One of the world’s most ancient forms of entertainment; a night at the theater never gets old … and plays and farces have certainly come a long way since centuries ago.
As the curtains raise on a grand stage in London’s West End, prepare to be dazzled, delighted, brought to tears and wowed by the plethora of musicals and shows — some historic, others brand spanking new.
If you’re traveling to London town any time soon, don’t pass up the chance to experience the city’s official theater district — home to some of the greatest productions ever known — where you’ll find West End shows to suit all tastes, whether you’re in the mood for a comedy, a love story, a murder mystery or a classic musical.
(Those not in the know; the West End Theatres are not just located in the West End, but they are members of the Society of London Theatre.)
From Les Miserables to The Mousetrap to Noises Off to The Lion King, there are currently 37 London shows and musicals showcasing on the West End.
Deciphering each set; check out this list of the 37 best West End musicals and shows to see right now, including a few off-West End productions that deserve a standing ovation.
Theater-goers tip: Curious to learn more about the theaters on the West End? Here’s a recital of the 39 formal West End theaters that comprise London’s official theater district.
1. Les Miserables
For the dreamers, lovers and melodramatists; prepare your hearts (and minds) as you flashback to 19th-century France during the epic tale of love, passion, persuasion and the fight for freedom.
It would be a far more drastic crime (than the one Jean Valjean committed) to begin anywhere else other than the West End’s longest-running musical to date, Les Miserables, with over 12,000 performances under its acting belt.
Fans of a period piece, you’re in for a serious treat …
Set in France just after the French Revolution, follow the tale of the lead protagonist, Valjean, after he is released from 19 years in prison (sentenced for petty theft) and his adaption back into society. Yet all the while, for years he is chased by an adamant police officer after breaking his parole.
Originally written by Victor Hugo (a French writer and politician), the 1862 novel was adapted for the stage by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil, Jean-Marc Natel and Herbert Kretzmer, premiering in Paris in 1980. After Cameron Mackintosh got ahold of the script, he converted the French piece into an English musical for the West End.
Ranking highly among the public, the show was performed for audiences in London for the first time in 1985 where it has remained on stage ever since. So popular; the dramatic musical moved to Broadway as well as the big screen (in the 2012 musical film starring Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russel Crowe and Amanda Seyfried).
“I Dreamed a Dream,” “At the End of the Day,” “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables,” “One Day More,” “Master Of The House,” “On My Own,” and all the classics still feature in Les Mis.
2. The Lion King
It’s not uncommon for audience members to experience all the feels and shivers down their spine during a performance of the multiple award-winning, iconic production of The Lion King — standing true testament to the power that music has to move you.
Based on the roaringly successful, award-sweeping Disney film of the same name, the musical masterpiece opened its West End doors in 1999 at the Lyceum Theatre (two years after debuting on Broadway), which has remained its permanent home ever since.
The original soundtrack (with music and lyrics by Elton John, Hans Zimmer, Lebo M. and Tom Rice) was employed for the stage, with the addition of a few new songs composed for the show, like ‘Endless Night,’ Bless your ears with African sounds and beats, as well as other genres incorporated into the mix(tape) from pop music to rock.
Directed by Tony award winner Julie Taymour (claiming Tonys for best director and costume designer for The Lion King), follow the tear-jerking story of the prince lion cub Simba who is exiled from the pack by his plotting, evil uncle Scar, after his father Mufasa (and rightful king of the Pridelands) is murdered.
Bringing the story to life through dance, song and music, find yourself wowed by not only the production but the costume design and puppetry work — featuring over 232 puppets in the show!
The show also utilizes nearly 40 indigenous African instruments to create the sounds and calling of Mamma Africa.
Can You Feel the Love Tonight? It’s pretty impossible not to after witnessing the emotionally moving and riveting West End musical. And yes, all the favorites feature too like “Circle of Life.”
3. Wicked The Musical
When any show is converted from the big screen to the stage, it’s always a gamble, especially when the original is a global phenomenal success.
Using the 1939 musical fantasy film, The Wizard of Oz and the 1995 novel ‘Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West’ by Gregory Maguire as inspiration, Wicked The Musical was reimagined for theater, becoming an instant worldwide sensation — that’s certainly a win in our books.
The spellbinding story is set years before Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion and Tin Man venture off along the Yellow Brick Road, focusing on a time when Glinda the Good and the Wicked Witch of the West first met, became unlikely best friends and the events that unfolded when the universe pins good versus evil against one another.
Featuring the most magical soundtrack (with the score by Stephen Schwartz), the production has collectively racked in more than 100 awards and has become a worldwide sensation.
The curtain opened for its first performance in the West End circa 2006 and already it’s one of the longest-running musicals in London’s official theater district. Housed at the art-deco-styled Apollo Victoria Theater since its first curtain call; the stage has been redesigned and envisioned for the musical.
Directed by two-time Tony® winner Joe Mantello, fancy up in all your green attire for this timeless wonder!
4. The Phantom of the Opera
Ladies and gentlemen; it’s the one, the only, The Phantom of the Opera; one of the greatest London shows of all time!
As the second-longest-running musical and the third longest-running show on the West End, it’s also officially the longest-running show on Broadway in New York City.
Based on the French tragedy written by Gaston Leroux in 1910 (Le Fantôme de l’opéra), the sad love story is about one man’s obsession and a young couple in love, set within the grand Paris Opera House.
