Longest-running West End Shows
Wicked: The Untold Story Of The Wizard Of Oz
You know the story of the Wizard of Oz, but have you ever wondered what made the Wicked Witch of the West so bad? Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz takes you back in time to a sorcery school where the popular, blonde Glinda (Suzie Mathers) strikes up an unlikely friendship with the dowdy Elphaba (Rachel Tucker), who is singled out because her skin is green.
Now in its 10th year, Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre has won a host of gongs: Olivier, Grammy and Tony Awards. When you watch it, you’ll see why – it has elaborate costumes and jokes all the family can appreciate. One example is the comical tune, Popular, sung by Glinda as she gives her pal an unwanted makeover. But the real highlight is when the wicked witch belts out Defying Gravity from the rafters.
The Lion King
Follow Simba, an innocent lion cub, as he grows into his role as king of his pride in the African desert in Disney’s The Lion King. Fast and colourful, this vibrant musical comes alive with elaborate masks, body paint and dancing. The show’s world premiere was in Minneapolis, USA, in 1997, and it opened at the Lyceum Theatre in London in 1999 – so this year the show celebrates its 17th birthday.
Audiences have been wowed by African rhythms, drumming and shadow and hand-held puppetry since it began. Over 80 million people worldwide have watched African animals strutting, leaping and dancing to well-known hits such as Can You Feel the Love Tonight? Samoan-Kiwi Nicholas Afoa, who stars as Simba, 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.”’
Mamma Mia! opened at the Prince Edward Theatre in London in 1999, so it is now in its 18th year. The musical transferred to the Prince of Wales Theatre in 2004, and in August 2007 it became the theatre’s longest running show after 1,327 performances at the venue. It moved to the Novello Theatre in 2012. Since its premiere, the musical has made more than £300 million and been seen by more than eight million people in London, in over 7,000 performances.
One of the greatest jukebox musicals of all time, it is much loved for its Abba soundtrack – including Dancing Queen, Super Trouper and The Winner Takes It All. Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, members of ABBA, were involved in the development of the show. The romantic comedy is set on a Greek island shortly before Sophie’s (Sanne den Besten) wedding. But when she reads her mother’s diary and discovers three men could be her father, she’s determined to track them down and invite them all. But what will her mother make of that?
The Phantom Of The Opera
Next month, The Phantom of the Opera celebrates its 30th birthday at Her Majesty’s Theatre. The original production opened in 1986 starring Michael Crawford as the Phantom, a mysterious masked figure. Shunned by society, he falls in love with Christine, a young woman acting in a theatrical opera.
In 2013, The Phantom of the Opera became the longest running show in Broadway, playing for 25 years. It has been seen by 140 million people, in 35 countries and 164 cities. Ben Forster plays the Phantom in the current West End show. Don’t miss it – the scene with the boat in the cave is incredible!
Based on the novel of the same name, Les Misérables wins gold for being the longest running musical in the world – the London production celebrated its 30th birthday in 2015. The musical follows the criminal Jean Valjean, who is hunted for decades by police officer Javert after he breaks his parole.
When Valjean’s luck changes and he becomes responsible for a factory, he agrees to look after the daughter of Fantine, one of his employees. The show opened in London at the Barbican Theatre in 1985, transferring to the Palace Theatre that December and to its current home at the Queen’s Theatre in 2004. The production has now been seen by 70 million people in 44 countries and 349 cities, and has been translated into 22 languages. Don’t forget your tissues, as you may need them for Fantine’s I Dreamed a Dream.