Jason Allen 30/05/23
The Best London Theatre | Amazing Shows to Book Now
Ah, all the world’s a stage.
Particularly the big flat bits in front of the seating areas at London’s many theatres. Those parts are particularly stage-like.
And every evening they’re filled with performers ready to enthral, entertain, inspire, and make you laugh, cry, and think. And should you fancy doing any of those things in the near future, we’ve got just the thing to help you navigate yourself to the right place: a freshly updated theatre guide that collates reviews from all the top critics, tells you the best spots for dinner before the show, has a good place for some drinks afterwards, and includes literally dozens of fantastic shows…
Jump Straight To: MUSICALS | DRAMA | COMEDY | IMMERSIVE
A Strange Loop
You know when you see posters for theatre shows and they’re absolutely plastered in a seemingly impossible number of five star reviews?
Well, A Strange Loop makes them look like trash.
It’s won Tony Awards. It won a Pulitzer Prize. It won literally every ‘Best New Musical’ award that it was possible to win when it opened in New York. The kind of things critics are saying about it test the limits of hyperbole. So it’s probably good news that it’s headed to The Barbican this summer. Only there’s a catch: this is a one-time-only engagement, strictly limited to a three-month stint before it disappears from our shores indefinitely…
Details: Barbican Centre, Silk Street, EC2Y 8DS | 17th June — 9th September 2023 | Book here
Sounds a bit like a horror movie involving a man and bedding, but is actually the revival of an all-time great play, with Lily Allen and Steve Pemberton cast in starring roles.
Details: The Duke of York’s Theatre, St Martin’s Ln, London WC2N 4BG | 10th June – 2nd September | Book here
My Neighbour Totoro
My Neighbour Totoro.
You either love it, or you haven’t seen it yet.
The good news for those who haven’t seen it yet is that the Royal Shakespeare Company’s incredibly ambitious theatre adaptation of the Studio Ghibli animated classic is returning to the Barbican Centre later on in the year – this time for 17 weeks (from 21st November all the way to the 23rd March 2024) – following its immediate sell-out last year. Calling the adaptation insanely popular doesn’t even begin to do it justice… it currently stands as the Barbican’s all-time fastest selling show, smashing the box-office record in a single day.
Details: Barbican Centre, Silk Street, EC2Y 8DS | 21st November 2023 – 23rd March 2024 | Book here
Glory Ride The Musical | Charing Cross Theatre
A sporting biopic, a tale of WWII heroism, and a musical? This is a production with ‘stirring key change’ written all over it, and you’d be a fool to miss out. The show tells the extraordinary true story of beloved Italian cyclist Gino Bartali, a Tour de France winner turned wartime smuggler of falsified identity cards, which he hid in the frame of his bike. His actions, which saved the lives of hundreds of persecuted Jews and other refugees, are immortalised in this new piece directed by Olivier Award-winner Kelly Devine, which previewed in concert form at the superb The Other Palace before making its West End debut. Hop on your bike and snag a ticket.
Dinner before: Ride the Italian wave at Bancone Covent Garden
Drinks after: Everyone’s a winner at Gordon’s Wine Bar
London Theatre Critics say: 3* The Times, 4* Broadway World
Details: Glory Ride The Musical runs at the Charing Cross Theatre (closest tube stations Charing Cross and Embankment) until July 29th. Tickets cost from £23-£58 and can be booked HERE.
Musicals By Candlelight | The Actor’s Church
Here’s something a little different – the hits from the musicals, dahling, performed by world-class chamber music collective the Icon Strings Quartet, in the intimate surroundings of the Actor’s Church. Think 60 minutes of barnstorming classics (numbers from Chicago, Dirty Dancing and Grease are promised), delivered by flickering candlelight – an unusual, beautiful evening, and well worth a detour to Bedford Street.
Dinner before: Something appropriately subtle at Ave Mario
Drinks after: Drinks by candlelight at Below Stone Nest
London Theatre Critics say: Well, it’s has a 93% positive audience score, so not too bad
Details: Musicals By Candlelight runs at the Actors’ Church (closest tube stations Charing Cross, Embankment and Temple) until June 10th. Tickets cost from £15 and can be booked HERE.
Newsies | Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre
Read all about it! Disney’s award-winning musical Newsies comes to the Troubadour in Wembley Park, following a 10 year run on Broadway. Based on a true story, the show pits callous captain of industry Joseph Pulitzer against a coterie of New York City’s ‘newsies’ (the cheery young lads who sell the morning papers). The chipper street urchins must band together to confront the forces of rampant capitalism, via teamwork and a series of ritzy song and dance numbers. Hot scoop: it’s a great night out.
