I think I have made the confession before on here. I love theatre … and in particular musical theatre. Yes I am sure that some of you are rolling your eyes but I love Musical theatre. And so for me one of my favourite parts of London is the West End. Alongside Broadway, West End theatre represents the highest quality commercial theatre in the world. There are around 40 theatres in London’s “Theatreland.” Theatre performances in the West End tend to be musicals, classic plays and comedies. For someone that loves theatre and especially Musical Theatre … it is just heaven.
Theatre and the West End
The theatre in London has a long history with the earliest theatre being recorded in operation from 1576 (called ‘the Theatre’). During the 19th Century The West End theatre district became established with the opening of many small theatres and halls, including the Adelphi in The Strand on 17 November 1806. South of the River Thames, the Old Vic opened on 11 May 1818. The expansion of the West End theatre district gained pace with the Theatres Act 1843. From 1843 to about World War One there was a theatre building boom during which theatres such as he Criterion Theatre (21 March 1874), Savoy Theatre ( 10 October 1881 specifically to showcase the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan) and the Comedy Theatre (15 October 1881) open their doors.
Not all just in the West End … Off West End Theatres
Beyond the West End are the Royal National Theatre and Old Vic, in Southwark; and the Barbican Theatre, in the City of London. London also has many smaller theatres, both around the West End and its periphery. I know I am alittle naughty but I usually consider these theatres and their many fine works when I think about the West End as well.
Length of Show Runs
The length of West End shows depend on the economics … therefore ticket sales. The longest-running musical in West End history is Les Misérables. It overtook Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, which closed in 2002 after running for 8,949 performances and 21 years, as the longest-running West End musical of all time on 8 October 2006. Other long-runners include Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera and Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers which have also subsequently overtaken Cats. However the non-musical Agatha Christie play The Mousetrap is the longest-running show in the world, and has been showing since 1952.
What’s to see and do at West End?
- BILLY ELLIOT – THE MUSICAL
Book & Lyrics by Lee Hall , Music by Elton John at Victoria Palace Theatre
Tale of a motherless boy whose father wants him to take up boxing. Instead, the boy discovers a love for ballet
(from 31 Mar 2005 – Booking to 15 Dec 2012)
- BLOOD BROTHERS
by Willy Russell at Phoenix Theatre
A pair of twins from Liverpool are separated at birth,their paths cross in friendship and anger.
(from 21 Nov 1991 – Booking to 24 Nov 2012)
based on the play by Maurine Dallas Watkins, has a book by Fred Ebb and Bob Fosse, music by John Kander and lyrics by Fred Ebb at Garrick Theatre
High kicking musical featuring well known songs, ‘All That Jazz,’ ‘Razzle Dazzle’ and ‘Mr. Cellophane’.
(from 07 Nov 2011 – Booking to 26 Jan 2013)
- LES MISERABLES
Based on the novel by Victor Hugo, has lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer and music by Claude-Michel Schonberg with original text by Alain Boublil and additional material by James Fenton. at Queen’s Theatre
Concerns love and bravery in 19th century France during the revolutionary struggles
(from 03 Apr 2004 – Booking to 27 Oct 2012)
- MAMMA MIA
Music & Lyrics by Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus. Book by Catherine Johnson. And some songs by Stig Anderson.
at Novello Theatre (from 06 Sep 2012 – Booking to 13 Apr 2013)
at Prince Of Wales Theatre (from 03 Jun 2004 – Booking to 01 Sep 2012)
A story of a mother and daughter set on the eve of the daughter’s wedding.
(from 06 Sep 2012 – Booking to 13 Apr 2013)
- PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, THE
Music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Lyrics by Charles Hart , based on Gaston Leroux’s gothic novel
at Her Majesty’s Theatre
Tragic love story of a beautifulopera singer and a young composer shamed by his physical appearance.
(from 27 Sep 1986 – Booking to 27 Oct 2012)
- SWEENEY TODD – THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET
Music & lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, book by Hugh Wheeler, from an adaptation by Christopher Bond
at Adelphi Theatre
Set amongst London’s seedy side streets and laced with Sondheim’s characteristically wit and dark humour, the musical depicts Sweeney Todd’s savage quest for justice and retribution after years of false imprisonment.
(from 10 Mar 2012 – Booking to 22 Sep 2012)
Based on the novel by Gregory Maguire. Music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, book by Winnie Holzman
at Apollo Victoria Theatre
Story of two unlikely friends and how they end up as the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good Witch.
(from 07 Sep 2006 – Booking to 27 Apr 2013)
So for me … if I could go ove the summer and only see one musical … I would probably go and see … Sweeney Todd. It looks like it is going to be a awesome production with stars including Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton. Hmm but still it is a hard one to call.
For more information including how to get there, current and forecoming shows to LondonTheatre.Co.UK.