Advertisement

The best London musicals to book right now from The Lion King to Opening Night

Award winning musical: The Lion King features songs by Sir Elton John
Award winning musical: The Lion King features songs by Sir Elton John

Long runners

The Book of Mormon

The Book Of Mormon at the Prince Of Wales Theatre in 2013 (Dave Benett)
The Book Of Mormon at the Prince Of Wales Theatre in 2013 (Dave Benett)

Few would have thought that the story of a Mormon mission in a remote Ugandan village would, or could, be transformed into one of the funniest musicals of recent times. But 13 years after its New York City premiere, The Book of Mormon is still making packed out theatres squeal in delight. The plot, which follows two young Mormons’ desperate attempts to preach to uninterested African villagers (who are more concerned with issues such as FGM, HIV/AIDS and famine) is both savage and hysterical.

The Prince of Wales Theatre, buy tickets here

Frozen

Given that Disney’s Frozen became the highest-grossing animation of all time in 2013, it was perhaps always destined to become a stage musical. Following a Denver tryout, the show arrived on Broadway in 2018, with music and lyrics from husband and wife team Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez – the pair behind the film’s Oscar-winning song Let It Go. It arrived in London, at the gloriously refurbished Theatre Royal Drury Lane in late 2021, since when nearly 3 million visitors have seen it. If you want to join the ranks , the musical will be closing in Theatreland in September – so grab your tickets now.

Theatre Royal Drury Lane, buy tickets here

The Lion King

The Lion King (Handout)
The Lion King (Handout)

Now enjoying its 25th year in London, the musical version of The Lion King continues to dazzle: not only is it aesthetically gorgeous, but Elton John’s Oscar-winning songs never ever get old. Hakuna Matata indeed!

The Lyceum Theatre, buy tickets here

Hamilton

Songwriter and playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical phenomenon continues to go roll on: since its 2015 original off-Broadway release, the rap musical about US Founding Father Alexander Hamilton has won more than 10 Tony awards, a Grammy, seven Oliviers and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama and fans still can’t get enough on both sides of the Atlantic. Who would believed that hip-hop, R&B and 18th century history could make such a potent mix?

Victoria Palace Theatre, buy tickets here

Mamma Mia!

 (MAMMA MIA!)
(MAMMA MIA!)

Mamma Mia!, a jukebox musical of back-to-back ABBA hits, is still going strong after 25 years in the West End. It makes sense: there really are few better ways to spend a tipsy night out than going again and again. The story follows 20-year-old Sophie who, in effort to find out who her real father is, invites three of her mum’s old boyfriends to her wedding. Hilarity ensues.

Novello Theatre, buy tickets here

Matilda the Musical

In 2010, Roald Dahl’s Matilda was expertly adapted forthe stage by Tim Minchin and Dennis Kelly, and subsequently picked up dozens of awards including an Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Musical and seven Oliviers. The musical was adapted into a film in 2022, delighting fans – but there’s something particularly special about seeing it live.

Cambridge Theatre, buy tickets here

The Phantom of the Opera

 (Handout)
(Handout)

Millions have flocked to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s iconic musical since it opened in 1986. Based on Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel, the acclaimed musical depicts the love story between a disfigured musician and a young soprano who meet in Paris’s Opera House. Think of Me, Christine sings. And many do. A lot.

His Majesty’s Theatre, buy tickets here

Les Misérables

Opening in London in 1985, Les Mis is London’s longest-running musical – a huge testament to Claude-Michel Schönberg’s unforgettable score. Based on Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel, the deeply moving story follows Jean Valjean, looking for redemption after serving a 19-year prison sentence in early 19th century France. One day more? There will be quite a few...

Sondheim Theatre, buy tickets here

Six The Musical

 (handout)
(handout)

This poptastic musical, in which Henry the Eighth’s six wives compete (in a pop concert) over who suffered most at the Tudor king’s hands, was thought up by Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow while the pair were still students at Cambridge. After two sell-out runs at Edinburgh, the musical opened in the West End in 2019 and transferred to Broadway too. This gloriously funny show, with tunes that will lodge themselves in your head, has picked up a Tony, a Grammy nomination, and five Olivier award nominations.

Vaudeville Theatre, buy tickets here

Tina – The Tina Turner Musical

This jukebox musical consists of one absolute Tina Turner banger after another. Running in the West End since 2018, it tells the story of Tina’s own life, on an extraordinary journey from poverty in Tennessee in 1939, to an international superstar and queen of rock ‘n’ roll.