Dinner before: Get a headliner at Bread Ahead
Drinks after: Check out the story at Boxpark
London Theatre Critics say: The Stage 4*, Time Out 4*, The Times 3*
Details: Newsies runs at the Troubadour Wembley Park Theatre (closest tube station Wembley Park) until July 30th. Tickets cost from £27.50 – £90 and can be booked HERE.
Groundhog Day | Old Vic Theatre
Minchin’s other musical may not have yet enjoyed as grand a global roll-out as the all-conquering Matilda, but that might all be about to change. Following its 10 week season at the Old Vic in 2016, Groundhog Day is coming back (appropriately enough). Matthew Warchus is once more at the helm, and Andy Karl, who won an Olivier Award for his turn as weatherman Phil Connors, is again leading the cast. It’s an all-star team and a critically acclaimed show – there’s every chance that it will burrow its way over to the West End, and play again, and again, and again…
Dinner before: Get something with a view at Seabird
Drinks after: Get something with a view at Seabird
London Theatre Critics say (2016 production): Independent 5*, Telegraph 5*, Guardian 4*
Details: Groundhog Day runs at the Old Vic Theatre (closest tube station Waterloo) until from 20th May until 12th August 2023. Tickets cost £10 (previews) – £150, and can be booked HERE.
Aspects of Love | Lyric Theatre
Old Balls, please! Or, gracefully ageing Balls at least. The legendary Michael Ball returns to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s tale of passion, betrayal and heartbreak across three generations, which is playing at the Lyric Theatre in a reimagined ‘chamber production’. The focus will of course be on the score – which, thankfully, is loaded with absolute bangers. So fire up the original cast recording on Spotify, reacquaint yourself with ‘Love changes everything’ (it really does), and get ready to hear the maestro himself belt it out to the back of the room. A bit of the old class.
Dinner before: Get old school at Quo Vadis
Drinks after: Stay jamming at Rum Kitchen
Details: Aspects of Love is running at the Lyric Theatre (closest tube station Piccadilly Circus) 13th May – 11th November 2023. Tickets cost from £25-90, and can be purchased here.
Oklahoma! | Wyndham’s Theatre
Image: Marc Brenner
It’s ‘acclaimed-revival-getting-a-West-End-transfer’ o’ clock! Director Daniel Fish’s lusty, stripped-back re-interpretation of the iconic Rogers and Hammerstein musical has become an instant modern classic, and took the Old Vic by storm. With both the small band and the entire cast remaining onstage throughout, this ain’t your grandma’s Oklahoma (though she’d almost certainly love it too). The energy’s high, the mood is often dark, and the ribald production manages to reinvent a show that’s as old as the hills and make it feel as contemporary – urgent, even – as it’s ever been.
Dinner before: Kickin’ gourmet kebabs at Maison Bab
Drinks after: Head to Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels for a much-needed glass of wine
London Theatre Critics say: Daily Telegraph 5*; WhatsOnStage 5*; METRO 5*; Financial Times 5*
Details: Oklahoma! is booking at the Wyndham’s Theatre (closest tube stations Leicester Square and Charing Cross) from 16th February until 2nd September 2023. Tickets cost from £35 – £82.50 and you can book here.
SIX | Vaudeville Theatre London
Divorced, beheaded, live in concert: it’s the story of Henry VIIIth’s six wives, performed by the queens themselves in the form of a punk girl-band. To say it’s a phenomenon would be to undersell it: it started out as an Edinburgh Fringe show, and has now scored runs in the West End, on Broadway and down in Oz. Expect neon ruffs; Greensleeves-techno mash ups and unexpectedly poignant moments interspersed with its high-energy score.
Dinner before: Cult dumplings at Din Tai Fung
Drinks after: Subterranean cocktails at Eve
London Theatre Critics say: Evening Standard 5*; The Telegraph 5*; The Times 4*
Details: Six is booking at the Vaudeville Theatre (closest tube station Charing Cross) until April 2024. Tickets cost from £19.50-67.50, and can be purchased here.
Ain’t Too Proud | Prince Edward Theatre
Give in to (the) Temptation(s) and get yourself over to the Prince Edward Theatre, where an irresistible slice of Jukebox musical escapism is playing until early 2024. It’s a classic rags to riches tale, charting the group’s rise from the streets of Detroit to the Rock & Roll hall of fame, accompanied by the soundtrack of their toe-tapping hits. The choreography is Tony award-winning, the music is Grammy award-winning, and the atmosphere is out of this world. Don’t be too proud to grab a ticket.
