While New York’s Broadway may be famous for both musicals and plays, London’s West End is home to some of the best theatrical experiences available. London is an exciting and global city and attracts some of the best acting, producing, and writing talent, which means the musicals being produced here are world-class. While many of the productions themselves are transplants from Broadway, London adds some local flavor, which means the productions are high-quality yet accessible. Don’t forget that London is where Andrew Lloyd Webber has produced most of his plays, including Cats, Starlight Express, Jesus Christ Superstar and The Phantom of the Opera. So jump into the West End, BUCKiTDREAMer, and you’ll emerge feeling glitzy, glamorous, and maybe even ready to burst into song!
Inspired by the iconic 1994 Disney film, The Lion King musical was written by Elton John and Tim Rice and premiered in Minneapolis, the USA in 1997. It tells the story of Simba and co. through a rich visual style with gorgeous and stylistic sets, costume, and makeup. It has been running at the Lyceum Theater since 1999.
First staged in Paris in 1980, Les Miserables adapts the classic Victor Hugo novel that tells the story of Jean Valjean, a French peasant who seeks redemption during the Revolution. It is a beautiful, emotional, and inspiring story with classic musical numbers that are both triumphant and heartbreaking. It had its London premiere in 1985 and now runs at Queen’s Theater. It is also famous for being the longest-running musical in the world!
Another Disney adaptation, Aladdin has been running on the West End since 2016. While it is a relatively new production, having premiered in Seattle in 2011, it has proved incredibly popular since its opening and is quickly cementing its status as one of the must-see shows on the West End at the Prince Edward Theater.
You must have been living under a rock if you haven’t heard of this smash hit! Written by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park fame, this musical tells the story of two clueless Mormon missionaries who attempt to bring the good word to a tribe in Uganda. It is biting satire and the songs will have you laughing out loud and blushing at the same time. It opened on the West End in 2013 in the Prince of Wales Theater. Booking early is advised.
Kinky Boots is the perfect story of an outcast being embraced by a seemingly closed society. It tells the story of a factory owner who teams up with a drag queen to save his dying business and is based on the British film of the same name. With songs written by megastar Cyndi Lauper, you know this show will give you bang for your buck. It opened in the Adelphi Theater in 2015.
If you’re a fan of a theater spectacle, then Wicked is for you. Inspired by the classic story of The Wizard of Oz, it features the witches before Dorothy arrives and gives insight into their backstories. It is one of the most successful contemporary musicals and has consistently sold out since it opened in 2006. It features aerial stunts, incredible costumes, and famous songs, so if you’re not familiar with musicals, there is no better entry. It currently runs at the Apollo Victoria Theater.
Running since 1999, Mamma Mia is a smash hit based on the music of beloved Swedish pop group, ABBA. Telling the story of a woman who is looking for her birth father before she gets married, it expertly weaves famous songs into a fun and interesting story. It actually got its start on the West End and opened on Broadway in 2000. If you loved the film adaptation, you have to check out the play at the Novello Theater.
Adapted from the beloved novel of the same name by Roald Dahl, Matilda has been delighting audiences on the West End since 2011. It is the perfect theatrical experience for children and relies heavily on interesting choreography and sets. The titular Matilda is played by three different young actresses and the songs were written by Australian comedian Tim Minchin. It is currently running in the Cambridge Theater.
A must-see for any Beyoncé fan (she starred in the film adaptation), Dreamgirls tells the story of a girl band in the 1960s and is loosely based on the story of Diana Ross’s band, The Supremes. Despite opening on Broadway in 1981, it didn’t move to the West End until 2016, with Glee’s Amber Riley starring as Effie White. It is a painful and redemptive story with incredible Motown-inspired music. It runs at the Savoy Theater.
Based on a French novel of the same name, Phantom, as it is affectionately known by its fans, has been thrilling audiences on the West End since 1986. It is the second-longest-running musical after Les Miserables and tells the story of a man who lives in the underground of an opera theater and the singer who becomes fascinated with him. It runs at Her Majesty’s Theater.
While you can’t take photos or videos inside a theater, don’t forget to strike a pose outside or grab a selfie with an actor or two and upload to Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram. It’ll be another tick off your BUCKiTDREAM list!