What are the best musicals in London now? What can you see that will guarantee you are great musical night out and be a perfect show for a theatre break? Not an easy question to answer but I thought I’d try. I’m going to recommend a couple of true classics as a safe bet. If this is your once in a blue moon treat then you want to be sure of having a great time. Of course part of the problem is that your best musical might be someone else’s flop.1
Best musicals in London – my choice
That said I think there are some shows that can lay claim to the title ‘best musicals in London’. These are the long running musicals that have become West End institutions. I’m talking about shows like Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera. These are the obvious contenders, partly because they just keep delivering that musical magic night after night. These are shows that have outlasted their original stars, seen great performers come and go. Some people have even played several roles as they’ve matured as performers, ingénue returning as leading ladies.I think they have had such success because of three main reasons, the original music, the dramatic plot and the quality of the productions.
These are the shows whose songs have become part of our culture. Unlike some musicals that rely on our already knowing the music these songs have moved from the stage and into our lives. Many people love “I Dreamed a Dream” but have never seen Les Mis and have no idea of the context of the song. The music of these shows is so powerful that they can stand up in concert performances, without all the costumes and staging, and still move us. Just think how much more impact they have when you see them live on stage as part of a dramatic story.The music of both these shows is original, it has not come from rock or pop. This is music that has staying power in its own right.
The plots of both these musicals are intense, dramatic stories. Both based on novels they have a satisfying complexity and yet are full of human emotion. We are given plenty to laugh at and to cry over in both shows. Yet it is genuine dramatic emotion rather than the quick laughs and tears of some of the simpler shows. They are not hard to follow or understand because they are based on universal emotions like love, hatred, revenge and shame. Things we can all identify with are shown to us and we are swept away by them. These are strong shows with strong emotions. Although there is much sadness we leave the theatre uplifted and elated at the end of the evening. It doesn’t matter if you have seen the show before, in fact that sometimes makes the experience even more powerful.
Quality of the production
Both these shows have very high production values. They are costume dramas in a way, with the sets and costumes adding to the impact of the music and drama. They both have great ensemble scenes full of colour, movement and musical spectacle. The productions have been kept fresh over the years partly by introducing new cast members and because they are such classics they are able to attract some of the biggest names. Stars like Sierra Bogess and Ramin Karimloo mixed with relative new comers like Alexia Khadime and Danielle Hope combine to make them great ensemble shows.
So these are my personal choice of the best musicals in London and I am open to persuasion if you want to disagree in the comments.
- I famously once said that Jersey Boys would be a huge turkey<coughs ‘idiot!’>. That was in 2008 and the show is still packing the theatre. [↩]