Jersey Boys at the Prince Edward Theatre is the tale of four blue collar boys from the wrong side of the tracks who went on to become a chart-topping close harmony group. Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons are not quite so familiar over here as in America but December, 1963 (Oh What a Night), Big Girls Don't Cry and Can't Take My Eyes Off You remain cast-iron classics and ideal music for a stage show. The Four Season's entertaining back-story is told with laid back wit, comfortably mixing plot and music and finding straightforward entertainment from a classic rags-to-riches tale. It may not have quite the impact on UK audiences as it did on America (where it won four Tony Awards) but this bright and well-directed slice of New Jersey nostalgia is impossible to dislike.
London's Top Musicals
© Tristram Kenton
Until Feb 2014
Piccadilly Theatre, 16 Denman Street, Soho, London, W1D 7DY
Dates: 14th March to 26th October 2014
Until March 2014
Lyric Shaftesbury Avenue, Shaftesbury Avenue, Soho, London, W1D 7ES
Dates: 1st October 2009 to 16th March 2014 - Various Times
Michael Jackson's untimely death may have propelled this musical into orbit; Thriller Live became a tribute show overnight with the obvious decision that the show must go on "to the memory of the man and his incredible music". The lights of the Lyric were dimmed and a minute's silence was held in the auditorium on the night of the first performance after the star's death and we're willing to bet that the applause reached ear-splitting levels in honour of the King of Pop. And with the cancelling of Jacko's 50-date tour at The O2 a sad side effect of his death, Thriller Live might just be the next best thing to relive the glory days of his extraordinary career. Jackson's awesome videos and dance moves changed the face of music and - although no one can moonwalk like the man himself did - a cast of 80 singers, musicians and dancers do Michael's legacy justice, largely due to the fact that "the hits just keep on coming" (The Telegraph). The Lyric is equipped with a huge stage and very decent sound system, making this a pop spectacular.
Until April 2014
Apollo Victoria Theatre, 17 Wilton Road, Victoria, London, SW1V 1LG
Tube: Victoria Station
Dates: 1st August 2010 to 1st November 2014 - Various Times
'The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz' introduces us to some very familiar characters, years before they met Dorothy. One of them is a clever, lively lady with green skin, the other is superficial, beautiful and popular. Wicked, the tale of how they became the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch, has broken box office records at the Apollo Victoria Theatre. The musical is at its best in the first half, where a Hogwarts-esque school for witches forms the background for a very entertaining US High School comedy, with the usual mix of popular kids, geeks and rebels. Also familiar from the Harry Potter novels is the mixture of a serious political metaphor - the world of Oz slowly falling under the Wizard's fascist regime - and child-friendly fantasy involving thrilling, high-budget broomstick flying scenes. The second half is set during the events from The Wizard of Oz, weaving the plots together very neatly, including the back stories of The Scarecrow, The Tin Man, The Lion and those terrifying flying monkeys. Younger children will love the set and special effects, while older kids and teens will be thoroughly absorbed by the mythology and romance. For adults, the greatest pleasures come from some good jokes and the intricacies of the plotting. Though it lacks any truly memorable numbers, the score is brisk and catchy and this is a rewarding big-budget show. It's definitely worth re-familiarising yourself with the movie before you go.
Until April 2014
Her Majesty's Theatre, Haymarket, St James's, London, SW1Y 4QL
Dates: 9th January 2002 to 26th April 2014 - Various Times
Andrew Lloyd Webber's most enduring hit has been running since 1984 and is still as popular with audiences and critics as it ever was. Phantom of the Opera tells the haunting tale of the tragic love between a beautiful singer and a scarred composer, who lives beneath the majestic Opera House in Paris. The fine Victorian auditorium of Her Majesty's Theatre sets the mood perfectly for a thoroughly sinister romance, with some great swashbuckling moments and some of the grandest musical set pieces of all time. One of the best from the master of musicals.
Until April 2014
Novello Theatre, Aldwych, Covent Garden, London, WC2B 4LD
Dates: 6th September 2012 to 5th April 2014
Through the story-telling magic of the songs of ABBA, we meet Donna, a feisty forty-something single mum, who recalls the distant memories of carefree days and careless nights whilst her daughter Sophie dreams of tradition, romance and a big white wedding. Mamma Mia! is an infectious and funny musical featuring 22 of ABBA's best known songs, and after eight wonderful years at the Prince of Wales the production moves to the beautiful Novello Theatre. Without losing even a pinch of its singalong sparkle, Mamma Mia! remains a great night out with plenty of audience participation and some rousing moments.