It centers around Christine Daaé who is lured into the shadows by the Phantom, a mysterious figure and musical genius whose face is always hidden — literally and figuratively. Without giving too much away, weird things start to happen to the cast of a show that Christine is to star in, ultimately gaining her the lead role.
Written for the stage by none other than Andrew Lloyd Webber (with lyrics by Webber and Charles Hart and the libretto by Richard Stilgoe, and again, Webber), to say it was an instant success is an understatement.
Winning a prestigious Olivier Award as well as multiple Evening Standard Theatre Awards in its first year of premiering on the London West End in 1986, just two years after opening it moved to Broadway where it has won countless accolades and has showcased here ever since.
Introducing the iconic half-mask to audiences, become enthralled by ballads like ‘Masquerade,’ ‘The Phantom of the Opera,’ ‘The Music of the Night,’ and ‘All I Ask of You.’
5. The Book of Mormon
From the creators of South Park comes The Book of Mormon; a hilariously funny satirical musical that also happens to be a fantastic introduction to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Following two missionaries who set off to Uganda to spread the word, Elder Price (played by Dom Simpson) and Elder Cunningham (Connor Peirson) encounter resistance from the locals who are too busy dealing with their own economic struggles to show much interest in the faith.
Written by Robert Lopez (creator of Avenue Q and lyricist for Frozen), Trey Parker (South Park, Cannibal! The Musical) and Matt Stone (South Park, Team America: World Police), all three also worked on the music and lyrics for the show.
Directed by Parker and Casey Nicholaw (also additionally head choreographer), The Book of Mormon has gone on to win many awards since it opened on the West End in 2013, including four Olivier Awards, with one for Best New Musical.
Not its first premier, it initially opened on Broadway with crazy success in 2011 before hitting the London scene.
6. Back To The Future The Musical
If you’re a long-time theater-goer and are on the hunt for fun new West End musicals, look no further than Back To The Future: The Musical — the 1989 cult classic movie-turned-award-winning-production by Bob Gale (who wrote the book and co-wrote the original movie alongside Robert Zemeckis).
Launching in London in 2021, it immediately was a smash hit right off the bat, scoring Best New Musical at the Olivier Awards, WhatsOnStage Awards and Broadway World Awards less than a year later.
Take a journey with 17-year-old Marty McFly who is inadvertently transported back in time to the year 1955 — as fate would have it — in a time machine built by the zany scientist, Doc Brown.
Without knowing it, he alters history and his present reality as he knows it, now in dire need to find the solution and ultimately return back to the year he came from … 1985!
Directed by John Rando and with music and lyrics by Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard, the comedic sci-fi-inspired showpiece first premiered in 2019 at the Manchester Opera House but closed on account of the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Once our actual world was rescued to reality, it transferred straight to the West End, opening at the Adelphi Theatre.
7. Moulin Rouge! The Musical
Ooh-la-la … Welcoming Satine to the stage on the West End it’s the lavishly brilliant, enticingly romantic, emotionally charged, feet-tapping Moulin Rouge! The Musical.
If you instantly fell in love with the blockbuster, Oscar-winning movie Moulin Rouge! (starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor) like most of the world, prepare yourself for a bohemian-loving evening of song and dance, and all that comes in between!
Featuring all of the beloved favorites, plus an updated score comprising some new additions by 21st-century pop icons like Beyoncé and Adele; sing along to ‘Come What May,’ ‘Your song’ and ‘Elephant Love Medley.’
Based on the screenplay by Baz Luhrmann, the Piccadilly Theatre was remodeled for the production, adding a splash of glitter, glam and pizazz with that iconic red-shaded Moulin Rouge-y feel — because “If ya can, can, can! If ya can, can, can, can, can, can, can, can, can!” as Harold Zidler would say.
The book for this West End musical is by John Logan, with Alex Timbers as director, the incredibly talented Sonya Tayeh leading choreography, and Justin Levine in charge of music, orchestra arrangements and additional lyrics.
8. Mamma Mia!
If you’re in the mood for a serious sing-along, then this one’s for you honey, honey!
So much more than just a tribute to ABBA, Mamma Mia! took the world by storm, premiering for the first time ever to London audiences in 1999 as a full-on musical, enjoying a crazy successful open run.
Since the movie is centered around a mother-daughter relationship (and all the other close ladies in the bride-to-be’s world), it’s fitting that the show was brought to life thanks to the brilliant minds of three women: writer Catherine Johnson, creative producer Judy Craymer and its director, Phyllida Lloyd.
(Interestingly, all three helped develop the film adaption, employing their same theater duties for the big screen.)
One of the longest-running musicals in West End history; the original jukebox show enjoyed its opening night at the Prince Edward Theatre, transferred to the Prince of Wales Theatre in 2014, and then over to the Novello (its current home). To date, more than 8 million have seen the London flagship production.
Two years after showcasing in the UK, it hit the Broadway stage where it enjoyed the same success.
Dance, shake, sing and move with the cast as they burst out into song featuring ABBA chart-toppers like Dancing Queen; The Winner Takes It All; Honey, Honey and Knowing Me, Knowing You.
Revived in the 50s, 70s, 80s, 90s and early 2000s, the global sensation, Oklahoma! is back in the West End for its fourth rebirth in London — taking to the stage at the Young Vic Theatre in 2022 before transferring to the Wyndham’s Theatre in 2023.
