Planning a weekend in London and fancy a show? Here’s the best musicals to be found in London’s West End right now.
Six – Vaudeville Theatre
If you prefer your history local and your talent home-grown, Six is the word-of-mouth powerhouse that’s been kicking up a storm ever since its debut at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2017. Taking the not-so famous wives of history’s most famous monarch and thrusting them back into the spotlight, Six is a gloriously feminist and upbeat show which challenges the way we think about history with a cheekily modern twist. Bonus points for the best tagline currently on the West End: It’s Divorced, Beheaded, Live!
Hamilton – Victoria Palace Theatre
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s global historical phenomenon shows no signs of stopping. Though the West End transfer opened in 2017, tickets are still hard to come by, so keep an eye on daily returns for your best chance to catch the founding fathers live. Tracking the tale of America’s formerly little-known founder, Alexander Hamilton, from poverty in Haiti to a fateful duel with Aaron Burr, Hamilton's combination of hip-hop and musical theatre pizzazz feels just as fresh today as it did five years ago. Don’t throw away your shot to see what is undoubtedly a new stage musical classic in its first run.
George Takei’s Allegiance – Charing Cross Theatre
Inspired by the life of beloved Star Trek-star George Takei, a Japanese-American family are forced to leave their California home for an internment camp in rural Wyoming in a faithful adaptation of the Broadway musical. The West End has a curious habit of showcasing lesser-known periods of history, and Allegiance is no exception. Though reviews have been somewhat muted since its debut in January, if George Takei’s undeniable charm in two supporting roles can shine some light on the inhumanity of a dark period in America’s history, then this soaring West End revival is no bad thing.
Wicked – Apollo Victoria Theatre
The Apollo Victoria has been painted a fetching shade of green for a few years now, and for good reason – Wicked’s alternative telling of the Wizard of Oz is just as spellbinding now as it was when it opened on the West End in 2006. By flipping the beloved story on its head, the show’s classically Broadway exterior hides a wickedly sharp script about the power of propaganda and the nature of storytelling itself. Though, as with many long-running shows, it now lacks some of the energy and verve of its younger, scrappier contemporaries, for a rock solid night out for the whole family, it’s hard to defy gravity.
The Book of Mormon – Prince of Wales Theatre
You’ll have to leave the kids at home for this one, but if you fancy a big-budget West End experience that’s a little more unusual, give The Book of Mormon a shot. This sweary takedown of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone sees a pair of rosy-cheeked Mormons sent on a mission to a remote Ugandan village, and its as deliciously inappropriate as that sounds. For a comedy musical, the songs aren’t half-bad, either.
Back to the Future – Adelphi Theatre
Impressive feats of stagecraft in the form of the film’s iconic DeLorean hide a sweet, big-hearted soul in this love-letter to the beloved 1985 film. Zany characters, crowd-pleasing musical cues and an entertaining self-awareness combine to artfully capture the spirit of the original. One for film fans, and one to see quickly before it goes.
Les Misérables – Sondheim Theatre
Possessed of a longevity that defies all laws of Victor Hugo’s popularity, there’s an argument to be made that Les Mis has become the archetypal West End show. Updated staging in 2019 has injected London’s longest-running musical with some much-needed oomph, and Jean Valjean’s revolutionary tale of social mobility more than earns its legendary status. For the classical West-End experience, it’s hard to say no to a bit of the Misérables.
Cabaret – Playhouse Theatre, Charring Cross
It may no longer boast the Hollywood star power of Eddie Redmayne and Jessie Buckley, but Rebecca Frecknall’s new version of the classic musical cleaned up at the Olivier’s this year – and for good reason. Taking over the Playhouse Theatre in more ways than one, completely refreshing its tired old façade, Cabaret is about as immersive as theatre can get without an overpriced chardonnay and an awkward conversation with a RADA graduate, and its mesmerising tale of the growth of fascism is as terrifyingly relevant today as it’s ever been.
Matilda The Musical – Cambridge Theatre
The film adaptation may have been riding high at the UK box office for the last few weeks, but for the definitive Matilda experience, the original is always best. Exceptional stagecraft and choreography combined with Tim Minchin’s immortal lyrics make this Roald Dahl adaptation the best family musical currently on the West End, and the rotating young cast ensure it always feels fresh. This is the sort of show that’s likely to run for a long time, though, so if you’re likely to find yourself in London again soon, give some smaller fry a shot.