Aldwych Theatre, buy tickets here

Wicked

Wicked musical cast as it reopened at the Apollo Victoria Theatre in London in 2021 (PA)
Wicked musical cast as it reopened at the Apollo Victoria Theatre in London in 2021 (PA)

Stephen Schwartz’s Wicked took the Wizard of Oz and turned it on its head: this is a prequel that drills down into the life story of the Elphaba the ‘bad witch’, looking at her friendship with Galinda the ‘good witch’. Now running in London for 18 years, fans return again and again to watch the acclaimed production for its style, pacing, catchy songs and clever storyline.

Apollo Victoria Theatre, buy tickets here

Mid runners

Despite not exactly counting as long-runners, we couldn’t resist including these three fantastic shows on our list.

Back to the Future the Musical

When it was announced that Robert Zemeckis’s 1985 classic was being adapted into a 2020 musical, some super fans were afraid that the sci-fi film might be a tough one to bring to the stage. But Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard did a fantastic job transforming the source material, and the show was nominated for seven Olivier awards in 2022, winning Best Musical.

Adelphi Theatre, buy tickets here

Cabaret

Luke Treadaway and Cara Delevingne take up the roles of the Emcee and Sally Bowles (Handout)
Luke Treadaway and Cara Delevingne take up the roles of the Emcee and Sally Bowles (Handout)

The recent revival of John Kander, Fred Ebb, and Joe Masteroff’s iconic 1966 musical, which depicts a seedy underground nightclub in Berlin as the Nazis are coming to power, picked up seven Olivier Awards including Best Musical Revival and quickly became one of Theatreland’s hottest tickets. When the show opened in December 2021, Eddie Redmayne and Jessie Buckley lead the cast, playing the Emcee and British flapper Sally Bowles. Since then, there have been several rounds of celebrities stepping into the coveted roles: Cara Delevingne and Luke Treadaway are up next.

Kit Kat Club, buy tickets here

Moulin Rouge! The Musical

It’s actually quite surprising that it took two decades for Baz Luhrmann’s epic musical to be adapted for the stage. But it did, arriving in all its glory in London in January 2022. Consisting of the film’s beloved songs, the spectacular musical copped a massive 10 Tony awards and the fans keep flocking.

Piccadilly Theatre, buy tickets here

Recent arrivals

The Big Life

Karl Queensborough, Nathanael Campbell, Juliet Agnes, Ashley Samuels & Khalid Daley (Mark Senior)
Karl Queensborough, Nathanael Campbell, Juliet Agnes, Ashley Samuels & Khalid Daley (Mark Senior)

A revival of the theatre's Windrush Ska musical, based on Love's Labour's Lost, by Paul Sirrett and Tameka Empson, two decades after its premiere and subsequent West End transfer. It's directed by rising star Tinuke Craig.

Theatre Royal Stratford East, to March 30; stratfordeast.com

Just for One Day

The Live Aid musical features the music of Bowie, Queen, Dylan, McCartney, Elton John and many many more, in the story of the concert that made the world stand still.

Old Vic, to March 30; buy tickets here

Cruel Intentions, the 90s Musical

Rhianne-Louise McCaulsky, Nickcolia King-N’Da and Daniel Bravo (Pamela Raith)
Rhianne-Louise McCaulsky, Nickcolia King-N’Da and Daniel Bravo (Pamela Raith)

Based on the 1999 film with Reece Witherspoon, itself a take on Dangerous Liaisons, this uses tunes by Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, REM and more to turn it into a musical. Deliciously good fun.

The Other Palace, to April 14; buy tickets here

Standing at the Sky’s Edge

Just proving the musical form really can cover any topic and musical style, this marries the rock sensibility of Richard Hawley with the story about the changing times in an iconic Sheffield housing estate. It ran at the National Theatre before arriving in the West End and deserves the transfer... a wonderful musical.

Gillian Lynne Theatre, to August 3; buy tickets here

Hadestown

Grace Hodgett Young, Melanie La Barrie and Donal Finn in Hadestown (Marc Brenner)
Grace Hodgett Young, Melanie La Barrie and Donal Finn in Hadestown (Marc Brenner)

The multi-Tony award-winning musical by Anaïs Mitchell, based on the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, finally arrives in the West End after running at the National Theatre a few years back.

Lyric Shaftesbury Avenue, to August 4; buy tickets here

Guys & Dolls

 (Manuel Harlan)
(Manuel Harlan)

One of the greatest musicals of all time is given the revival it deserves. Not only are the performances and singing great – with classic tunes such as Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat and Luck Be a Lady Tonight – but in this immersive production, audience members can choose standing tickets which allows them to mingle in among the conmen and showgirls, religious zealots and gamblers of Thirties Broadway. A wonder of a show that is likely to run and run.

