Ah, all the world’s a stage.
Particularly the big flat bits in front of the seating areas at London’s many theatres. Those 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…
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THE BEST MUSICALS IN LONDON
Anything Goes | The Barbican
That this show is going to be a winner hardly needs a crystal ball (given that, in fairness, it was first staged in 1934), nor even is the fact that that this particular production is a stone cold classic (it was first mounted on Broadway in 2011, and hoovered up an embarrassment of Tony Awards). But, although it’s a time-tested show, there are precisely zero reasons not to see it. From the venue, to the cast, to the songs, it’s all A+, and worth booking right now… Read our full preview of Anything Goes.
Dinner before: Book Trattoria Brutto right now
Drinks after: Get thee to Oriole for more music
Details: Anything Goes is playing at The Barbican (closest tube station, er, Barbican) until 3rd September 2022. Tickets cost from £29.50-£175, and can be purchased HERE.
Legally Blonde | Regent’s Park Outdoor Theatre
Try to think of the pinkest thing you can possibly, possibly imagine. Then make it pinker. Now conceive of the campest thing that the universe, as we currently understand it, is capable of producing. Somehow, double that quantity of campness. Finally, envisage something that’s ten out of ten fabulous, and then turn it up to eleven…million. If you’ve managed those thought experiments, congratulations; you’ve gone some way towards mentally preparing yourself for the tidal wave of outrageous fun that is Legally Blonde at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre… Read our full Legally Blonde review
Dinner before: Get romantic at Chameleon. Elle would approve.
Drinks after: You’re just down the road from old favourite Purl
London Theatre Critics say: The Guardian 4*, The Standard 3*
Details:Legally Blonde is playing at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre until July 2nd. You can find out more, and book tickets (starting at £25) here.
Bangers | Soho Theatre
The Upstairs at the Soho Theatre – low-ceilinged, intimate, and perhaps the most exciting launchpad for new voices in London – was made for shows like Bangers. Crackling with energy and set to an original garage soundtrack with some alarmingly catchy refrains, this ‘mixtape play’, is a raucous two-and-a-half-hander – the show’s writer, Danusia Samal, also stars alongside Darragh Hand, with the show narrated by laconic DJ Duramaney Kamara at the back of the stage…
Dinner before: Get a full throttle menu at Ritas
Drinks after: Continue the live music at Louche
London Theatre Critics say: The Guardian 4*
Details: Bangers is playing at the Soho Theatre until July 4th. You can find out more, and book tickets (starting at £16) 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 our full review of Back to the Future: The Musical
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 23rd October 2022. Tickets cost £19.55 – £224.50, and can be booked 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 1st October 2022. Tickets cost £30 – £325, and you can book 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 that’s helped to bag the show four Olivier Awards, including Best New Musical.
Dinner before: London’s best value steak at Flat Iron Denmark Street
Drinks after: Pitch-perfect Italian cocktails at Bar Termini
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 15th October 2022. Tickets cost £20-125, and can be booked 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.
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 22nd October 2022. Tickets cost £15-177.50, and can be purchased 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 1st October 2022. They cost from £47.75-£238, and can be purchased 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 October 2022 right HERE.
Mary Poppins | Prince Edward Theatre
Always knowing exactly when she’s needed, Mary Poppins has flown into town. A sugar-dusted production with dazzling costumes, impressive dance sequences and a glorious soundtrack (obviously), this musical’s the pick-up we all needed.
Dinner before: French food and 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 2nd October 2022. Tickets cost £20-125, and can be purchased 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 28th May 2023, with tickets running between £20 and £125. 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 1st October 2022. Tickets cost £29.50 – £225, and can be booked 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 2nd April 2023. Tickets cost from £19.50-67.50, and can be purchased HERE.
THE BEST DRAMA | LONDON THEATRE
A Doll’s House Part 2 | Donmar Warehouse
Nora comes back.
That’s the key take home here, in American writer Lucas Hanth’s companion piece to Ibsen’s classic proto-feminist 1879 tale of an unravelling marriage. Staged in the round at the Donmar Warehouse, the play begins with the titular house completely obscuring the stage – ascending, in mesmerising fashion, to the rafters, when the action begins… Read our full review of A Doll’s House Part 2
Dinner before: The Barbary Next Door is practically next door.
Drinks after: Wrap your lips around something from Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels.
London Theatre Critics say: The Stage 5*; The Guardian 3*
Details: A Dolls House Part 2 is playing at the Donmar Warehouse until 6th August. You can find out more, and get tickets right here.
The White Card | Soho Theatre
A wealthy, somewhat smug, American couple and their art dealer friend (all of them white) prepare to receive a guest for dinner – a highly successful black artist, whose work the couple wishes to collect. So begins The White Card by Claudia Rankine… Read our full review of The White Card
Dinner before: Get a work of art from The French House
Drinks after: The Thin White Duke seems very on-theme. Mostly because of the name.
London Theatre Critics say: The Guardian 4*; The Times 4*
Details: The White Card is playing at the Soho Theatre until 16th July. You can find out more, and get tickets right here.