Dinner before: Iberian seafood dishes at Maresco
Drinks after: Pick from a choice of 100 gins at The London Gin Club
Details: Ain’t Too Proud is booking at the Prince Edward Theatre (closest tube stations Leicester Square and Tottenham Court Road) from 31st March until 1st October 2023 – with group bookings until 7th January 2024. Tickets cost from £10 – £67.50, and you can book here.
Moulin Rouge! | Piccadilly Theatre
Why should you go see the new production of Moulin Rouge? Because you can can can! This dazzling show has finally transferred from Broadway to London, with an impressive 14 Tony nominations under its belt, a crack team of award-winning producers and creatives (including Baz himself), and an incredible soundtrack of 71 songs…
Dinner before: Keep it French at Brasserie Zédel
Drinks after: Subterranean cocktails at SOMA
London Theatre Critics say: The Independent 4*; The Telegraph 4*
Details: Moulin Rouge! runs at the Piccadilly Theatre (closest tube station Piccadilly Circus) until 7th October 2023. Tickets cost £29.50 – £225, and can be booked here.
Matilda The Musical | Cambridge Theatre
A show in which a genius-level child with telekinetic powers somehow starts off as an underdog, this long-running musical take on the classic Roald Dahl tale – produced by theatre nobility the RSC – has had critics positively raving. And with good reason too – with lyrics by the inimitable Tim Minchin, ridiculously catchy tunes and a genuinely exceptional cast of kids, there’s not a single hole in this colourful patchwork of song and dance.
Dinner before: Grab a quick bite at Bong Bong’s Manila Kanteen
Drinks after: Slip into The Barbary Next Door
London Theatre Critics say: The Telegraph 5*; The Guardian 5*; The Evening Standard 5*; The Independent 5*
Details: Matilda The Musical is booking at the Cambridge Theatre (closest tube station Covent Garden) until 26th May 2024, with tickets running between £20 and £125. You can book them right here.
Guys & Dolls | Bridge Theatre
Image: Manuel Harlan
Down at the Bridge Theatre, Nicholas Hytner’s going all-in on giving you a quality night at the theatre. It’s Guys & Dolls, baby, and it’s here to banish your late-winter blues. The set and costumes come from multi award-winning Bunny Christie (The Curious Incident Of the Dog in the Night Time), and they look as lush, glossy and indulgent as you’d hope. The always-compelling Danny Mays leads the cast, playing good old reliable Nathan (Nathan, Nathan, Nathan) Detroit. And the songs? Why, it’s hit after toe-atapping hit, courtesy of composer and lyricist Frank Loesser – we’re talking Luck Be a Lady, we’re talking Sit Down You’re Rockin’ The Boat, and we’re certainly talking the titular Guys & Dolls. It’s a fast-talkin’, crap-shootin’ helluva night out. With Anything Goes no longer playing at the Barbican, the position of ‘London’s go-to feel good musical’ is vacant, but not for long if Hytner and co have anything to do with it.
Dinner before: Meat, fish, fire at The Coal Shed
Drinks after: Grab a pint on the Bermondsey Beer Mile
Details: Guys & Dolls is booking at the Bridge Theatre (closest tube stations London Bridge and Tower Hill) from 4th March until 24th February 2024. Tickets cost from £39.50 – £150 , and you can book here.
Operation Mincemeat | Fortune Theatre
After multiple sell-out runs at the Southwark Playhouse, and a mounting sense of buzzing anticipation, it’s happened: Operation Mincemeat, the debut musical by creative quartet SpitLip, is coming to the West End. What is it? It’s the story of the (genuine) Second World War plan to confound the Nazis by planting false intel on a corpse, and allowing the Germans to discover it. How is it told? In a riotous, rapid-fire barrage of multi-roling physicality.
‘Operation take the West End by storm’ has been a resounding success.
Dinner before: Authentic Laotion cuisine at Lao Cafe
Drinks after:Victorian style drinking den, Mr Fogg’s Society of Exploration
Details: Operation Mincemeat! is booking at the Fortune Theatre (closest tube stations Covent Garden and Temple) from 3rd April until 19th August 2023. Tickets cost from £35 – £79.50 and you can book here.
Les Misérables | Sondheim Theatre
Do you hear the people sing? Well, you will if you head to Les Mis, an iconic musical based on Victor Hugo’s gloomy revolutionary novel that’s now in its 4th decade. It closed for the first time in 34 years while the theatre got some upgrades (and, er, other global events interfered) – but now it’s back, flying the flag once more with a critically acclaimed new production.