Conjured up for the stage by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, the duo created the book (based on the 1931 play titled ‘Green Grow the Lilacs’ by Lynn Riggs) 80 years ago, and the original screenplay, lyrics and music are still celebrated in today’s production.
Talking synopsis; the story is set in the Oklahoma territories and follows the tale of a local farm girl, Laurey Williams, as she is pursued by two men from completely different worlds, one is a cowboy, the other a farmer. The subplot also dives into the relationship between another young couple; Will Parker and his fiancée, Ado Annie. It’s the perfect mix of romance meets social commentary.
When it hit theaters in 1943 on Broadway, there was none like it before and is one of the first-ever book musicals in theater history. (A book musical is a term used to refer to a show that is developed incorporating the three important elements of theater production: book (script), music and choreography.
The modern version is directed by Daniel Fish, with Daniel Kluger leading the music and orchestra teams, and John Heginbotham on choreo.
10. Tina The Musical
Working closely with the legend, the icon, the rock n roll superstar miss Tina Turner herself to produce the singer’s untold life story as you’ve never heard — or seen before — Tina: the Musical is fresh on the West End and already making waves.
The moving jukebox musical chronicles the intimate journey of Turner, from her humble beginnings in Nutbush, Tennessee to her rise to stardom, including her infamous relationship with ex-husband Ike Turner.
Interesting fact: Born Anna Mae Bullock, the up-and-coming singer changed her name to Tina Turner whilst dating Ike Turner and performing for his band. Later married, the couple endured a rocky marriage shadowed by infidelities and abuse until Tina finally left Ike in 1979.
Each part of her life is told through one of the eight-time Grammy-awardee iconic songs, like ‘A Fool in Love,’ ‘Proud Mary,’ ‘River Deep Mountain High,’ ‘What’s Love Got to Do with It?,’ ‘I Don’t Wanna Fight’ and many more hits.
With a book by Katori Hall, Frank Ketelaar and Kees Prins, and directed by Phyllida Lloyd, its first curtain raise was in London at the West End’s Aldwych Theatre in 2018.
11. SIX The Musical
What’s one way to turn an ancient, somewhat boring historical event into something captivating? By procuring it into a musical of course!
Meet the wives (and lives) of Britain’s second Tudor King, Henry VIII — who infamously married six women in his 55 years of living — when all queens come together to form a sensational all-girl pop group, rapping and singing their personal stories away.
It’s Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr like you’ve never seen them before, busting out tunes with dance moves to boot fit only for 21st-century folk.
Written and created by Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow, naturally, the production first appeared on British shores at the 2017 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Officially inaugurated onto London’s West End one year later at the Arts Theatre, it instantaneously wooed audiences.
Since then (and with its arrival on Broadway in NYC) it’s been nominated for five Laurence Olivier Awards, as well as multiple Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards, as well as nominated for the upcoming Grammys for the category; Best Musical Theater Album.
Currently showcasing at the Vaudeville Theatre, audience members are encouraged to arrive dressed as your personal favorite Queen, or, if you’re lucky, become crowned ‘Queen for the Night’ — no, seriously!
12. The Wizard of Oz
A fantastically magical gaiety of song, dance, music and imagination; it’s time to follow the Yellow Brick Road once more down to the West End for the latest resurgence of The Wizard of Oz.
Not shy of the theatrical stage, the iconic story was first brought to life over 100 years ago when American children’s author L. Frank Baum converted his 1900 fantasy novel, ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,’ into a Broadway musical in 1902.
In turn, the production was adapted for movie screens in 1939, becoming one of the most successfully filmed musical movies of all time. Never before had audiences heard its score featured in the film (with music by Harold Arlen and Edgar “Yip” Harburg), introducing the classics such as “Over the Rainbow” and “We’re Off to See the Wizard.”
Legendary composer and impresario Andrew Lloyd-Webber decided to reinvoke Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion and the Tin Man for audiences once more in 2011, and the third stage musical adaptation received roaring success, including an Olivier Award for ‘Best Musical Revival.’
Back on the West End, the 2023 version features a score from the original movie with new additional songs from Webber and Tim Rice. It’s directed by Nikolai Foster, with choreography by Shay Barclay.
13. The Play That Goes Wrong
If you’ve always considered yourself quite the Sherlock Holmes, join the cast of The Play That Goes Wrong and see if you can solve this murder mystery before the final act!
The Olivier Award winner (for Best New Comedy in 2015) now officially owns the title of West End’s longest-running comedy, and it takes less than one scene to understand why.
Join the mind-boggling performance where the actors are actors and nothing is quite ever as it seems — you’re even left to question your own sanity at times when props (intentionally) break, or actors shuffle clumsily around the set, even “forgetting” their lines at times.
The fictional plot unfolds as a group of actors belonging to the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society are sent to an old manor where a murder has just ensued!
Well, that’s the storyline anyway for the play that they’re all working on, titled The Murder at Haversham Manor. Of course, all things start to go wrong during the hilarious and genius ‘play within a play.’
Opening on the West End in 2014 at the Duchess Theatre, the play — written by Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, and Henry Shields and directed by Mark Bell — has enjoyed a triumphant open run since then.
14. Matilda the Musical
Bringing back all of our childhood nostalgia to the stage … The insanely popular smash hit Matilda the Musical, based on the original Roald Dahl novel, also happens to be a Guinness Book of Records breaker!
