Last month (yes, I planned on doing this post over a month ago but didn’t get round to it!) I went to one of my very favourite events in London… West End Live. Held annually in London’s Trafalgar Square, West End Live is a free event showcasing musicals and plays from across the West End in a bid to get more people interested in theatre. This years line up was brilliant and, as always, I left with a list of ‘must see’ shows as long as my arm, that I intend on ploughing through before next years event. But, it got me thinking about the shows I have already seen (and there are a lot!) and which ones I’d recommend to anyone who wasn’t such an avid theatre-goer or anyone coming into the West End for the first time.
So… I dug out some (there were too many to take off the shelf without everything falling over!) of my theatre programmes and took a trip down memory lane, to compile a list of my top five, must see West End Shows.
My first experience of theatre was seeing Starlight Express when I was very young, not long before it closed in London (which is why I have ruled it out of my top five today). I just remember being so in awe of the people on that stage, the incredible costumes, the music, the lights – just absolutely everything! It was like a drug and I needed more. Unfortunately, Starlight has never returned to London (something I hope and pray for on a regular basis!) so I felt it wasn’t really a contender for a recommendation post, however, if it does ever return I urge anyone to go and see it, for it was just truly spectacular.
Compiling a list of just five has not been an easy challenge in the slightest! In the end, I went with shows I feel I could see over and over again, or productions that any new theatre-goer would do well to start with. So, without further ado, here we go…
Les Miserables (Currently at the Queens Theatre)
This one speaks for itself really! Officially named as the worlds longest running musical, seen by over 70 million people in 22 different languages around the world and still going strong today, Les Mis is undoubtedly my favourite musical of all time. While it’s backdrop of 19th-century France and the revolution may seem a bit grim, the tales of love, hope, passion and sacrifice are so beautiful, I could cry over it time and time again, without ever getting bored. Such a beautiful, thought-provoking production from start to finish, Les Miserables is definitely one to tick of the bucket list.
Legally Blonde (Currently preparing for a 2017-2018 UK Tour)
I first saw Legally Blonde at the Savoy Theatre, many moons ago, when Sheridan Smith was still a relatively new household name. Having loved the film, I jumped at the chance to see the show with very little expectation, but left with it firmly sitting pretty in my top five shows. The music and lyrics were so catchy, so hilarious, that (if I’m honest here) I haven’t stopped singing them since. The hilarity of the entire production; which follows Elle Woods in her desperate attempt to win back the man she loves, and in turn gain a place at Harvard Law School in the process, still sticks in my mind today and I left the theatre with the biggest grin on my face possible. Sheridan Smith was the most perfect Elle Woods, and while I am looking forward to seeing it’s revival on tour next year, I wonder if anyone else can possibly suffice… I shall have to wait and see.
Wicked (Currently at the Apollo Victoria)
Wicked was always going to be on my list, before I’d even sat through my very first production. Since I was little I have adored The Wizard Of Oz and couldn’t resist the chance to see the ‘untold story of the witches of Oz.’ Full of the most spectacular sets, costumes and show-stopping songs, you get an overwhelming sense of magic from the moment you first set foot through the theatre doors. It tells the tale of an unlikely friendship formed between two young women, who eventually go on to become Glinda The Good and The Wicked Witch Of The West, in the much loved Frank Baum tale. Wicked is now the 17th longest running show in London’s theatre history and still going strong.
The Bodyguard (Currently at The Dominion Theatre)
Probably the show that surprised me the most in its jump into my top five. Chosen by a friend, I had little expectation of this musical other than to spend a few hours singing my heart out to Whitney numbers! The Bodyguard follows the story of a young superstar, Rachel Marron, who is being unknowingly stalked, whilst former Secret Service Agent, Frank, strives desperately to protect her, and the pair unexpectedly fall in love. The story line, the music, just everything about the show is so compelling and beautiful that I couldn’t help but make it one of my top five.
Matilda The Musical (Currently at the Cambridge Theatre)
This stems a lot from my childhood love of both Roald Dahl and Matilda, as well as my overwhelming astonishment at how phenomenally well one little girl can carry an entire West End performance, with such complex dialogue and energetic routines, night after night. If you are unfamiliar with the story (where have you been?) Matilda is the story of a special little girl with very extraordinary powers. Unwanted and misunderstood by her family, Matilda finds solace in the comfort of stories, and eventually in the arms of her caring school teacher, Miss Honey. The songs, written by the ingenious lyricist Tim Minchin, really bring the classic Dahl tale to life and Matilda now delights audiences in both London and Australia.
So, there you have it… My top five recommendations of must-see theatre performances here in London. These will, undoubtedly change from time to time, as I witness the brilliance of yet more London theatre, but for now – enjoy!