Guys & Dolls - Manuel Harlan


Hattie Lloyd 21/09/23

Your Complete Guide To London’s Best Musicals

Your Guide To The Best London Musicals in 2023 | The Shows Worth Every Penny

Ever since jazz hands were (presumably) invented by a theatre director taking the request for ‘a show of hands’ too literally, musicals have delighted the masses with their bright lights, catchy numbers, and passers-by in street scenes who conveniently come together in dazzling displays of impromptu choreography.

London’s West End shows are the bread and butter of the city’s cultural scene, and if you’re looking for a dazzlingly entertaining night out with a bit more pizzazz than a play, then these musicals are here to oblige. And while London doesn’t have a reputation for a cheap night out, you can catch some of these shows for just £15.

With so much on offer, it’s inevitable that some shows hit a bum note, so we’ve gone through the critics’ reviews with a fine tooth comb and put together a list of only the must-see musicals in London for 2023.

Sit back, and enjoy the shows…

Cabaret | The Kit Kat Club (Playhouse Theatre)

cabaret musical london

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, glittering 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. A parade of talented performers have taken on the main roles of Sally and Emcee so far, and Self Esteem’s Rebecca Lucy Taylor and Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears have stepped confidently into those shoes. Plus, you’ll see some of the most beautiful costume design that’s hit London’s stages in the past few years…

Dinner before: Go big and 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*
Booking is open for Cabaret at the Playhouse Theatre (closest tube station Embankment) until 29th June 2024. Tickets cost £25–£375, and you can book here.

Crazy For You | Gillian Lynne Theatre

crazy for you musical

Johan Persson

It was clear from the rip-roaring success of The Barbican’s Anything Goes that people go crazy for golden-era musicals. So book in for an evening of giddy abandon at Crazy For You, a musical positively bursting at the seems with razzle, and indeed, dazzle. Based on a classic tale of boy-meets-girl-and-stages-a-show-to-win-her-affections, it features all the Gershwin favourites (I Got Rhythm, Someone To Watch Over Me, etc) played by a 16-strong live orchestra, and performed with irrepressible enthusiasm by the seriously brilliant Charlie Stemp and a cast of 33.

Dinner before: Scene-stealing tapas at Barrafina Drury Lane
Drinks after:
A glass or two at The 10 Cases
London Theatre Critics say: 
The FT 5*, The Independent 5*, The Telegraph 5*
Crazy For You is booking at the Gillian Lynne Theatre (closest tube stations Covent Garden and Holborn) until 20th January 2024. Tickets cost from £15 – £145, and you can book here.

The Little Big Things | @sohoplace

little big things new musical london

Pamela Raith

At the age of 17, Henry Fraser became paralysed from the shoulders down after an accident on holiday. Within ten years, he’d been discharged from a hospital a year earlier than expected, learnt to paint using his mouth, and written a best-selling memoir full of optimism and hope. Now his inspirational story has been translated to the stage, and while critics have been divided on whether it veers into saccharine territory, what’s abundantly clear is the sheer talent of the performers – particularly Ed Larkin, who’s the first disabled performer to lead a West End show in over three centuries.

Dinner before: Grab a bite at Arcade Food Hall
Drinks after: 
Cocktails at The Little Scarlet Door
London Theatre Critics say:
Evening Standard 4*; The Observer 4*
The Little Big Things runs at @sohoplace (closest tube station Tottenham Court Road) until 25th November 2023. Tickets cost £38–£75, and you can book here.

Guys & Dolls | Bridge Theatre

guys and dolls - the best london musicals playing right now

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 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.

Dinner before: Italian with a view at Tavolino
Drinks after:
Great value cocktails at Swift Borough
London Theatre Critics say: 
Evening Standard 5*, The Independent 4*, The Guardian 4*
Guys & Dolls is booking at the Bridge Theatre (closest tube stations London Bridge and Tower Hill) until 24th February 2024. Tickets cost from £39.50 – £150 and you can book here.

Operation Mincemeat Fortune Theatre

operation mincemeat musical london

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, has transferred 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.

Dinner before: Authentic Laotian cuisine at Lao Cafe
Drinks after: 
Victorian-style drinking den, Mr Fogg’s Society of Exploration
London Theatre Critics say: The FT 4*, Evening Standard 4*, The Guardian 4*
Operation Mincemeat! is booking at the Fortune Theatre (closest tube stations Covent Garden and Temple) until 24th February 2024. Tickets cost from £35 – £79.50 and you can book here.

Stephen Sondheim’s Old Friends | Gielgud Theatre

Even if you’re not a ‘musical theatre person’, you’ll have heard Sondheim’s music. He was widely regarded as one of the genre’s leading lights, and when he passed away last summer one of the many, many tributes paid was an all-star concert performance of some of his finest songs (and it’s no easy task to choose). Old Friends proved so popular that it’s now returned for a limited run in the West End, still led by the Broadway legend Bernadette Peters, and with star turns from Lea Salonga, Jason Pennycooke, Bonnie Langford and a host of other West End regulars.