Following the same storyline as the children’s book, you will meet Matilda, a misunderstood five-year-old bookworm who attends Crunchem Hall School — run by a tyrant headmistress, Miss Trunchbull. Luckily for Matilda, she has the sweetest teacher in the world, Miss Honey (the only person who seems to get Matilda) and who later adopts her.
Debuting in London for the first time ever in 2010 at the Courtyard Theatre, the show was an instant smash hit, selling out to audiences every night! One year later, it moved to West End’s Cambridge Theatre for its open run.
The record-breaking production was imagined for the stage by the Royal Shakespeare Company, bringing in Dennis Kelly to create the book, Tim Minchin on music and lyrics, and Matthew Warchus as director.
Among its ridiculous amount of more than 100 international awards, it owns seven Laurence Olivier Awards (including Best New Musical), five WhatsOnStage Awards (also for Best New Musical and Best West End Show) six Broadway World Awards (also including Best New Musical), two Mousetrap Awards (including Best Family Show), a Critics Circle Award for Best Musical, and and and …
Plus, that’s only its UK prize-winnings, nevermind global achievements.
Not to fear … If you’re in the mood for a delicious slice of decadent chocolate cake, no Trunchbull will stop you, nor sit you down under her watchful eyes and make you stuff your face — as the iconic scene goes. That one is saved for Bruce.
15. Jersey Boys
It’s backkkk! Setting the London stage for another multiple award-winning production of Jersey Boys, the jukebox musical based on a true story never seems to get old, thanks to its insane cast, crew, book, songs and set.
Retelling an account of how the Four Seasons band came to be circa 1962; follow the tale of Tommy DeVito (played by Benjamin Yates), Bob Gaudio (Adam Bailey), Frankie Valli (Luke Suri) and Nick Massi (Karl James Wilson) and their rise to fame, providing for the world some of the best catchy singalongs — many which might surprise you because they’ve been redone by so many artists.
Beggin; Big Girls Don’t Cry; December, 1963 (Oh What A Night); Can’t Take My Eyes Off You; Sherry and Walk Like A Man are a touch of melodies you can expect to bop your heads to.
Employing Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice to create the book, whilst conducting their research they contacted three of the surviving band members for personal insights and introspective views, although DeVito sadly passed in 2020.
The music for the Olivier/Tony/Grammy award-winning show is by Bob Gaudio with lyrics by Bob Crewe.
First debuting on Broadway before hitting the West End in 2008, it showed at the Prince Edward Theatre until 2014, then transferred to the Piccadilly Theatre from 2014 until 2019, and has finally returned to delight audiences once more!
16. Harry Potter and The Cursed Child
Hey, all you Potterheads; if you’ve already watched the movies a bajillion times and read the books so much that the pages have tattered; there’s a special something in store for you … on the West End!
Set 19 years after Harry, Ron and Hermonie have left Hogwarts and are now adult wizards — Harry works for the Ministry of Magic and is married to Ginny, and Ron and Hermione are happily married too (with Hermione now Minister for Magic) — the storyline is centered around their children as they embark on their first day at Hogwarts, particularly Albus Potter.
J.K. Rowling wrote the original story with the idea of it being a play, along with Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, and Thorne adapted the plot for the stage.
Apart from all of the magic, mystery and mischief that arises, the production is the only one currently on the West End that is unveiled as a two-part play. Split into two, you have the option to witness both acts on the same day or over two consecutive evenings.
It premiered to the world at the Palace Theater on West End in 2016, and two years later made its Broadway debut. Since then, it has raked in the rewards, among them a stellar, record-breaking nine Laurence Olivier Awards including Best New Play, Best Director, Best Costume, Best Set, Best Sound and Best Lighting Design.
Directed by John Tiffany, the lighting design is by Neil Austin, the set designer is Christine Jones, the sound designer is Gareth Fry, with Magic and Illusions by Jamie Harrison.
Transforming the entirety of the Playhouse Theater like you’ve never seen it before, forget everything you once knew about the venue as it’s been converted to the iconic ‘Kit Kat Club’, especially for the production of Cabaret!
The 1966 Broadway musical became a sultry sensation, traveling to the West End by 1968 where it launched at the Palace Theatre, starring leading-lady Dame Judi Dench as Sally Bowles.
Travel back in time to Berlin in the roaring 20s during the peak of the Jazz Age and join the cabaret singers and the band at the Kit Kat Club — a place free from judgments and where your wildest dreams can come true. Involving elements of love, lust, music and dance, the tale is intertwined between staff and members at the club … and then some!
When a show is this good, the audiences keep wanting more, and theaters around the world have taken note.
Cabaret was revived on the West End in 1986, again in 1993 (starring Alan Cumming as Emcee), and once more in 2006 with Dame Sheila Hancock as Fräulein Schneider (which won her an Olivier Award for Best Supporting Performance in a Musical).
It was refreshed in 2012 with Will Young as Emcee this time and Michelle Ryan as Sally, and then, yet again in 2021 with Eddie Redmayne as Emcee. The latest cast stars Aimee Lou Wood (Sex Education) as Bowles.
To make the most of your visit, arrive early and explore the ins and outs of the Kit Kat Club. As the show begins, nine dancers and musicians perform the prologue in the bar areas and throughout the rest of the building. To date, it has won seven Olivier Awards, including Best Musical Revival.
Well, if all history lessons went this way, there would certainly be a lot more history boffs around, guaranteed! Rap battles and spitting facts, say what?!
