sara Bareilles, Waitress serves up a
big, fresh slice of fun.
Prince Edward Theatre
You’ve seen the original Disney classic, and couldn’t miss the buzz surrounding the cinematic release of Mary Poppins Returns. Now it’s time to get your West End dose of the practically perfect Mary Poppins the Musical, which is returning to London from 23 October.
The show has got all the classic songs from the first film, including ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’, and is worth catching just to hear 1,500 theatregoers sing along to that mouthful. With some new characters and tunes, this fun family musical offers more than a spoonful of magic and cheer. So hooray for Mary Poppins, the original supernanny, making us feel all nice and happy!
Prince of Wales Theatre
From the creators of South Park and Team America comes the ultimate musical satire that is absolutely, without a doubt, NOT suitable for anyone who is easily offended.
The Book of Mormon tells the story of two American Mormon missionaries who are sent to a remote village in Uganda in an attempt to convert the locals to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
With some very strong language and jokes about serious issues that should never in a million years be uttered out loud off-stage, this catchy, clever and ever so slightly bonkers musical is full of genius show tunes and plenty of naughtiness. You have been warned.
Temporarily at Gielgud Theatre
Is it bleak? Yes. I mean, come on, this show has the word ‘miserable’ in its title! But it’s also one of the biggest musicals in the world, with some of the greatest show tunes of all time.
Chances are you’ve seen the film and experienced Russell Crowe’s ‘singing’, but when it comes to the West End show, it’s truly a masterpiece, with incredible scenery and great costumes to boot.
‘Les Mis’ is moving to a temporary home at the Gielgud Theatre from 10 August–30 November, before it returns to Queen’s Theatre in December in a new production. Prepare to be amazed, and to cry. A lot.
Let’s be honest, the best bit in Disney’s The Lion King is the ‘Circle of Life’ scene, and that’s a fact. Watching Rafiki hold baby Simba for all the animal kingdom to see is enough to reduce anyone to big blubbery tears.
Does this moment happen in the multi-award winning, dazzling and glorious London musical of the same name? You better believe it! If that alone isn’t enough to make you want to experience this phenomenal stage show, which by the way is the sixth longest-running West End musical, entertaining some 15 million theatregoers and counting, then you are one tough cookie to crack.
What makes The Lion King extra special is that it’s celebrating 20 years in the West End in October 2019, which deserves a very big round of applause by anyone’s standards.
Victoria Palace Theatre
Theatrical masterpiece Hamilton made its debut off-Broadway and is now shaking up London’s theatreland.
The show follows the true story of Alexander Hamilton and his journey to find the American Dream. Born into poverty, Hamilton eventually rose to great power and fortune.
Okay, so the premise might not sound like the most exciting thing you’ve ever heard, and sure, everyone’s in period clothing, but this incredible show brings Hamilton’s story to life through rap. It is modern, edgy, clever and, most importantly, a fine celebration of diversity and inclusiveness.
If you manage to bag tickets (those bad boys are like gold dust) you won’t regret it. And if you buy the musical soundtrack immediately after watching the show… well, we told you so.
Apollo Victoria Theatre
Wicked, the unofficial prequel to The Wizard of Oz, has been casting a spell over audiences for the last 15 years.
Green-skinned Elphaba and blond Glinda are brought together by fate on their first day at sorcery school. A meeting with the Wizard of Oz puts their friendship to the test when he reveals the differences between them, forcing the pair to fulfil their destinies as the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good.
Boasting some of the biggest musical numbers in stage history, including signature tune ‘Defying Gravity’, this magical show is truly a must-see.