Top 10 Longest Running West End Shows In London Today
Most people know that Agatha Christie’s murder mystery play The Mousetrap is the West End’s longest running theatre show, having been running for over sixty five years! Most of us will also know that both The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables are the two longest running musicals. But what are the rest?
I thought I’d have a look through the current top ten longest running West End shows, still playing in London today.
1. The Mousetrap (25 November 1952)
The Mousetrap is the worlds longest running theatre production, having been playing for almost sixty-four years in London’s West End. A murder mystery ‘who dunnit’ crime thriller written by the legendary crime novelist Agatha Christie, which premiered in London in 1952. The original terms of the play state that the film rights can not be sold until after the play has been closed in the West End for more than six months. Some eager film producers have been waiting a very long time! Keep reading
2. Les Misérables (8 October 1985)
For anyone else that maybe doesn’t know the story of Les Mis, here we go… a man goes to prison for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his dying family. Twenty years later he is released on parol but hasn’t learnt his lesson and gets arrested again, this time for stealing cutlery from a kind bishop who takes him in for the night. Taking pity on him, the bishop says he gave the plates to Jean Valjean and he is set free. JVJ then swears to himself that he will turn his life around and become a decent person. Keep reading
3. The Phantom of the Opera (9 October 1986)
The Phantom of the Opera is one of the worlds longest running musicals, opening in London in 1986 and still going strong today. Based on the novel Le Fantôme de l’Opéra by Gaston Leroux, it is inspired by real events that happened at the Paris Opera in the early nineteenth century.
The Phantom of the Opera haunts an old Paris theatre and lives in a lair underneath the building. So long as the theatre owners pay him what he asks each month and obeys any orders he gives, then all will be fine. But when new owners take over, they are less than enthusiastic about pandering to the Phantom’s demands and things start to go wrong. In the meantime, the Phantom has taken a young performer, Christine, under his wing and tutors her in singing. He becomes obsessed with her and wants them to be together, leaving her in a love triangle and having to make a very big decision. Keep reading
4. The Woman In Black (7 June 1989)
The Fortune Theatre, built in 1924 on the ashes of the Albion Pub is a suitably spooky setting for Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black, now in its 29th year. It abounds with tales of ghosts; the broken hearted flower seller who appears once a year in the circle to wait for his illicit love; the smell of lavender in the royal box in summer; and knocking behind mirrors back stage. Currently starring Terence Wilton as the lawyer haunted by his experiences in remote England and resigned to ease his pain by telling his tale, and James Byng as the actor hired to help him capture the spirit of performance and engage the audience, Stephen Mallatratt‘s adaptation draws you in, as the audience is transported from an empty stage where the older Arthur Kipps starts to relax into his story telling with the support of this young actor to the wilds of Eelee Marsh House rising out of the mist. Keep reading
5. Mamma Mia (6 April 1999)
Mamma Mia is one of those musicals that has survived in the West End for so many years because it does what it says on the tin. It’s a bit of light hearted fun, where you can sing along to Abba songs and see a lot of people dancing around in Lycra! The set design is very basic and the costumes aren’t very inventive but that isn’t really what people are going to the show for. They just want to thank Abba for the music and celebrate their well loved songs. Keep reading
6. The Lion King (19 October 1999)
Set against the majesty of the Serengeti Plains and to the evocative rhythms of Africa, Disney’s multi award-winning musical will redefine your expectations of theatre.
Brilliantly reimagined by acclaimed director Julie Taymor, Disney’s beloved film has been transformed into a spectacular theatrical experience that explodes with glorious colours, stunning effects and enchanting music.
At its heart is the powerful and moving story of Simba – the epic adventure of his journey from wide-eyed cub to his destined role as King of the Pridelands.
7. Wicked (27 September 2006)
Wicked follows the story of the witches of Oz and is based on the novel by Gregory McGuire, but there is plenty for fans of L Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz mixed in, with lots of fantastical elements and spectacular staging. The story tells a very different side to the beloved MGM film and additionally hints at society’s tolerance of racism and bigotry. Keep reading
8. Thriller – Live (26 January 2009)
Eight years ago, Thriller Live opened in London’s West End, celebrating the music of the King of Pop, Michael Jackson. Less than six months later, the man himself sadly died, making Thriller Live a celebration concert of his life as well as his music.
It is undeniably a brilliant dance show with a talented cast of performers backflipping around the stage. There is a core set of singers including 90’s child pop star Cleo Higgins (of Cleopatra fame) who looks and sounds fierce, belting out (sometimes questionably if live) Michael Jackson’s classic songs like Man In The Mirror, Blame It On The Boogie and of course, Thriller. Keep reading
9. Matilda (7 October 2011)
Matilda The Musical is the multi-award winning musical from the Royal Shakespeare Company, inspired by the beloved book by the incomparable Roald Dahl.
With book by Dennis Kelly and original songs by Tim Minchin, Matilda The Musical is the story of an extraordinary little girl who, armed with a vivid imagination and a sharp mind, dares to take a stand and change her own destiny.
10. The Book of Mormon (26 February 2013)
Avenue Q writer, Robert Lopez, just happened to spot South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone in the audience of Avenue Q one night in 2003. He confessed after the show to them that their film South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut had been a big influence on him when creating the show. Funnily enough, Trey and Matt had only been to watch Avenue Q because their producer thought they would enjoy it! The trio then decided to join forces to create a new musical which is now known as The Book of Mormon! Eight years later, in 2011 the show opened on Broadway and now, finally, it has opened in London’s West End! Keep reading