Looking for the perfect night on the town? Why not head down to the West End? With so many options, it seems almost impossible to pick a show. Not to worry, we’ve put together a list of some of the most interesting and popular musicals and plays currently on the West End!
1- For the Music Lover… Beautiful: The Carole King Musical
“A Tapestry of Greatest Hits” -The Guardian
While biographical musicals have been done with shows like “Motown” and “Jersey Boys”, there is something so refreshing and deeply satisfying about “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.” Perhaps it’s because it’s focused on Carole King, a woman who broke barriers. Songwriting was a heavily male-dominated industry in the 1960s. “Beautiful” brilliantly chronicles the heartaches, the setbacks, and the triumphs of Carole King’s inspiring journey from a young songwriter in Brooklyn to one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.
This musical plays hit after hit just like a jukebox, including a variety of songs written by King and her then-husband Gerry Goffin. Even if you are not familiar with King’s work as a solo-artist, you will be delightfully surprised to learn that the Goffin-King songwriting team wrote some iconic hits you may recognize like “The Locomotion” (Little Eva), “One Fine Day” (The Chiffons), and “Pleasant Valley Sunday” (The Monkees). With the spirit and sounds of the 60’s in full effect, the nostalgia this show creates is guaranteed to hit you like a ton of bricks.
“Beautiful,” is a true testament to the extraordinary role Carole King played in shaping popular music. The story behind King’s success is one that deserves to be told and “Beautiful” perfectly illustrates it through its timeless score that reaches across all generations. The energy and fun this musical brings is absolutely infectious, so much so that it is guaranteed to have you up on your feet singing and dancing by the very end. With both an incredible storyline and the songs to back it up, “Beautiful” is well on its way to becoming a classic
2- A Broadway Classic… 42nd Street
“An Achingly beautiful revival of an American Classic” -The Telegraph
Make no mistake, the mother of all tap musicals is back in full force with a showstopping performance, razzle-dazzle and all. From the very beginning, 42nd Street gives off a fun energy that is so infectious it will leave you wanting more. The show begins with Jae Alexander and the orchestra as they begin to play the jazzy, brassy overture to 42nd Street. The curtain then rises to reveal a chorus of perfectly syncopated tapping feet, followed by a thunderous applause erupts from the audience. If that is not a perfectly clear indicator to how spectacular “42nd Street” is I don’t know what is.
In all fairness, 42nd street is one heaping pile of all things “Broadway”, and that is what makes it so wonderful. The story is the quintessential musical within a musical. Taking place during the height of the Great Depression, acclaimed director, Julian Marsh is putting on a show called “Pretty Lady,” and its star is Dorothy Brock, a prima-donna past her prime provided that her partner Abner Dillon will financially support the show. Then there is Peggy Sawyer, an ambitious young woman who comes from Allentown, Pennsylvania in hopes of landing a part in Julian Marsh’s “Pretty Lady,” Everyone loves a good fighter, and you will find yourself rooting for Peggy Sawyer until the very end. This musical is filled with everything from laughs to romance as is it goes behind the scenes of “Pretty Lady” and the turn of events that ensue leading up to opening night.
The musical itself provides no serious plot and that is okay, but what it does provide is a show filled with exceptionally choreographed dance numbers, classic songs like “The Lullaby of Broadway” and “We’re in The Money.” Sheena Easton (Dorothy Brock), Tom Lister (Julian Marsh), and Clare Halse (Peggy Sawyer), all give exceptional performances as leads but 42nd Street is an ensemble show through and through. So if you are looking for an evening of fun and laughs, come and meet those dancing feet at the West End Revival of 42nd Street.
3- A Worldwide Phenomenon… Les Miserables
“My only criticism of the performance is that it had to end.” -Megan Hutton, The Huffington Post
It is safe to say that “Les Miserables” has solidified itself as a classic. It has become a phenomenon, starting as a literary masterpiece which in turn has inspired a musical production that is performed worldwide and spawned numerous film adaptations (most recently,Tom Hooper’s Les Miserables which is a direct adaptation of the original stage production). Of course, all great works originate somewhere, and that is right in London’s West End where the English-Language musical adaptation of “Les Miserables” made its debut in 1985, making it the longest running musical to date. Yet, even after 32 years, “Les Mis,” is still striking a chord with theater goers. The intrigue is present because there is something truly magical about the pages of Victor Hugo’s classic French Revolutionary tale come to life, entirely through song.
What makes Les Mis,” so starkly different from the sea of happy and charming musicals currently showing on the West End is that it is set in early 19th-century revolutionary France, and follows the story of Jean Valjean, a French peasant, and his quest for redemption after serving nineteen years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread for his sister’s starving child. During his journey, Valjean must dodge being caught by Cop Javert, all while taking the responsibility of guardianship to young Cosette, whom he feels responsible for after being part of the events that caused her mother, Fantine’s life to spiral downward. With the French Revolution as its backdrop, “Les Mis,” introduces us to a variety characters, whose paths all cross in different ways and and how they are impacted by the events happening in Paris.
