Top ten West End shows in London
From new shows such as True West to classics Les Mis and The Lion King
Here are The Week’s top pics if you are planning a trip to Theatreland.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Yes, it lives up to the hype. Jack Thorne and J.K. Rowling bring us an epic two-part eighth adventure for The Boy Who Lived, Harry Potter. The special effects are indeed astonishing, allowing audiences to witness some genuine stage magic. According to the Daily Telegraph "those involved can give themselves a pat on the back. It’s a triumph. Not an unqualified one – there are some quibbles – but in all key respects, it grips, it stirs, it delights."
There’s a reason for all the anticipation. With wonderfully diverse casting and showstoppingly catchy music, Lin Manuel Miranda masterfully intertwines musical theatre and hip-hop in a story about Alexander Hamilton, the first secretary of the US Treasury. Amid all the clever wordplay and excellent stagecraft, "above all, Miranda has created an invigorating and original musical that, at a time of national crisis, celebrates America’s overwhelming debt to the immigrant", The Guardian says.
School of Rock
With music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and a script by Julian Fellowes, School of Rock is based on the 2003 hit film of the same name. The musical follows the story of Dewey Finn a “wannabe rock star and guitarist who is down on his luck and decided to make a bit of quick money by posing as a supply teacher at a prestigious prep school”, says London Theatre. The cast boasts an incredibly talented group of children who not only sing and dance, but play their own instruments as well.
Book of Mormon
From the creators of South Park, Book of Mormon delivers a hilariously anarchic show that has so far won four Olivier awards and nine Tony awards back in the US. The sometimes crass musical follows the journey of two Salt Lake City Mormons, Elder Price and Elder Cunningham, who are sent on a mission to convert the people of Uganda to Mormonism. Creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone do what they do best in this religious satire: make people laugh and wince at the same time.
The Lion King
Set on the Serengeti plains to the rhythms of Africa, Disney's award-winning musical The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre will have you wanting to sing, cry, laugh, and dance all at once. Equipped clever puppetry, high tech special effects, and infectious music, The Lion King proved that Disney is capable of bringing their animations to the stage. The musical was reimagined for the stage by acclaimed director Julie Taymor, and features music by Elton John, lyrics by Tim Rice, a musical score created by Hans Zimmer and choral arrangements by Lebo M.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
“Inspired by a 2011 BBC documentary about a teenager who wanted to be a drag queen, the show follows 16-year-old Jamie on his journey to be himself – out of a classroom in a working-class part of Sheffield, away from the bigotry of a deadbeat dad, and into high heels,” says Time Out. Complete with video projections and a live band above the stage, director Jonathan Butterell delivers a show that offers hope while not shying away from the hardships of Jamie’s world.
There’s a reason why this is the longest running show in the West End. The rousing music of Les Miserables has been exciting audiences since 1985 and will more than likely continue to do so more decades yet. Adapted from the original 1862 novel by Victor Hugo, the musical is set against the backdrop of 19th-century France and tells a story of unrequited love, sacrifice, passion, redemption and revolutionary spirit, says London Theatre.
This spellbinding musical first premiered on Broadway in 2003 and hasn't stopped since, receiving more than 100 international awards including three Tonys. Wicked is a prequel story to The Wizard of Oz, telling the stories of the Wicked Witch of the West and the Good Witch of the South, who first meet as sorcery students. You can catch the show at the Apollo Victoria Theatre.
A modern interpretation of the 1970 comedy musical, Company, is on at the Gielgud Theatre. While the original featured Bobby, a single man unable to commit to a relationship while his friends are marrying off, the genders have been reversed with Bobbi played by Rosalie Craig. An “astonishing reinvention of a classic musical”, says The Stage.
Coming to the West End on 23 November, True West stars Game of Thrones hero Kit Harington and Johnny Flynn as brothers, Austin and Lee. The siblings work on a movie script together in the California desert and become pitted against one another. “True West, which premiered in 1980, is considered a classic of American theatre,” says The Times. “A weird mano a mano between two brothers, as well as a surreal disquisition on the USA, it charts a vicious, visceral rivalry that takes in every mind game imaginable and, naturally, some fisticuffs.”