There is so much theatre out there to see, not just in the West End but all around the UK. This rich platter of theatrical delicacies is a wonderful thing, but it inevitably means that it is almost impossible to see everything you might want. I have a big pile of theatre tickets at home from productions I’ve seen, but there are still plenty more that I would like to add to that pile – out of all those shows on my to-see list, here are the West End musicals and plays (currently running) which each make my Top Three:
The Lion King
Like most ‘90s kids, I was infatuated with Disney’s The Lion King when it was released. I went to school singing the songs, I had all the character figures to play with and I teared up every time Mufasa died – even now. Yet, despite the fact that it has been in the West End for over 10 years, I have still not seen it.
The Lion King musical transferred from Broadway in October 1999 and is still playing at the Lyceum Theatre today. Hans Zimmer created the musical score with choral arrangement by Lebo M, and top names in the music/theatre industry Elton John and Tim Rice wrote the music and lyrics respectively. I’ve seen snippets from the show and the puppetry and costumed actors look impressive; they also sound amazing. We’ve had the cast of The Lion King perform at MADTrust events and they are always outstanding.
My daughter is seven now and she is part of the next generation of children who adore Disney’s The Lion King too, so for her and for me, this musical has to be on the list.
The concept of twins being separated at birth has been the fodder for many a film and book – and also a musical. Blood Brothers follows the story of two fraternal twins whose separation takes them to opposite ends of the social spectrum. Unaware of their blood bond, they meet later in life and form a friendship, which is put to the test when they both fall in love with the same girl.
Originally starting life as a school play, it was developed into a musical production by writer Willy Russell and first arrived in the West End at the Lyric Theatre in 1983. Today, it can be found at the Phoenix Theatre where it has run for 21 years. It is another of the West End’s long-runners, placing third behind behind Les Mis and Phantom -having seen both of these, I’ve still to complete the set.
My only experience of this musical is the 2007 Tim Burton version starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, and although I enjoyed it, I’ve been reassured that it isn’t a patch on the stage musical.
The 2011 Chichester Festival Theatre production transferred to the West End in March 2012, taking over the Adelphi Theatre. It has received rave reviews and leads Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton have been widely acclaimed for their performances. It boasts a fantastic cast; they were involved in this year’s West End Eurovision and walked away as the 2012 champions.
The story of the Demon Barber of Fleet Street’s bloody quest for revenge is deliciously dark and certainly something I would like to see told live on stage.
Agatha Christie’s murder mystery play is the longest running show in the history of West End theatre. It opened at the New Ambassadors Theatre in 1952 and moved to St Martin’s Theatre in 1974, so celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. It is famous for its twist ending in revealing the identity of the murderer, something which audiences are asked not to reveal after leaving the theatre.
As a lover of a good murder mystery, it’s absolutely necessary to have a collection of Agatha Christie’s works on my bookshelf. Her brilliant mind made her one of this country’s most renowned writers, and the longevity of The Mousetrap is a testament to that. For all these reasons and more, The Mousetrap is one production that is a must-see.
This play based on Michael Morpurgo’s 1982 novel originally premiered at the National Theatre and transferred to the New London Theatre in the West End in 1999. A film adaption directed by Steven Spielberg was released in December 2011, but although it has been widely acclaimed, I didn’t want to watch it until I’d seen the stage version first.
Set against the background of World War I, War Horse is centred on horse Joey who is sold to the cavalry and sent to battle in France and his young former owner Albert who sets off to find his beloved horse and bring him home. The horses are brought to life in spectacular puppet fashion and the play currently features a superb cast, who performed at the MADTrust Garden Party for us last year. My daughter has a bit of an obsession with horses and doesn’t want to see a show where they get hurt or die, so I think this tearjerker is one I’ll have to see without her.
The Woman in Black
This 1987 play is another which was recently adapted for the screen, starring Daniel Radcliffe. For the same reason as with War Horse, I haven’t seen this film either. I enjoy the horror genre and intend to experience The Woman in Black live in the theatre before watching it onscreen.
Based on Susan Hill’s 1983 novel The Woman in Black, the stage play appeared in the West End in 1989 and is the second longest running non-musical still there, behind The Mousetrap. It opened at the Lyric Theatre and, after subsequent moves, now resides at the Fortune Theatre. The play focuses on young lawyer Arthur Kipps, who travels to an isolated house in a desolate town to put the affairs of its deceased owner into order. While there, he encounters the terrifying Woman in Black.
The Woman in Black is a play that is right up my street, but I don’t know if I would want to see this one alone – which could explain why I haven’t been to see it yet!
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Wednesday 23rd May 2012