Your Complete Guide To London’s Best Musicals
Last Updated: 9th August 2021 | Main image: Wicked
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 last year, the music stopped. Perhaps ironically at the one time when we needed that particular brand of cheerful escapism most. But slowly and surely the stages are being swept, the instruments are being tuned, and the songs are coming back. So here are the shows that are playing now, that are soon to reopen, and that are making their imminent debuts.
Sit back, and enjoy the shows…
Cinderella | Gillian Lynne Theatre
Cinderella’s had a reboot. The classic fairytale has been given the musical treatment by Andrew Lloyd Webber (Phantom of the Opera, Cats, about a million others) and finally had its world debut this summer. It stars Carrie Hope Fletcher in the title role and has reinvented the original with a new plot-line (from Oscar-winner Emerald Fennel) including a fairy godmother who seems to moonlight as a surgeon… READ MORE
Reopens: 18th August
Dinner before: Delicate seafood in a former fishmongers at Parsons
Drinks after: Hella good wine at The 10 Cases
Details: Cinderella runs at the Gillian Lynne Theatre (closest tube station Holborn) until 13th February 2022. Tickets cost £25-140, and can be booked 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.
Reopens: 19th August
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 13th February 2022. They cost from £75-£100, 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. READ MORE
Opens: 20th August
Dinner before: Steak at 1985 prices at Flat Iron Covent Garden
Drinks after: Hand-picked wines at Lady of the Grapes
Details: Back To The Future: The Musical runs at the Adelphi Theatre (closest tube station Charing Cross) until 13th February 2022. Tickets cost £19.85 (obviously) – £224.50, 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.
Reopens: 25th August
Dinner before: Hear the singing waiters at Sarastro do their thing
Drinks after: You gotta cross Waterloo Bridge, but Limin’ Beach Club has actual sand (and cocktails) if you want to sustain the holiday vibe
London Theatre Critics say: Evening Standard 5*
Details: Booking until 2nd April 2022, with tickets running between £27.50 and £152.50. 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.
Reopens: 15th September
Dinner before: Get a cauldron style hotpot at the Dragon Inn Club
Drinks after: Get magical cocktails at The Clarendon Cocktail Cellar
London Theatre Critics say: The Sunday Telegraph 5*; WhatsOnStage 5*
Details: Booking until April 3rd 2022, with tickets running between £19.50 and £129. 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.
Reopens: 16th September
Dinner before: Get some pre-theatre theatre at Circus
Drinks after: Go have a trip at Hongdae Pocha
London Theatre Critics say: The Telegraph 5*; The Guardian 5*; The Evening Standard 5*; The Independent 5*
Details: Booking until February 13th 2022, with tickets running between £20 and £122.50. You can book them right here.
Les Misérables | Sondheim Theatre (formerly Queen’s)
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 last summer while the theatre got some upgrades – but now it’s back, flying the flag once more with a critically acclaimed new production.
Reopens: 25th September
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: Booking until February 13th 2022, with tickets running between £10 and £165. You can book them right here.
Dear Evan Hansen | Noël Coward Theatre
The hugely anticipated broadway transfer of this Tony award-winning musical has finally landed on English shores. It centres around Evan, an American high schooler with social anxiety who finds himself faking an old friendship with a student who recently committed suicide. What follows is a heartbreaking story as relationships are formed, broken, and redeemed, all punctuated with a seriously strong soundtrack. Bring tissues.
Reopens: 26th October
Dinner before: Colourful Peruvian at Floral by Lima
Drinks after: Find the hidden bar behind the golden handshake at the St. Martins Lane Hotel
London Theatre Critics say: The Telegraph 4*; The Times 4*; The Guardian 4*
Details: Dear Evan Hansen runs at the Noël Coward Theatre (closest tube station Leicester Square) until 13th February 2022. Tickets cost £15-177.50, and can be purchased 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.
Reopens: 15th November
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 April 2022, with tickets running between £23 and £153. You can book them right here.
Singin’ In The Rain | Sadler’s Wells
It’s a classic. Every song’s a winner. The dancing is incredible. But the main reason you’re going to want to see this all-singing, all-dancing stage adaptation of the iconic 1952 movie is because it involves actual rain. READ MORE
Dinner before: Al fresco tapas at Moro
Drinks after: Retro cocktails at Coin Laundry
Theatre critics say: The Telegraph 5*; The Stage 4*
Details: Singin’ In The Rain runs at Sadler’s Wells (closest tube station Angel) until 5th September 2021. Tickets cost £15-100, and can be booked here.