Dinner before: Cheers to the ladies who lunch at 45 Jermyn Street
Drinks after:
Martinis at Dukes
London Theatre Critics say: Reviews coming soon
Old Friends runs at the Gielgud Theatre (closest tube station Piccadilly Circus) until 6th January 2024. Tickets cost from £55 – £200 and you can book here.

Hamilton | Victoria Palace Theatre

We don’t need to tell you about Hamilton.

But if we did, we’d probably call it one of the best-reviewed, most impactful musicals in recent memory, which recounts the extraordinary life of American founding father Alexander Hamilton entirely in energetic, operatic, rap-filled song.

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*
DetailsTickets are currently on sale for Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre (closest tube station Victoria) until 2nd March 2024. They cost from £22-230, and can be purchased here.

Choir of Man | Arts Theatre

The Best London Theatre Right Now: choir of man

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 of classic pop bangers (likewise, courtesy of Musical Supervisor Jack Blume).

Dinner before: Nifty pre-theatre dining at Hawksmoor Seven Dials
Drinks after: World’s 100 Best Bars entry, Side Hustle at NoMad 
Details: Tickets are on sale for Choir of Man at the Arts Theatre (closest tube station Leicester Square) until 18th February 2024. They cost from £22.50-£67.50, and can be purchased here.

Back To The Future: The Musical | Adelphi Theatre

back to the future the musical

Future you visited us, and said it was imperative we tell you about this Olivier award-winning musical. And to be fair, if you like cult movies, ’80s hits and smoking Deloreans, 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 11th February 2024. Tickets cost £19.55 (of course) – £234.50, and can be booked here.

Mamma Mia | Novello Theatre

20 years on, Mamma Mia still hasn’t met its Waterloo. If you haven’t seen the movie, it’s a pretty contrived plot (soon-to-be-married daughter invites three potential fathers to her mother’s hotel on a Greek island, etc) but the ABBA songs are, of course, excellent, and extremely catchy.

Dinner before: Hear the singing waiters at Sarastro do their thing
Drinks after: Pop over to Side Hustle at the NoMad Hotel
London Theatre Critics say: Evening Standard 5*
Details: Booking until 28th September 2024 at the Novello Theatre (closest tube stations Temple/Covent Garden), with tickets running between £15-£197.75. You can book them right here.

Mrs Doubtfire | Shaftesbury Theatre

mrs doubtfire the musical

Manuel Harlan

Is it going to change the direction of musical theatre forever? No. Is it wildly different to the film? Also no. But will you have a brilliant night out (which, with tickets starting at £22.50, also threatens to be the most fun you can have in the city for under £25)? Absolutely. The classic Robin Williams comedy has been deftly translated to the stage with the boundlessly energetic Gabriel Vick in the title role, who effortlessly whips between impressions of Boris Johnson and spatchcocking a chicken to great comic effect.

Dinner before: Zippy Thai at Plaza Khao Gaeng
Drinks after: Fairy-lit cocktails at The Bloomsbury Club Bar
London Theatre Critics say: The Times 4*; The Telegraph 4*; The i 4*
Details: Mrs. Doubtfire is booking until 2nd June 2024 at the Shaftesbury Theatre (closest tube station Tottenham Court Road), with tickets running between £22.50 and £159.50. You can book them right here.

Wicked | Apollo Victoria

wicked musical london

Mark Senior

The musical that spawned a dozen karaoke songs, Wicked is written as the prequel to The Wizard of Oz. It tells the story of the misunderstood Wicked Witch of the West, a.k.a. Elphaba, who’s an outcast from a young age because of her bright green skin. Penchant for flying monkey minions aside, it turns out that she’s simply misunderstood – and the musical turns everything on its head with soaring numbers from the Pocahontas composer, Stephen Schwartz, and glittering costumes.

Dinner before: Get a cauldron style hotpot at the Dragon Inn Club
Drinks after: Get magical cocktails (and hey, maybe some gravity-defying darts) at Flight Club
London Theatre Critics say: The Sunday Telegraph 5*; WhatsOnStage 5*
Details: Booking until 2nd June 2024 at the Apollo Victoria Theatre (closest tube station Victoria), with tickets running between £25 and £172.75. You can book them right 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: Oysters and fizz at cosy seafood spot Parsons
Drinks after: Pop a cork at La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels
London Theatre Critics say: The Telegraph 5*; The Guardian 5*; The Evening Standard 5*; The Independent 5*
Details: Booking at the Cambridge Theatre (closest tube station Covent Garden) until December 2024, with tickets running between £20 and £125. You can book them right 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, with a grand reopening in January 2020 – and you can imagine how that turned out. But now it’s back, flying the flag once more with a critically acclaimed new production.

Dinner before: Some supper at The French House should set the mood
Drinks after: A cocktail or two at Bar Américain
London Theatre Critics say: The Guardian 5*; The Telegraph 5*; Evening Standard 4*
Details: Les Mis is booking at the Sondheim Theatre (closest tube station Piccadilly Circus) until 2nd March 2024. Tickets cost from £10-£200, and you can book here.