Until October 2013
Dominion Theatre, 268-269 Tottenham Court Road, Bloomsbury, London, W1T 7AQ
Dates: 1st August 2010 to 1st June 2014 - Various Times
A Freddie Mercury soundalike leads the Bohemians in a rebellion against the boy and girl bands who control Planet Mall, under the leadership of the Killer Queen... You can see where this is going, can't you? There's even a character called Scaramouche, who does the fandango. The plot of We Will Rock You - playing at the Dominion Theatre - is simply an excuse to make a roster of Queen songs even crazier, with a selection of ever-more-extravagant 70s sci-fi outfits and sets. If you're a fan then this is top entertainment, a live performance jam-packed with special effects and the kind of figure-hugging costumes that guarantee a falsetto just like Freddie's. The songs are recreated with superb attention to detail and there's a rousing singalong finale. Ben Elton's all-conquering Queen musical has defied critical opinion to become a massive West End favourite.
Until January 2014
The Lyceum Theatre, 21 Wellington Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2E 7RQ
Dates: 24th September - 05th January 2014
The Lion King tells the story of Simba - the epic adventure of his battles, his friendships, his dreams and his journey from wide-eyed cub to his destined role as King of the African Pridelands. It's the costumes and puppetry at the Lyceum Theatre that have made this one of the most successful musicals of all time as a whole menagerie of wild beasts are created from masks, stilts and superb dancing. The ever-changing set and the addition of Zulu chants to Elton John and Tim Rice's catchy songs all add to an extraordinary atmosphere. A triumphant, genre-defying adaptation and one of the few family plays that is genuinely as much fun for adults as children.
Until January 2014
This tale of a boy from a mining community who wants to become a dancer is even more affecting on the stage of the
NOTE: Contains swear words. No children under eight years admitted 2005-03-222014-06-21 Where:
Victoria Palace Theatre, Victoria Street, Victoria, London, SW1E 5EA
Tube: Victoria Station
Dates: 22nd March 2005 to 21st June 2014
This tale of a boy from a mining community who wants to become a dancer is even more affecting on the stage of the Victoria Palace Theatre than it was on the big screen, set to some magnificent Elton John songs and Peter Darling's thrilling choreography. The same tensions drive Billy Elliot the musical that drove the film, with Billy's successes measured against the failure of the miner's strike and the end of the traditional way of life for his family and friends. Like a modern West Side Story, the song-and-dance numbers are intimate parts of the plot, expressing character's inner feelings in a way that dialogue never could. A triumphant tale of personal achievement, a moving social study and a celebration of the sheer joy of dance, this is a rare combination of intelligence and pure pleasure. The Daily Telegraph has declared this the greatest British musical of all time and they may well be right.
Until April 2014
Queen's Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, Soho, London, W1D 6BA
Dates: 1st January 2010 to 25th October 2014 - Various Times
Jean Valjean, released on parole after 19 years on the chain gang, finds that the yellow ticket-of-leave he must, by law, display condemns him to be an outcast. Only the saintly Bishop of Digne treats him kindly and Valjean, embittered by years of hardship, repays him by stealing some silver. Valjean is caught and brought back by police, and is astonished when the Bishop lies to the police to save him, also giving him two precious candlesticks. Valjean decides to start his life anew. But will fate allow him to? The acclaimed, long running musical extravaganza Les Miserables continues at the Queen's Theatre. It's far more serious than the conventional musical, and this allows for grand, operatic choral numbers that have an emotional power far beyond the West End norm. A brilliantly executed and intense evening.
Until April 20th 2014
Aldwych Theatre, Aldwych, Covent Garden, London, WC2B 4DF
Dates: 19th April - 26th October 2013
Based on the 1935 movie starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Top Hat is a comedy dance musical full of energy and silliness. When an American Dancer working in London is energetically rehearsing in his hotel room, sleeping Dale Tremont in the room below is awoken. However, when she comes to his room to complain the anger soon subsides as they have an instant attraction. The play then leads onto a case of mistaken identity and complications with the romance; a light hearted, care free performance; this play will be lively and bursting with smiles.