Iterating the story of America’s Founding Fathers like you’ve never heard before, delight in a recounting from Alexander Hamilton as he began his former years working for George Washington until he helped America gain independence. But with a twist — the plot is rapped through a splurge of R&B, hip-hop, rap, blues and jazz beats.
(Hamilton is one of the five Founding Fathers of America, playing a pivotal role in the country’s fight for freedom from Britain.)
Originally an immigrant from the West Indies, the 21st-century production rehashes Hamilton’s conquests but this time with another spin to it. Hamilton is African American and the cast stars all persons of color.
Bursting onto the stage in 2015, the musical was only supposed to be a hip-hop album after its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda was so inspired by the Alexander Hamilton biography by Ron Chernow. Thankfully, it was converted for theater in 2015 and hit the London scene by 2017.
The book, lyrics and music are all by Miranda, with Andy Blankenbuehler working on choreography and Thomas Kail directing the multiple-award-winning show.
Ridiculously well received, it’s the sort of production that suits our current present and couldn’t arrive at a more fitting time in our own history books. It has claimed seven Oliviers, 11 Tonys, the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album!
19. Ain’t Too Proud
Get ready to sing your hearts out to all of your favorite tracks by The Temptations from Papa Was a Rolling Stone to My Girl to Just My Imagination!
Another jukebox musical showcasing on the West End, Ain’t Too Proud is based on the book, ‘The Temptations’ by original band cast member, Otis Williams — the only remaining OG member who is still a part of the group today!
Topping charts with record-breaking numbers and number one best-selling hits, take a journey back in time with the gang from their earliest days in Detroit when the band first started out; their climb to stardom, and eventual induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. And of course, a whole bunch of personal stories thrown into the mix, some even political.
Otis Williams, Ron Tyson, Terry Weeks, Tony Grant and Jawan M. Jackson were the founding vocalists, but the group has changed countless times since then.
Hot off the heels of its Broadway debut in 2019, you can already expect a performance comprising (Tony) award-winning choreography and Grammy-winning music from the same producers of Jersey Boys.
Choreographed by Sergio Trujillo with music and lyrics from The Legendary Motown Catalog, the book was created for the stage by Dominique Morisseau.
20. Spitting Image The Musical
Could you ever imagine meeting the likes of Daniel Craig, Harry and Meghan, Ian McKellar, Stormzy and even His Majesty The King under one roof during a night out on the West End?
Well, seeing is believing and that’s exactly what is about to happen during a (hilarious) sitting of Spitting Image The Musical — except these British celebrities, politicians and sports heroes will join you on stage, just in puppet form!
That’s right … Based on the 1980s British television show, Spitting Image, the puppets are back bigger and better than ever, bringing you all of the satirical humor and commentary to the Phoenix Theatre.
After a successful revival on TV screens back in 2020, it was decided to adapt the series for the stage, and voila, the musical rendition was born.
Featuring “The Magnificent Seven,” i.e. Tom Cruise, Greta Thunbeg, Meghan Markle, Tyson Fury, RuPaul, Angela Rayner and Idris Elba (and others like Donald Trump, Ant & Dec and James Corden), the musical utilizes over 100 puppets and the cast projects with voice overs.
Written by Al Murray, Matt Forde and Sean Foley, one of the series’ original co-creators, Roger Law also lends a hand in directing.
21. Frozen the Musical
Just when you thought the world couldn’t get more of the 2013 global sensation, Frozen the Musical arrived to the stage and is still sweeping audiences off their feet — just like the original movie did.
Kids go gaga, adults can’t help but fall in love — even if Let It Go gets stuck in your head for weeks afterward …
Produced by The Walt Disney Company for Broadway, the special effects (led by Jeremy Chernick) and lighting (by Neil Austin) that this magical set has employed are mystically hair-raising, recreating a frozen Arendelle right before your very eyes!
Delighting audiences for the first time in 2019 in the US, it moved to the West End in 2021 at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. In just two years since, the West End version has gained tons of accolades including seven WhatsOnStage Awards and four Olivier nominations.
Queen Else is played by Samantha Barks (Pretty Woman: The Musical; Chicago; Les Misérables the movie) and her sister, Anna, by Emily Lane (The Sound of Music; Les Misérables).
The original Broadway director, Michael Grandage leads the cast on the West End too, with music and lyrics by husband-and-wife team, Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez who wrote the songs for the Frozen blockbuster too.
22. Grease the Musical
“It’s electrifying!” … It sure is as Danny, Sandy, Rizzo, Kenickie and the rest of the guys and gals from the T-Birds and the Pink Ladies take to the stage once more for the riveting, head-bopping, jiving and thriving revival of Grease the Musical — an iconic production in the theater world.
Fun fact: The 1978 onscreen musical was not the first production of Grease, and the musical first premiered on the stage back in 1972 in Chicago before moving to Broadway a year later for a record-breaking run. Following its major success, it was then conveyed on the Big Screen.
Hitting the West End in the 70s, the multiple-award-winning show has been revived countless times (in 1979, 1993, 2007 and 2022). The 2023 renewal follows the original book, music and lyrics by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, with Nikolai Foster directing the show and Dame Arlene Phillips on choreo.
Join Summer Nights lovers Danny and Sandy for the start of their senior year at Rydell High School as they dance and sing their hearts, featuring all of the iconic hits from “Greased Lightnin’” to “Hopelessly Devoted to You” to “You’re the One That I Want.”