Hairspray | London Coliseum
Michael Ball’s going back to his roots – he’s reprising his role as the formidable Edna Turnblad in the relentlessly upbeat musical set in 1960s Baltimore. Catchy songs like ‘You Can’t Stop The Beat’ and ‘I Can Hear The Bells’ are interlaced with dynamite choreography and a storyline to give you all the fuzzy feels.
Dinner before: Glorious Iranian dishes at Nutshell
Drinks after: Explore the menu at Mr. Fogg’s Society of Exploration
Details: Hairspray runs at the London Coliseum (closest tube station Charing Cross) until 29th September 2021. Tickets cost £25-140, and can be booked here.
Amelie | The Criterion
Amelie The Musical is the theatrical equivalent of cracking the top of a crème brûlée. Sweet, comforting, and oh so French, in all the best ways. The latest London show has had new orchestrations, an expanded repertoire of songs, new staging, the works. And it has worked indeed, with critics lapping it up, and earning it noms for three Olivier Awards and one Grammy.
Dinner before: Keep things French at Brasserie Zedel
Drinks after: Keep things musical at The Piano Works West End
London Theatre Critics say: The Times 4*; The Stage 4*; The Guardian 4*
Details: Amelie The Musical currently runs at the Criterion Theatre from 20th May 2021 until the 25th September 2021. Tickets cost £25-£125 and an be booked here.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie | Apollo Theatre
This title could have been reaaally embarrassing if the show hadn’t taken off. Luckily, London theatre critics are going mad for it, with bountiful comparisons to ‘a Billy Elliot for the millennial age’. Following the true story of a 16 year old drag queen determined to wear a dress to prom, the show boasts an uplifting storyline, impressive performances, and songs from The Feeling singer, Dan Gillespie Sells.
Dinner before: Retro Taiwanese at Xu
Drinks after: Cocktails underground at Bar Américain
London Theatre Critics say:The Times 5*; The Stage 5*; The Independent 5*; Financial Times 5*
Details: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie runs at the Apollo Theatre (closest tube station Piccadilly Circus) until 29th August 2021. Tickets cost from £20-£85 and can be purchased 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 29th August 2021. Tickets cost from £29.50-67.50, 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 April 3rd 2022, with tickets running between £20 and £173. You can book them right here.
Come From Away | Phoenix Theatre
Come From Away isn’t your typical musical. There’s no dazzling lights, or flashy set. The cast are probably less dressed up than the audience. Oh, and the whole toe-tapping, feel-good, soul-lifting story… is about 9/11. Set in the Canadian town of Gander, which hosted 7,000 diverted air passengers in the wake of the attacks, it’s a rousing paean to community spirit and compassion, interlaced with a folk-rock score – and its been lavished with 4 Olivier Awards.
Dinner before: London’s best value steak at Flat Iron Denmark Street
Drinks after: Cocktails upstairs at 68 and Boston
London Theatre Critics say: The Times 5*; The Stage 5*; Evening Standard 4*
Details: Come From Away runs at the Phoenix Theatre (closest tube station Tottenham Court Road) until 12th February 2022. Tickets cost £20-125, 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 February 13th 2022, with tickets running between £22 and £165. You can book them right here.
Mary Poppins | Prince Edward Theatre
Always knowing when she’s needed, Mary Poppins has flown back into town. A sugar-dusted production with dazzling costumes, impressive dance sequences and a glorious soundtrack (obviously), this musical’s exactly what’s required when the general atmosphere around the country is – shall we say – gloomy.
Dinner before: French food avec jazz at Café Boheme opposite
Drinks after: Slip behind the bookcase at Milroy’s
London Theatre Critics say: The Guardian 5*; The Telegraph 5*; Evening Standard 4*
Details: Mary Poppins runs at the Prince Edward Theatre (closest tube station Tottenham Court Road) until 3rd October 2021. Tickets cost £40-89.50, and can be purchased 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 June 26th 2022, with tickets running between £10 and £125. 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