The Book of Mormon | Prince of Wales Theatre

Book Mormon London Musicals

Written by the pair behind South Park, The Book of Mormon is an (unsurprisingly) irreverent parody of Mormonism, following two missionaries sent to Uganda to spread the word, where they find the locals are more concerned with pressing issues like AIDS and oppression by village warlords. Painfully funny, it’s received unanimous praise across the board – even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have advertised in the theatre programmes.

Dinner before: Sit at the bar overlooking the open kitchen in The Palomar
Drinks after: Keep the singing going at The Piano Works
London Theatre Critics say: Evening Standard 5*; 9 Tony Awards
DetailsThe Book of Mormon is booking at the Prince of Wales Theatre (closest tube stations Piccadilly Circus/Leicester Square) until 27th January 2024, with tickets running between £20 and £175. You can book them right here.

SIX | Vaudeville Theatre

Six The Musical

Divorced, beheaded, live in concert: it’s the story of Henry VIIIth’s six wives, performed by the queens themselves as a punk girl-band. It has to be one of the Edinburgh Fringe’s biggest success stories, returning to London for what’s now been a four year run with two national tours and shows in six other countries. Expect neon ruffs; Greensleeves-techno mash ups and unexpectedly poignant moments interspersed with its high-energy score.

Dinner before: Pitch-perfect pasta at Bancone Covent Garden
Drinks after: Pay tribute to another misunderstood woman from history at Eve
London Theatre Critics say: Evening Standard 5*; The Telegraph 5*
Details: Six runs at the Vaudeville Theatre (closest tube station Charing Cross) until 3rd November 2024. Tickets cost from £34.50-74.50, and can be purchased here.

The Lion King | Lyceum Theatre

It’s Hamlet. With lions. What’s not to love? The Lion King is an epic retelling of the Disney film, with impressive sets, stunning choreography and amazing costumes – the giraffes, for example, are played by actors stalking the stage on both leg and arm stilts. All this has seen this musical play to packed houses for over two decades in London, and makes it the highest-grossing stage show of all time.

Dinner before: Bombastic Italian at Ave Mario
Drinks after: Cocktails and dancing at STEREO
London Theatre Critics say: It’s not been officially reviewed recently, but the 20+ year run speaks for itself.
Details: The Lion King runs at the Lyceum Theatre (closest tube station Covent Garden) until 11th February 2024. Tickets cost between £33-173.50, and can be booked here.

Moulin Rouge! | Piccadilly Theatre

Moulin Rouge The Musical

Why should you go see this stage production of Moulin Rouge? Because you can can can! This dazzling musical 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*
Moulin Rouge! runs at the Piccadilly Theatre (closest tube station Piccadilly Circus) until 3rd February 2024. Tickets cost £29.50 – £285, and can be booked here.

The Phantom of the Opera | His Majesty’s Theatre

Phantom of the opera - best musicals in london

Staying at His Majesty’s Pleasure for over 30 years isn’t generally something to boast about. Staying at His Majesty’s Theatre, however, is quite a feat – and this classic Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical has been going strong here since 1986. Winner of over 70 theatre awards, it’s based on a Gaston Leroux book about a disfigured musical genius who lives beneath the Paris opera house and becomes obsessed with a gifted soprano. So if that sounds like something you’d be on board with, you’ll probably enjoy it.

Dinner before: J Sheekey ought to have just the right level of grandeur to start the evening
Drinks after: You cannot get more Phantom of the Opera-ey than Gordon’s Wine Bar
London Theatre Critics say: It’s been going so long it hasn’t technically been reviewed in ages, but that’s got to be a good sign.
DetailsThe Phantom of The Opera is booking at His Majesty’s Theatre (closest tube station Piccadilly Circus) until 2nd March 2024. Tickets cost between £22.50 and £175, and can be booked here.

Tina: The Tina Turner Musical | Aldwych Theatre

Tina Turner The Musical

When it comes to biographical pop medley musicals, this one’s simply the best. Obviously the songs make for a firecracker of a soundtrack, but they’re combined in a way that makes a surprisingly coherent storyline (unlike many other jukebox musicals). The late Tina herself called it an important way to share her story – not just the success, but the journey it took to get there.

Dinner before: The Big Easy serves classic American dishes, so we hope Tina would approve
Drinks after: Like-wise for The American Bar at The Savoy. Plus, it’s really good.
London Theatre Critics say: The Guardian 4*; The Stage 4*
Details: Tina: The Tina Turner Musical is booking at the Aldwych Theatre (closest tube station Covent Garden) until 14th September 2024. Tickets cost between £10 and £175, and can be booked here.



The curtain’s just come up on Sunset Boulevard starring Nicole Scherzinger, a hugely anticipated 16-week run from the innovative Jamie Lloyd Company.

The National Theatre is staging a brand new musical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The Witches this November, with the hugely respected playwright Lucy Kirkwood and Olivier Award-winning director Lyndsey Turner on board.

A rare staging of Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures opens at the Menier Chocolate Factory in late November. Commonly regarded as the legendary lyricist & composer’s most ambitious musical, it explores the dramatic meeting of two cultures as Japan opened its borders to the West in the 1850s.

Want to see what else is on in the West End? Check out our guide to the critics’ top London theatre shows playing now

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