Dinner before: Enjoy classic brasserie fare at Dean Street Townhouse
Drinks after: A drink at The French House seems strangely appropriate
London Theatre Critics say: The Guardian 5*; The Telegraph 5*; Evening Standard 4*
Details: Les Misérables runs at the Sondheim Theatre (closest tube station Piccadilly Circus), with tickets from £10-£165. You can book up until 2nd March 2024 right here.
Hamilton | Victoria Palace Theatre, London
Hamilton might have won 11 Tony Awards for its Broadway run, but the London cast have proved they were ready to Rise Up to the challenge.
Following the story of founding father Alexander Hamilton, it’s a pioneering musical that raps its way through history, and within months of playing here, earned a record-breaking 13 Olivier nominations for its troubles…
Dinner before: Al fresco brasserie fare at Rail House Café
Drinks after: Cocktails upstairs at The Ivy Victoria
London Theatre Critics say: The Guardian 5*; The Telegraph 5*; The Independent 5*; The Stage 5*; The Evening Standard 5*
Details: Tickets are on sale for Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre (closest tube station Victoria) until 2nd March 2024. They cost from £47.75-£238, and can be purchased here.
Cabaret | The Kit Kat Club (Playhouse Theatre)
Willkommen, bienvenue, welcome to this phenomenal new production of cabaret, directed by the sensationally talented Rebecca Frecknall. For this revival of the classic musical & film, the Playhouse Theatre has been transformed into a giant version of the Kit Kat Club, where (the lucky few, at least) can sip cocktails and dine at intimate cabaret tables while the show unfolds. And even if you missed the acclaimed performances by Jessie Buckley and Eddie Redmayne in the leading roles, the new cast – starring Fra Fee as the Emcee and Amy Lennox as Sally Bowles – are just as strong. Plus, you’ll see some of the most beautiful costume design that’s hit London stages in the past few years…
Dinner before: Go fancy at Kerridge’s Bar & Grill
Drinks after: Wine in a candlelit cave at Gordon’s Wine Bar
London Theatre Critics say: Evening Standard 5*; The Independent 5*; The Telegraph 5*
Details: Cabaret is booking at the Playhouse Theatre (closest tube station Embankment) until 16th December 2023. Tickets cost £25 – £325, and you can book here.
Back To The Future: The Musical | Adelphi Theatre
Image: Sean Ebsworth-Barnes
Future you visited us, and said it was imperative we tell you about this new musical. And to be fair, if you like cult movies, 80s hits and not being in your living room all year again, you’re probably going to enjoy it.
Dinner before: Steak at 1985 prices at Flat Iron Covent Garden
Drinks after: Hand-picked wines at Lady of the Grapes
London Theatre Critics say: The Metro 5*; The Telegraph 5*; Michael J. Fox: “A truly great show.”
Details: Back To The Future: The Musical is booking at the Adelphi Theatre (closest tube station Charing Cross) until 22nd October 2023. Tickets cost £19.55 – £224.50, and can be booked here.
Choir of Man | Arts Theatre
Grab a (free!) pint and strap in for an evening of resolutely non-toxic masculinity down at the Arts Theatre – the beardy, burly blokes of the Choir of Man are here to sing their hearts out in their onstage pub, whilst touching on themes of friendship, gentrification and mental health. Plot? What plot! You’re here for the vocal performances (uniformly superb) and the musical arrangements (likewise, courtesy of Musical Supervisor Jack Blume). The production, which has toured to Edinburgh and back, is as slick as can be, and the covers – including Somebody to Love, and Sia’s Chandelier, are absolute bangers. If music be the food of love, have another pint and enjoy 90 minutes of foot-stomping fun.
Dinner before: Everything Hawaiian at El Ta’Koy
Drinks after: World 100 Bar List entry, the Side Hustle at NoMad
Details: Tickets are on sale for Choir of Man at the Arts Theatre (closest tube station Leicester Square) until 24th September 2023. They cost from £22.50-£67.50, and can be purchased here.
The Crucible | National Theatre
Time to get hysterical – The Crucible’s back. Arthur Miller’s masterpiece is delivered in fine style, now on the Gielgud stage, which is initially obscured by torrents of water raining from the heavens (a breathtaking moment of theatricality courtesy of über-set designer Es Devlin). Lyndsey Turner’s production relentlessly pulls you into the mania at the heart of Salem, and the unfolding tragedy is rendered all the more captivating thanks to a rock-solid ensemble cast. Brian Gleeson now takes on the role of the earthy, tortured John Proctor, whilst Milly Alcock plays the spurned, manipulative, Abigail Williams. How can a production be this good? Witchcraft, surely.