Until February 2014
Prince of Wales Theatre, Coventry Street, Soho, London, W1D 6AS
Dates: 25th February 2013 to 28th June 2014
Creators of Southpark (Trey Parker and Matt Stone) have turned their satirical eyes to the cheery world of musicals. With a helping hand from the composer (Robert Lopez) of Avenue Q, this ballsy comedy has collected an obscene amount of Tony Awards and lands in London at the Prince of Wales Theatre in 2013. The plot follows two fresh faced young Mormon Missionaries who find themselves posted to Uganda, humour ensues as they follow their faith through some fairly trying situations. With quick witted references to the musical genre, and its own set of well crafted tunes, The Book of Mormon looks set to breathe fresh air into the West End theatre scene. The unique brand of ballsy humour was a big hit across the pond but some themes verge on the downright rude and this show is certainly not for the easily offended. Tickets go on sale Sunday 23rd September 2012.
Until November 2013
Phoenix Theatre, Charing Cross Road, Soho, London, WC2H 0JP
Dates: 16th March 2013 to 4th July 2015
Having taken Broadway by storm, winning eight awards at the 2012 Tony Awards including Best New Musical and Best Actor, the musical Once comes to London's Pheonix Theatre and previews from 16th March 2013. Based on the 2006 Irish musical film of the same name, it has been brillliantly adapted by Enda Walsh and retains much of the film's original Grammy nominated soundtrack written by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. It tells the story of an Irish busker and a young Czech mother who connect over their shared love of music and develop an unexpected friendship which then becomes a complicated romance.
Until May 2014
Cambridge Theatre, Earlham Street, Seven Dials, Soho, London, W1D 7DY
Dates: 18th October 2011 to 21st December 2014 - Various Times
The Royal Shakespeare Company's musical adaptation of Roald Dahl's celebrated children's book Matilda transfers from Stratford to the Cambridge Theatre in London's West End this autumn. Directed by Matthew Warchus and adapted by seasoned playwright Dennis Kelly and the award-winning Australian musical comedian Tim Minchin, Matilda has been described by WhatsOnStage as "a piece which is by turns riotously funny and gut-wrenchingly poignant". The eagerly anticipated production - which tells the story of a special little girl with an extraordinary imagination - stars Lauren Ward as Miss Honey, Bertie Carvel as Miss Trunchball, Joise Walker as Mrs Wormwood and Paul Kaye as Mr Wormwood. Book tickets now to see Matilda The Musical at the Cambridge Theatre London. The show lives up to expectations and thrills and delights both adults and children alike, and is winning plaudits as this winter's must-see theatrical event. The Telegraph theatre critic Charles Spencer gave Matilda five stars, claiming it was "the best British musical since Billy Elliot that will surely be the toast of the West End. I predict that this show will be unstoppable."
Until November 2013
Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Catherine Street, Covent Garden, London, WC2B 5JF
Dates: 22nd May 2013 to 20th May 2015
Who could forget the heart-warming tale of forlorn little Charlie Bucket and his poverty stricken family? His four grandparents huddled together for warmth in one double bed and his parents struggling to feed the family. The tale takes a dramatic turn when Charlie pulls back the wrapper of his favourite chocolate bar to reveal a life-changing golden ticket. This much loved Roald Dahl story was recently revived in a Tim Burton movie starring Johnny Depp, and now makes the bold move from screen to stage in a new production directed by Sam Mendes, with original music from Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. From May 2013 Theatre Royal Drury Lane will be filled with "dazzling light displays and projections" (The Telegraph), a surreal mix of giant lollipops and human blueberries. But "by far the greatest fun is to be had from the Oompa Loompas," says The Telegraph. "They alone are worth the price of admission." Tickets for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory are on sale now. After the successful transition Dahl's Matilda The Musical made to the West End stage, this equally joyous and bizarre tale is a much anticipated addition to Theatreland.
12th March 2014
IN THIS ARTICLE
The Phantom of the Opera
We Will Rock You
The Lion King
The Book of Mormon
Matilda The Musical
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
London's Theatre and Musicals
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