The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time
It’s little wonder that this National Theatre play at the Gielgud Theatre has won seven Olivier and five Tony Awards, as it’s one of the few West End plays that manages to capture the attention of adults and children alike. The play is based on Mark Haddon’s novel, which has been directed by Marianne Elliott and adapted by Simon Stephens. It follows an investigation by an autistic teenager into the murder of a neighbour’s dog. Joseph Ayre takes the lead role as Christopher. While Ayre is an adult, his facial expressions and posture make him a convincing 15 year old. His character charms the audience with his innocent nature and habit of taking everything literally – often with comical results. ‘People say that you always have to tell the truth,’ he says. ‘But they do not mean this because you are not allowed to tell old people that they are old and you are not allowed to tell people if they smell funny.’
Christopher’s detective work unravels another mystery closer to home, which takes him from his father’s house in Wiltshire to the bright lights of London. The set is deceptively simple. Most props are imagined, but clever use of electronic music, video projection and neon lights make it seem high-tech.
Stephens, the playwright, says: ‘I find it moving when people who have lived with a family member on the autistic spectrum or with Asperger syndrome see the show. Sometimes people with autism have commented that the show allows their parents to see the world in the way that they do, or experience how they feel. That is humbling.’ The show is suitable for children aged 11 upwards. curiousonstage.com
Matilda The Musical
Directed by Matthew Warchus, Matilda the Musical at the Cambridge Theatre is based on Roald Dahl’s children’s story about Matilda, a precocious girl who’s mistreated by her parents. Every child has a teacher they don’t like and even as adults we can remember one that put the fear of God into us. But none are as terrifying as the dreaded Miss Trunchbull (Craige Els). Luckily for Matilda, she has her teacher Miss Honey (Miria Parvin) on her side and an unusual power she uses to enact revenge. Composer and lyricist Tim Minchin is behind the songs, which include the catchy tune When I Grow Up, performed by the cast’s children as they sway above the audience on swings. It’s one of the show’s most memorable scenes, and one which resulted in Rob Howell winning an Olivier Award for best set design. Watch the cast climbing on alphabet blocks and over school gates, and you’ll soon understand why. matildathemusical.com
The Lion King
Follow Simba, an innocent lion cub, as he grows into his role as king of his pride in the African desert. Fast and colourful, this musical comes alive with incredible masks, face paint and dancing. Since the show opened at the Lyceum in 1999, it has wowed more than 80 million people worldwide with hits such as Can You Feel the Love Tonight? Nicholas Afoa, an ex-New Zealand rugby player, is Simba. He says: ‘Music is a huge part of Samoan culture. When I was cast, the directors said: "Bring your culture to the role and be you."
Forget the red carpet – see stars on a flying carpet in the Disney musical Aladdin at Prince Edward Theatre. As in the 1992 animation, the show follows Aladdin, a street boy who frees a genie from a lamp before finding his wishes can come true. But then he realises that evil forces have other plans for the lamp – and Princess Jasmine – unless he can save her. Choreographer and director Casey Nicholaw says: ‘Fans of the film experience the spirit and songs they love, with a bunch of new ones. There are magic moments, including the magic carpet ride.’ Sing along to A Whole New World and Friend Like Me, and watch sword throwers, belly dancers and fireworks.
You know the story of the Wizard of Oz, but have you ever wondered what made the Wicked Witch of the West wicked? This musical takes you back in time to a sorcery school where the popular, blonde Glinda (Savannah Stevenson) strikes up an unlikely friendship with the dowdy Elphaba (Emma Hatton; Rachel Tucker from Sep), who is singled out because her skin is green. Now in its 10th year, Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre has won many gongs including Olivier, Grammy and Tony Awards. When you watch it, you’ll see why, as it has elaborate costumes, set designs and jokes the whole family can appreciate – such as the comical tune, Popular, sung by Glinda as she gives her pal an unwanted makeover. But the highlight is the Wicked Witch belting out Defying Gravity from the rafters.
Charlie And The Chocolate Factory
Another Roald Dahl tale, this musical at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane is about a poor boy who is one of five children to win a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Director Sam Mendes leads a talented creative team made up of Marc Shalman, Scott Wittman and Peter Darling, who, collectively, have worked on Hairspray, Billy Elliot and Matilda the Musical. The team’s adaptation remains faithful to the book, so you can expect all your favourite scenes to be recreated – even the ones that seem impossible! Young children will especially enjoy the dancing Oompa Loompas, roller skaters and watching Violet Beauregarde turn into a giant inflatable blueberry after chewing three-course-meal-flavoured gum. But what you’ll go home talking about is the set, which wows with a vertical chocolate river and, of course, the great glass elevator.