23. The Choir of Man
A serious celebration of music; join the cast at The Choir of Man pub and enjoy the musical extravaganza featuring songs from rock and pop icons like Queen, Guns & Roses, Luther Vandross, Adele, Katy Perry, Avicii, Paul Simon, Sia and plenty more. There’s a song among the list to suit all music genres.
Born and bred on British soil, the production centers around nine main characters, comprising the regulars and the staff that run the show, ahem, Irish bar. Designed as an interactive composition, the cast, we mean staff!, serve audience members pints during the performance, and you can even grab drinks from the on-stage bar before the show begins.
Filled with a light-hearted atmosphere, join the cast and sing and dance your hearts out! Creators and producers Nic Doodson and Andrew Kay work alongside Jack Blume as musical supervisor, with the monologues written by Ben Norris, and choreography is born from the mind of Freddie Huddleston.
The Olivier-nominated musical premiered on London’s West End in 2021 at the Arts Theatre and was extended shortly after as the crowds fell in love.
24. Aspects Of Love
Calling all the hopeless romantics out there! With music by none other than Andrew Lloyd Webber and a synopsis that investigates all the different variations of love in this world, Aspects of Love is sure to tug on all of the heartstrings.
Set in post-war France, it’s a love story about love stories … Struggling actress Rose Vibert (played by Laura Pitt-Pulford) is invited to a villa in the French countryside by her admirer, Alex Dillingham (Jamie Bogyo). Arriving, she meets his uncle, George (Michael Ball) and George’s mistress Giulietta.
It chronicles a period of 17 years, as the characters fall in and out (of love) of one another’s lives, introducing the many facets of being in love — whether it’s the relationship between parent and child, acquainted lovers or new infatuations.
Crazily enough, Michael Ball starred as Alex Dillingham for the original production which debuted on the West End back in 1989 before moving to Broadway (refreshed only once since, in 1993). He’s back for the 2023 version, this time playing Uncle George.
The musical is based on the 1955 novel by David Garnett (with the same title), with lyrics by Don Black and Charles Heart, and Jonathan Kent (The Seagull, Sweeney Todd, Long Day’s Journey into Night) directing the ensemble.
25. The Mousetrap
Without further adieu; it’s the play that certainly needs no introduction, it’s the West End’s longest-running play in its history, it’s Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap.
It also owns the current, awe-inspiring title of play with the longest open run in the entire world! In fact, one of the props from the very first production has been conserved and still features on set!
Written as a murder mystery play by Christie, the Queen of detective stories from the 20th century, the show made its first appearance on a West End stage in 1952, where it has safely (and adoringly) remained ever since.
Dubbed a “whodunnit”, as the final curtain calls, a cast member requests that the audience members not share what they have witnessed once leaving the theater, preserving the traditions of a whodunnit. This is to make sure new members don’t solve the mystery before the cast do — or ruin any surprises they have waiting in store.
With an audience count of more than 10 million people throughout its 70-year running, the cast has welcomed over 400 actors since its debut on the West End.
Fun facts about The Mousetrap: Penned by Christie as a birthday gift to Queen Mary, it was broadcast as a radio play, titled Three Blind Mice.
Moving to theaters, the author requested that the play not be converted into a novel until it was done showcasing in the West End. And, well, you can automatically assume the outcome to that one … perhaps once it’s finally left the stage that day will come.
26. Mrs. Doubtfire
Even if you weren’t born in the 90s, Mrs. Doubtfire is one of those all-time favorites that kids still love watching — and parents experience all the nostalgia joining them.
Continuing to garner success since the comedy-drama’s 1993 movie release, the decision was made to reinvoke Mrs. Doubtfire for grand stages back in 2015.
After a few bumps and hiccups along the way, the production finally made its theatrical debut in 2019, moving to Broadway one year later and for the first time, it’s here for audiences on the West End, showing at the Shaftesbury Theatre.
The musical follows pretty much the same storyline as the Golden Globe-winning movie — both based on the 1987 novel Alias Madame Doubtfire by Anne Fine.
When down-and-out actor Daniel loses custody of his kids, his life is turned upside down. In an attempt to remain a part of their everyday life, he comes up with a (ridiculous) plan, creating the alter ego, Scottish nanny Euphegenia Doubtfire. This Mrs. Doubtfire gets her first job — working for Daniel’s family!
It’s a laugh-a-minute as well as a super heartwarming tale!
The book, music and lyrics were created by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell, and the show is directed by Jerry Zaks.
27. Accidental Death of an Anarchist
Based on the 1970 Italian play that was inspired by real events (titled ‘Morte accidentale di un anarchico’ by Italian playwright Dario Fo), Accidental Death of an Anarchist is a fine example of cleverly-witted writing and out-the-box thinking.
A bit of back story; the original farce recounts bits of the infamous 1969 Piazza Fontana bombing and the days that followed when the Italian police force captured the anarchists behind the event. When one of the guilty “jumps” off a fourth-floor window, questions arise surrounding the incident.
The whole shebang is interluded when a mysterious man (and con artist) under interrogation grasps hold of what has occurred and decides to turn inspector tables on their heads. Known as “The Maniac,” he pretends to be a judge and it’s he that now does the questioning.
As the police force “put on a show” for this judge thanks to their all-over-the-place recounting of what really happened, the audience is taken on a wild, silly ride too.
Presented by four-time BAFTA-nominated writer, Tom Basden, this 21st portrayal is directed by Daniel Raggett and the UK staging has been adapted to suit its British setting, swapping Italian forces for London’s Metropolitan Police.