Bridge Theatre, booking to August 31; buy tickets here

Coming this year

Opening Night

After thrilling audiences in Shirley Valentine in 2023, Sheridan Smith returns to the West End in this musical adaptation of John Cassavetes’ film about a theatre company preparing to stage a major new play on Broadway. It is directed by Ivo van Hove and has music and lyrics by Rufus Wainwright.

Gielgud Theatre, March 6 to July 27; buy tickets here

Sister Act

The hit musical adaptation returns to the West End, starring the wonderful Beverley Knight (with Alexandra Burke taking on the role from June 10), Ruth Jones, Clive Rowe and Lesley Joseph.

Dominion, March 15 to August 31; buy tickets here

MJ the Musical

Well this one is sure to prove divisive. This musical about Michael Jackson at the time of his Dangerous tour comes to the West End. The allegations of child abuse that emerged after his death did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm for the show on Broadway – how will it be received here?

Prince Edward Theatre, March 27 to September 14; buy tickets here

Two Strangers (Carry a Cake Across New York)

A new British musical that is a glorious ode to the rom-coms of the Eighties and Nineties (and Home Alone 2). This surprise critical hit left audiences swooning at the Kiln Theatre, and now there’s a chance for a new audience who missed it in Kilburn to get swept away by it.

Criterion Theatre, April 4 to July 14; buy tickets here

London Tide

There is real buzz around this adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend, with music by none other than by PJ Harvey.

National Theatre, April 10 to June 24; nationaltheatre.org.uk

Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder!

A hit at the Edinburgh Festival, KaSSaM is about Hull’s two least successful crime podcasters who get thrust into a murder investigation of their own. But can they solve the case – and knock out some cracking tunes – before the killer strikes again?

Ambassador’s Theatre, May 25 to September 14; buy tickets here

Kiss Me, Kate

Cole Porter’s toe tapping take on Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew is back to spread more joy – this time at the Barbican Theatre. Line of Duty fans rejoice as Adrian Dunbar stars, opposite Tony winner Stephanie J Block as well as West End triple threat Charlie Stemp. This story of backstage chaos and romantic entanglement runs for 15 weeks.

Barbican, June 4 to September 14; buy tickets here

Next to Normal

Eleanor Worthington-Cox, Jamie Parker, Trevor Dion Nicholas, Caissie Levy, Jack Ofrecio and Jack Wolfe in the Donmar Warehouse production of Next to Normal (Marc Brenner)
Eleanor Worthington-Cox, Jamie Parker, Trevor Dion Nicholas, Caissie Levy, Jack Ofrecio and Jack Wolfe in the Donmar Warehouse production of Next to Normal (Marc Brenner)

The Donmar production of the Broadway musical about a suburban wife and mother struggling with bipolar disorder transfers to the West End for 14 weeks.

Wyndham’s, June 18 to September 21; buy tickets here

Mean Girls the Musical

So fetch... The Broadway musical adapted from Tina Fey's hit film makes its way over this side of the Atlantic.

Savoy Theatre, June 25 to October 27; buy tickets here

Starlight Express

All aboard as this Andrew Lloyd Webber classic steams back into town after a hiatus of two decades. It returns to a specially designed auditorium and promises to immerse audiences in a world of speed, song and storytelling.

Troubadour Wembley Park, June 30 to February 16; starlightexpress.com

Fangirls

The Lyric is staging this UK premiere of Australian pop musical Fangirls by Yve Blake and Paige Rattray. It's a thrilling and subversive musical comedy about the danger of underestimating teenage girls.

Lyric Hammersmith, July 13 to August 24; buy tickets here

Hello Dolly!

One of the musical events of the year. Imelda Staunton, Jenna Russell and Andy Nyman star in this show about socialite and matchmaker Dolly, who decides the next match she needs to make is for herself.

London Palladium, July 18 to September 14; buy tickets here

A Chorus Line

The musical masterpiece about the hopes and dreams of performers returns this summer. Starring Adam Cooper and Carly Mercedes Dyer, this is a show with sensational choreography and heartbreaking stories.

Sadler’s Wells, July 31 to August 25; buy tickets here

Why am I so Single?

One of the most antipated British musicals of the year, as Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss follow up their surprise smash hit Six. Fast forward several centuries from the Tudor court to the present day where two friends’ lonely lives have been transformed into an all singing, all dancing extravaganza about finding love in the 21st century.

Garrick Theatre, August 27 to February 13; whyamisosingle.com

The Devil Wears Prada

The iconic film is coming to the West End stage as a musical, with music by Elton John, and lyrics by Shaina Taub.

Dominion Theatre, October 29 to May 31; buy tickets here