Your Complete Guide To London’s Best Musicals | 13 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 who suspiciously happen to know the exact lyrics & dance moves to the song being sung by some rando within earshot.
And then during the pandemic, the music stopped. Perhaps ironically at the one time when we needed that particular brand of cheerful escapism most. But now the stages have been swept, the instruments have been tuned, and the songs back. So here are the shows that are playing now and that are making their imminent debuts.
Sit back, and enjoy the shows…
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 runs at the Playhouse Theatre (closest tube station Embankment) until 16th December 2023. Tickets cost £25–£325, and you can book here.
Hamilton | Victoria Palace Theatre
We don’t need to tell you about Hamilton.
And, frankly, if you do need to be told about Hamilton, then we should also probably point out to you that there’s been a global pandemic going on (crazy, right?!), and you should think about investing in a facemask and some hand sanitiser before you go out to see the most talked-about, well-reviewed, impactful shows in recent memory, which recounts the extraordinary life of 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*
Details: Tickets are on sale for Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre (closest tube station Victoria) until 4th March 2023. They cost from £47.75-£238, and can be purchased here.
Back To The Future: The Musical | Adelphi Theatre
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 runs at the Adelphi Theatre (closest tube station Charing Cross) until 23rd July 2023. Tickets cost £19.55 – £130, 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 the Side Hustle at the NoMad Restaurant & Bar
London Theatre Critics say: Evening Standard 5*
Details: Booking until 4th March 2023, with tickets running between £37.75-£127.75. You can book them right here.
Wicked | Apollo Victoria
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 26th November 2023, with tickets running between £25 and £121.75. 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: Get some pre-theatre theatre at Circus
Drinks after: Go on a trip to Hongdae Pocha
London Theatre Critics say: The Telegraph 5*; The Guardian 5*; The Evening Standard 5*; The Independent 5*
Details: Booking until 28th May 2023, 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 Opium seems strangely appropriate
London Theatre Critics say: The Guardian 5*; The Telegraph 5*; Evening Standard 4*
Details: Tickets from £10-£165. You can book up until 5th March 2023 right here.
The Book of Mormon | Prince of Wales Theatre
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
Details: Booking until 13th May 2023, with tickets running between £20 and £150. You can book them right here.
SIX | Arts Theatre London
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. After sell-out runs in Edinburgh and London, and rapturous reviews, it’s back for a year-long run. Expect neon ruffs; Greensleeves-techno mash ups and unexpected moments of vulnerability interspersed with its high-energy score.
Dinner before: Peruse the delights of Chinatown
Drinks after: Knock on the door of the Experimental Cocktail Club
London Theatre Critics say: Evening Standard 5*; The Times 4*; The Telegraph 4*
Details: Six runs at the Lyric Theatre (closest tube station Piccadilly Circus) until 2nd April 2023. Tickets cost from £19.50-£69.50, and can be purchased here.
Disney’s The Lion King | Lyceum Theatre
It’s Hamlet. With lions. What’s not to love? The Lion King is an epic retelling of the 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 the show play to packed houses for over two decades in London, and makes it the highest-grossing stage show of all time.
Dinner before: See a true masterpiece at The NoMad
Drinks after: Stay wild at Mr Fogg’s Society of Exploration
London Theatre Critics say: Evening Standard 5*
Details: Booking until 15th October 2023, with tickets running between £25 and £225. You can book them right 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 3rd June 2023. Tickets cost £29.50 – £225, and can be booked here.
The Phantom of the Opera | Her Majesty’s Theatre
Staying at Her Majesty’s Pleasure for over 30 years isn’t generally something to boast about. Staying at Her 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.
Details: Booking until 30th September 2023, with tickets running between £25 and £165. You can book them right here.
Tina: The Tina Turner Musical | Aldwych Theatre
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). Tina herself has 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: Booking until 3rd September 2023, with tickets running between £25 and £175. You can book them right here.
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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