Dinner before: Convenient fine dining at Lasdun
Drinks after: Study the cocktail bible at Lyaness
Details: The Crucible is running at the Gielgud Theatre (closest tube stations Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square) from 7th June — 2nd September 2023. Tickets cost from £30-£125 and are available here.
Romeo and Juliet | The Almeida
Following the molten-hot success of A Streetcar Named Desire, the Almeida’s Associate Director Rebecca Frecknall is directing another hot ticket; Romeo and Juliet, starring Isis Hainsworth (Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour) as Juliet, and no less than Ted Lasso’s very own Sam Obisanya, Toheeb Jimoh, as Romeo. Unlikely to have the same feelgood vibes as Ted Lasso (although who knows – series three could take a dark turn…), but with Frecknall’s recent run of form, it would be a tragedy to miss it.
Dinner before: The closest you’l get to Verona is Tiella at the Compton Arms
Drinks after: Fall in love with the drinks at Laki Kane
Details: Tickets are on sale for Romeo and Juliet at the Almeida (closest tube stations Angel and Highbury & Islington) from Tuesday 6th June – Saturday 29th Jun 2023. Tickets cost from £12.50 – £60, and can be booked here.
School Girls | Lyric Hammersmith
As alternative titles go, they don’t come much better than ‘The African Mean Girls Play’. As Associate Producers go, they don’t come much starrier than Idris Elba. And as producers go, they don’t come much more highly acclaimed than Francesca Moody. So sit up straight and pay attention, because Jocelyn Bioh’s play, set in a prestigious Ghanaian boarding school in 1986, looks likely to score top marks. Charting a groups of bickering, competitive girls vying for glory in the Miss Ghana pageant – it’s a riotously funny transfer of the smash-hit American show. Feels likely to have a longer life – but say you saw it first.
Dinner before: British classics with a riverside view at Sam’s Riverside
Drinks after: Grab a pint at one of the best pubs in Hammersmith
Details: School Girls runs at the Lyric Hammersmith (closest tube station Tottenham Hammersmith) from 8th June – 15th July 2023. Tickets cost from £10-£28 and can be booked HERE.
I F*cked You In My Spaceship | Soho Theatre
Hot off a run at the VAULT Festival where it picked up the Origins Award for Outstanding New Work, playwright Louis Emmitt-Stern’s sharp and subversive comedy-drama tackles sex, relationships, and aliens (sort of). Exploring the lives of two couples who each invite a third into their bedroom for very different reasons (spicing up a relationship / having a baby), it’s fast-paced, very funny, and absolutely perfect for the Soho’s intimate Upstairs space.
Dinner before: Fiery Indian at Gunpowder Soho
Drinks after: The bar at The Soho Theatre is always a good shout
Details: ‘I F*cked You In My Spaceship’ is running from Monday 19th Jun – Saturday 8th Jul 2023. Tickets are £13-£20 and available HERE.
Rose | Park Theatre
Having enjoyed sold-out runs at Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre and The Park in London, Maureen Lipman’s tour de force performance comes to the West End. In Rose, Lipman plays a Jewish woman sitting shiva – the practice of mourning and remembering the dead – and the play explores memories of Jewish life across the 20th century. Moving, gripping, and sadly timely, it’s a story of trauma, upheaval and hope, held down by a barnstorming central performance.
Dinner before: Eat something floral at Carlotta
Drinks after: Head into Camden for The Blues Kitchen
Details: Rose is running at the Park Theatre (nearest tube station Finsbury Park) from 19th Apr – 20th May 2023. Tickets cost from £15 – £80 and are available here.
August in England | Bush Theatre
Since his 2009 turn as the lead in Northern Broadsides’ production of Othello, beloved comedian Sir Lenny Henry has increasingly established himself as a theatrical force – and his gravitas is on full display in this bravura solo performance, which also marks out Sir Lenny’s playwriting debut. It’s the tale of August Henderson, a charming West Bromwich-based dad, husband-to-be, and part-owner of a fruit and veg shop – and a man faced with deportation to a country he has no memory of. Co-directed by the Bush’s Artistic Director Lynette Linton and Associate Artistic Director Daniel Bailey, it’s a funny, poignant, searing insight into the great injustices of the Windrush scandal, told through the pr
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