Written by the man behind the multiple award-winning smash-hit Netflix series, The Crown, you can bet that Patriots is a political masterpiece — claiming the 2023 Critics’ Circle Theater Award for ‘Best New Play.’
Much like the rest of Peter Morgan’s work (Frost/Nixon, The Queen), the show centers on the factual retelling of history, politics and societal justice (or at times, injustice), this time, focusing on the life of Russian billionaire businessman, Boris Abramovich Berezovsky.
(Berezovsky was part of a team who gave personal funds to Russia’s Unity party, helping to capitalize Vladimir Putin’s seat in parliament. Later, when it came to the 2000 Russian presidential election, he turned against Putin.)
Starring Tom Hollander as the lead, the drama recounts the Dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the beginnings of a “New Russia” and Berezovsky’s move out of the president’s inner circle.
Directed by Rupert Goold, the new play was nominated for two Laurence Olivier Awards and Will Keen in his role as Vladimir Putin won him the Olivier for ‘Best Actor in a Supporting Role.’
29. 2:22 A Ghost
Do you believe in ghosts? What would you do if your partner suddenly told you that they think your home is haunted?
Intriguing, a bit on the spooky side, yet so utterly captivating; 2:22 A Ghost Story boasts a star-studded cast. Its 2021 debut show starred Lily Allen as Jenny, with British singer Cheryl replacing the role for the 2023 version.
Convinced that their new house is haunted, Jenny shares her suspicions with her husband Sam, but he doesn’t believe her, nor that such things like ghosts or anything supernatural are real.
But then, when weird things start to happen and thrilling incidents, or rather accidents, begin to shake up their lives … Sam and Jenny start to fear the worst … especially when it is 2:22 in the morning …
The thriller-genre play had its very first opening night on West End’s Noël Coward Theatre in 2021, instantly beguiling audiences. It was nominated for three Oliviers (including Best New Play in 2022), and four WhatsOnStage Awards nominations, cleaning up three, one for Best New Play.
Written by Danny Robins (author of the podcast ‘The Battersea Poltergeist’), the play is directed by Matthew Dunster (The Seagull) who has remained in his director’s chair since the show’s beginning.
30. Crazy For You
If you’re in the mood for a big-time musical, the kind of starry-eyed extravaganza that leaves you dreaming about making it big on Broadway, stop what you’re doing and book your seats for the revival of Crazy For You.
The plot takes us to Deadrock, Nevada, USA, where theater-crazy Bobby Child (who fantasizes about becoming a star) returns home when he has no option but to take care of the family business: a worn-out dwindling theater.
Can he save it from closure? Will he ever make it with his name in lights? Will the show go on?
Not its first rodeo; the original multiple-award-winning 1992 musical was conceived based on George Gershwin’s 1930 musical Girl Crazy. The rendition continued to feature songs by Gershwin, with lyrics by his brother, Ira Gershwin, and with a book by Ken Ludwig.
Revisiting theaters on both the West End and Broadway a few times since, its current 17-piece orchestra really brings the story to life, setting an apt tone for this celebration of George Gershwin’s greatest.
31. The Tiger Who Came to Tea
Are you in search of a West End production that the little ones will love? Look no further than The Tiger Who Came to Tea — springing from the best-selling children’s picture book of the same name by Judith Kerr.
What would your five-year-old self do if suddenly the doorbell rang and standing on your step was a talking tiger? Would you invite him in for tea time?
You’re about to discover what Sophie and her family would do during the endearing renewal directed by David Wood (The Gingerbread Man, Babe the Sheep Pig).
Published in 1968, the award-winning short story was first adapted for the stage in 2008, winning an Olivier Award in 2012 for ‘Best Family Entertainment.’ It’s continued to showcase on the West End over the last 14 years, deeming it one of the best children’s musicals.
Your kids will squeal with delight when the life-sized stripey tiger enters the stage (played by Benjamin Stone dressed in full costume, and Stone also plays the role of Daddy, the Milkman and Postman).
Parents, you can’t but help relive your own childhood, especially if this was your favorite bedtime story!
32. The Crown Jewels
A brand-spanking new comedy called The Crown Jewels? Well, it’s only fitting that the period piece makes its grand debut on the West End.
It’s the year 1671 and King Charles II is the current ruler of England. The royal Crown Jewels are safely tucked away in the Tower of London under guard. Or, are they really?
Based on true events, follow the cast as the investigation unfolds, meeting the King himself, his court, as well as Colonel Thomas Blood — the man behind the attempted heist. What was the aftermath? Was it off with his head? You’re about to find out …
Acclaimed British director, actor, comedian and writer Sean Foley heads up direction for this play, and Simon Nye (The Larkins, Just William, The Durrells) is behind the book.
The creative team aren’t the only esteemed members; with Al Murray (Idiots Assemble: Spitting Image The Musical, The Pub Landlord) as King Charles, Aidan McArdle (Miss Scarlett and The Duke, The Irregulars) playing Colonel Blood, Carrie Hope Fletcher (Les Misérables) as Elizabeth Edwards, and Mel Giedroyc (The Great British Bake Off) as Mrs. Edwards.
Proceeding its run on West End, the production is set for its UK tour.
33. Dr Semmelweis
If you’ve never heard about the Hungarian doctor who proposed the first ideologies regarding antiseptic methods for women in obstetrics wards, then you’re about to get educated during a captivating performance of Dr Semmelweis.