The Glass Menagerie | Duke of York’s
Have you heard the news? The Glass Menagerie is on, and Hollywood’s very own Amy Adams, six-time(!) Oscar nominee and bona fide megastar, has come to town to play Amanda Wingfield, the faded Southern Belle and solicitous hostess with the mostest increasingly tragic and irrelevant memories of a better life… Read our full review of The Glass Menagerie
Dinner before: Something exotic from Nutshell
Drinks after: Head underneath a different theatre to Below Stone Nest
London Theatre Critics say: The Telegraph 3*; The Independent 3*
Details: The Glass Menagerie is playing at the Duke of York’s theatre until 27th August. You can find out more, and get tickets right here.
Life of Pi | Wyndham’s Theatre
This show based on Yann Martel’s iconic novel had its debut run in Sheffield, where the critics hailed it as “the next War Horse” – you know, the internationally touring, multi-award-winning, critically acclaimed War Horse. A few stars have been knocked off the reviews since its transfer to London – mostly because this retelling lacks some of the more philosophical, reflective nature of the book – but it remains a spellbinding piece of storytelling, with highly impressive staging.
Dinner before: Get into the sea setting at J. Sheekey
Drinks after: Head to the underground bar at Wun’s Tea Room
Theatre critics say: The Guardian 5*, The Times 5*, The Stage 5*
Details: Life of Pi is booking at Wyndham’s Theatre (closest tube station Leicester Square) until 4th September 2022. Tickets cost from £27.50-127.50, and can be booked HERE.
To Kill A Mockingbird | Gielgud Theatre
The long-awaited Broadway transfer of Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation places Atticus Finch (Rafe Spall) at its heart, a spin that actually saw the Lee estate try to sue. A stellar cast are joined by striking sets and an evocative soundtrack supplied by an on-stage partnership of bellows organ and acoustic guitar. It’s a show that does the classic novel justice, with powerful courtroom scenes providing an indictment of the judicial system which is sadly still relevant.
Dinner before: Zippy Thai counter dining at Kiln
Drinks after: Give the new Nightjar a spin
London Theatre Critics say: Evening Standard 5*; The Telegraph 5*; The Guardian 4*
Details: To Kill A Mockingbird runs at the Gielgud Theatre (closest tube station Piccadilly Circus) until 19th November (Rafe Spall appearing until 13th August). Tickets cost £15-199.50, and can be booked HERE.
THE BEST COMEDY | LONDON THEATRE
Operation Mincemeat | Riverside Studios
“No”, you can almost hear the show’s producer mutter through gritted teeth, “not the film that’s just come out, starring Colin Firth”. And whilst that particular piece of synchronicity happens to be unfortunate – same title, same plot, verrrry similar release dates – in every other respect, this new musical’s timing is utterly immaculate. A joyously silly, whip-smart production from writer-performers SpitLip, Operation Mincemeat tells the ludicrous-but-true WWII story of the MI5 attempt to confuse the Germans by planting fake military information on a real corpse.
Lightning-paced, the show punches well above its weight, with the cast of five each playing multiple roles – an effect that has been described as “part Mel Brooks, part SIX, part Hamilton with a side order of One Man, Two Guvnors.” There’s slapstick, word-play, a sinister pathologist who’s a little too familiar with the corpses in his care, and – spectacularly, in a moment you didn’t know you needed – a Nazi boyband… Read our full review of Operation Mincemeat.
Dinner before: Sam’s Riverside is literally downstairs
Drinks after: Cellar at Kindred is always worth checking out
London Theatre Critics say: Financial Times 5*; Daily Mail 5*
Details: Operation Mincemeat is playing at Riverside Studios (closest tube station Hammersmith) until 23rd July. Tickets cost from £25-£35, and can be purchased HERE.
The Play That Goes Wrong | Duchess Theatre
Honestly, they could be messing this up horribly every night, and no one would notice. In fact, they’d probably clap. Read our full review of The Play That Goes Wrong.
Dinner before: Bombastic Italian at Ave Mario
Drinks after: Highly-rated cocktails at the NoMad bar
London Theatre Critics say: The Independent 4*; Financial Times 4*; The Stage 4*
Details: The Play That Goes Wrong is booking at the Duchess Theatre (closest tube station Covent Garden) until April 2023. Tickets cost £22-67.50, and can be booked HERE.
THE BEST IMMERSIVE THEATRE IN LONDON NOW
The Burnt City | Punchdrunk, Woolwich
For Punchdrunk’s latest show, they’ve taken on three historic, Grade II listed buildings, and reinvented them as a kind of futuristic, neon-drenched, sand-blasted version of two ancient cities, Troy and Mycenae, complete with apartment blocks and secret passageways. It’s set to be their most ambitious show to date (which, for them, is really saying something), set over a 100,000sq m set where you’ll encounter gods, monsters… and at least 599 mortals in the form of your fellow audience members…
Dinner before: Pizzas and craft beers at SALT
Drinks after: Stay in Troy’s hidden bar for live music & drinks…
London Theatre Critics say: Reviews coming soon – see what we thought of The Burnt City here.
Details: The Burnt City is booking at One Cartridge Place, Woolwich Works (closest tube station Woolwich Arsenal DLR) until 28th August 2022. Tickets cost £25-£150, and can be booked HERE.
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