It’s Saturday afternoon and you are in London, having been to a museum, eaten your lunch and wandered around Hyde Park – what are you going to do with your evening? There are a plethora of entertainment opportunities in the capital and you should never be short of ideas, but what can be more relaxing than falling back into a comfortable chair, with an ice cream in your hand, and being whisked off into another world for a couple of hours? This article brings you five top ‘must see’ theatre shows in London.
Arguably, this is one of London’s most famous and successful shows – the story of unrequited love and the damage that it can do. The stage version is based on the book (Le Fantôme de l’Opéra) written by Gaston Leroux, which was first published in 1909. The publication sold slowly, and it was certainly overshadowed by many successful stage and television adaptations.
The performance that you see in London is the longest ever running show at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Haymarket; it has been that popular. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s masterpiece is filled with dramatic music and scenery from the very first opening cords; it cannot fail to impress even the most cynical of theatre-goers. The question is answered in ‘Love Never Dies’ but you should judge for yourself: did Christine make the right choice, when two suitors vie for her attentions? Should she have loved Raoul, or the Phantom?
Her Majesty’s Theatre
Written by the Queen of the ‘whodunit’ genre, The Mousetrap has been running in London since 1952, the year before the Queen’s coronation and is the longest ever run of any play in history, ever! That should tell you something about the performance and as to why it has made it on to the list of the top five. The play is unique for another reason – one of the original “cast members” hasn’t been axed from his role, since the play opened! The late Deryck Guyler reads the news (in a radio bulletin) to this day. Fortunately his appearance is down to a recording, not the gentleman in question being present. Furthermore, one prop survives from the opening night and that is the clock which sits on the mantelpiece in the hall.
So, exactly whodunit? That’s not for me to say. The audience is asked to not reveal the plot at the end of every performance (and there have been about 25,000 of them so far!) You will have to see for yourself.
St Martin’s Theatre, home of “the Mousetrap” by Agatha Christie since 1974.
London’s second longest running stage show, this production has come to be known as “Les Mis”. It was based on a book of the same name, by Victor Hugo and it is arguably his finest piece. The story follows the fortunes of a group of people who are seeking redemption and revolution in 19th century France
When it was originally converted to a stage production, there were some critical outbursts stating that a classic should not be tampered with in such a manner. The public did not agree and flocked to the theatre in their droves – demand outstripping supply.
If you like your musicals, then this could be the show for you as it has song after song (nearly 50!) to amuse and delight the audience.
The Queen’s Theatre, centre stage for “Les Misérables” since 2004.
Opening at the Lyceum in London, in 1999, this successful show is based on the Disney film of the same name. It follows the fortunes of Simba the lion cub as he matures, is tricked into leaving his pride and his subsequent return and triumph.
All of the major characters make an appearance in the stage version along with the now famous songs, such as ‘Hakuna Matata’ and ‘Can you feel the love tonight?’
There is one spectacular and unique feature about this show that is not present in any other London performance – the giant hollow animal puppets. Where else can you see a life size elephant walking through the audience, up onto a stage? In which other show does a child ride across the stage on a giraffe? Ladies and gentlemen, in this show, seeing is believing!
The Lyceum, hosts “The Lion King”.
Originally this story was inspired by a novel written by A.J. Cronin and was transformed into a show, fit for a Queen in 2000. The stage production follows the film and is centred around a young boy who would rather wear ballet shoes than boxing gloves, much to the annoyance of his father. It was popular with critics and theatre goers from the very beginning and has been nominated for countless awards – it is definitely worth a couple of hours of your time. It raises a tear, pokes fun at a previous British Prime Minister and is heart-warming all at the same time.
The Victoria Palace Theatre, centre stage for “Billy Elliott”.
(Guest post) There are so many wonderful shows that are on in London at the moment – we haven’t even considered Chicago, Blood Brothers, Mama Mia, Jersey Boys and a myriad of others. Needless to say, if theatre trips are your bag, there are many car hire and accommodation options also available online. So travel to London, there will not be a dull moment in England’s capital. Go on – enjoy!