(However, the doctor’s findings at the time weren’t widely accepted by his colleagues, some even deemed the pioneer as mad!)
Actor, playwright and director Mark Rylance brings the non-fictitious account to life, transporting audiences to Vienna circa the 19th century when the doc first made his discovery.
The drama cleverly leaves you questioning how his fellow co-workers and the medical board could have dismissed his finding — which ultimately changed a major part of medical history.
Written by Rylance (who also plays Semmelweis in the play) and Stephen Brown, the debuting showcase is directed by Tom Morris.
34. The Crucible
Does the name sound familiar? Perhaps it’s owing to the fact that The Crucible (film version) has garnered status as one of the scariest historical movies, based on the Salem Witch Trials of the 17th century.
Written by Arthur Miller, the 1996 drama film stemmed from Miller’s original 1953 play with the same title — a dramatized and fictional recount of the witch trials in the Massachusetts Bay Colony between 1692 and 1693.
Performed on Broadway for the first time in 1953, at the time there was nothing quite like it on the stage, considered a rather controversial topic. It was revived for the theater again in 2002 and 2016, and for the first time, it’s hitting the West End!
The 2023 version focuses on a group of women during the Salem witch hunt, who make up the lead characters — and a star-studded ensemble at that! Milly Alcock (House of the Dragon), Caitlin FitzGerald (Masters of Sex) and Brian Gleeson (Bad Sisters) are some of the celebs bringing this rendition back to life …
Utilizing the original script by Arthur Miller, the show is directed by Lindsey Turner.
35. The Pillowman
Dramatic, dark and at times sinister, The Pillowman is not for the faint-hearted.
The black comedy centers around an author of short stories named Katurian, living in a totalitarian state. The writer’s stories aren’t the sweet kind though, often involving narratives of child violence.
Her work comes into question when a series of child murders begins tearing up the town, and the sordid acts bear eerie resemblances to her own fabricated narratives.
In an attempt to preserve the integrity of her work, Katurian begins to explain the thinking behind her stories (and her own mind) through the narration of her short stories.
Written by British-Irish playwright Martin McDonagh, The Pillowman first entered the theater world back in 1998, premiering in London in 2003. Since then, it’s been revived in multiple countries worldwide, now making its second UK revival on the West End.
Unlike the original, the latest version has shuffled things up a bit to suit a more modern audience, for example, the main character is now played as a female protagonist (by singer-songwriter and actress Lily Allen).
36. Heathers: The Musical
So, what does it really take to become (or stay) popular? Now part of the it-girl clique where three members are all named Heather, Veronica Sawyer finds herself transfixed on new kid JD who is hellbent on getting rid of all Westerburg High School’s most popular students. And by rid of, we mean, murder!
Dubbed a smash-hit musical comedy, Heathers: The Musical was adapted from another cult-classic movie, Heathers, released in 1989 starring the brilliant Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty, Lisanne Falk and Kim Walker.
The book was created by Kevin Murphy and Laurence O’Keefe, who both also produce the music and lyrics for the musical.
Playing for audiences for the first time as a concert at Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater in NYC, it was brought off-Broadway in 2013 and arrived in London’s The Other Palace in 2017 as a musical workshop, then premiered on the theater’s stage in 2018. It shortly transferred to the West End’s Theatre Royal Haymarket where it was revived at the same venue in 2021.
It won two WhatsOnStage Awards in 2019, including Best New Musical.
Choreographed by Gary Lloyd and directed by Andy Fickman, currently the Heathers: The Musical is on a UK/Ireland tour, and is playing at The Other Palace.
37. Rocky Horror Show
Let’s do the time warp again? No, really! Musical aficionados and appreciators, the iconic The Rocky Horror Show is back!
The original musical swung onto the scene in 1973 and has experienced a roaring, nail-biting succession since then, now considered a cult musical, never mind movie. Speaking of, from the stage to big screen, it was also revised into a megahit comedy-horror musical film titled ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show.’
Its first-ever showcasing appeared at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 1973, then on Broadway in 1975, and in the West End from 1990 where it has embarked on national tours since. Today’s production is directed by Christopher Luscombe.
Inspired by B-grade horror movies and rock n roll, then-aspiring writer Richard O’Brien wrote the book for his envisioned show. Little did he know then the success it would have on the world.
The musical recounts two college sweethearts, Janet and Brad who break down in a storm outside a decrepit spooky mansion. Featuring transvestism as a major underlying theme (which wasn’t intentional at the time), it’s gone on to become a defining film loved by LGBTQ+ communities.
The original musical brought us some of the most-loved dancealong numbers that we still so love today, like Time Warp, Sweet Transvestite and Damn it Janet. Make sure to brush up on your dance sequence moves beforehand! You’ll be jiving and shaking your hips in no time.
From improv shows to jukebox musicals, good luck trying to pick which production to watch first on the West End!
A night out at the theater is always magical, and you can’t help but feel a sense of nostalgia that goes along with it. When the stages and auditoriums are as historic and extravagant as the ones on London’s West End, there’s nothing quite like it!
Whether you’re here to see your favorite actor, playwright or production, you’re in for a joy ride!
Make sure to check out this list for regular updates as some West End shows and musicals see their final curtain call in a couple of months’ time, and new ones hit the stage for the very first time, or as a revival!
Have you already got a performance in mind? Book your West End tickets, then sit back, relax and revel in an evening of splendor! Enjoy the show!