“Les Mis” has rightfully established itself in a league of its own. From the extraordinary acting and vocals, to the exceptional rotating stage set, you can expect a powerful show that is the legit real deal. It stands out as a master of the brand by creating a worldwide phenomenon that isn’t going out of style anytime soon.
4- A New Kind of Musical… An American In Paris
“Christopher Wheeldon’s superb show is a riot of colour and movement, with irresistible dance routines and a wealth of Gershwin classics” – The Guardian
It can be quite daunting to take on a classic, especially one like the 1951 film, “An American in Paris” which starred the incomparable, Gene Kelly. The West End Musical adaptation of “An American in Paris,” is not a remake of the film but a dazzling celebration of Gene Kelly’s choreography and the music of George and Ira Gershwin. This charming and sensational musical, set in post WWII France, during a time of hope in the city of dreams, is filled with optimism and romance that proves to be a love story for the ages.
While “An American in Paris” invokes the same type of energy through an exquisite array of dancing and musical numbers like 42nd Street, it differs in that it’s plot is strictly romance. At the center of this tale is American GI, Jerry Mulligan, who is just about to return to America until his eyes meet with a beautiful young French Woman named Lise. Struck by love, Jerry decides to settle in Paris, and pursue is dream in becoming an artist. Along the way Jerry meets composer and fellow GI Adam, and Henri a wealthy Frenchman. Together, the three form an inseperable friendship, that is ultimately put to the test by one common denominator, the love for Lise.
“An American in Paris,” essentially is the blueprint, for the perfect musical. From its use of Gershwin classics to the extraordinary dancing, and singing, it all sounds great on paper, but seeing it for yourself in person is truly magical. This musical is a sure-fire triple threat as the singing acting and dancing lays all perfectly in sync with one another, resulting in an utterly showstopping performance.
1- A Clever Comedy… The Play that Goes Wrong
“The Play That Goes Wrong proves right for West End” -The Guardian
For “The Play That Goes Wrong,” everything could not seem to have gone more right. The show begins before the curtain has even been raised, as the audience witness the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society preparing to stage their annual production, which happens to be a 1920’s murder mystery “Murder at Haversham Manor”. Don’t be fooled, “The Play That Goes Wrong” is anything but a grim murder mystery. What it is a silly spectacle of chaos (in the funniest possible way), centred around a fictitious amateur theatre group who can’t seem to put on a show without out nonstop forgetting lines, missing cues, and technical gaffes,
With the unchained series of events produced in this hilarious play within a play, it is only fitting that it features a cast of erratic, misguided characters to put on “Murder at Haversham Manor”. It features an agitated detective, a word-mangling butler, the “dead” murder victim, his brother, and his lover. As the play progresses more chaos ensues, even to the point where the stage manager and sound man make their way into the show.
Sure “The Play That Goes Wrong” lacks any serious story line or moving message, but what it does offer is pure fun and laughs. The comedic delivery of both slapstick and farce throughout the show is utterly brilliant. From the forgotten lines, missed cues and technical gaffes, this show is breaking third wall at its finest. If you want to see a show that will have you laughing from start to finish, “The Play That Goes Wrong,” is a must see.
2- A Riveting Production… Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?
“One of those rare occasions when play, performance, and production perfectly coalesce. PERFECTION” – The Guardian
Fifty five years ago, Edward Albee’s 1962 masterpiece, “Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?” illustrated the deterioration of a married couple, while defying the idea of the perfect American family and societal expectations that existed in 1960’s Americana, making it unequivocally one of the most riveting and provocative plays of its era. Fifty five years and an infinite amount of revivals later, the London 2017 West End Revival has set itself apart from the rest by delivering a performance that is raw, authentic and unconventional, exactly the way Albee intended it to be. It truly is one of those rare instances where the performance perfectly captures the essence of the play.
Of course, it goes without saying this extraordinary and riveting performance of this revival can be attributed to its cast of first-rate actors. The cast alone is enough of a reason to see this already iconic play. Together Conleth Hill and Imelda Staunton bring to life middle-aged married couple and match made in hell, George and Martha. Imelda Staunton embodies the role of Martha perfectly with an approach of total realism. Staunton’s Martha strays away from the one built by Elizabeth Taylor in 1966 film, but instead depicts her as an instigator who relishes every opportunity to humiliate George every moment she can. In contrast, Conleth embraces George as a bitter and sulky, and damaged husband who’s damaged by his tumultuous marriage to Martha. Opposite of George and Martha are the seemingly happy and loving young couple, Nick and Honey (played by Luke Treadaway and Imogen Poots). The couple is invited to George and Martha’s home, only become entangled in a three-hour slugfest full of banter and shocking revelations.
While 3 hours is a long time to sit through any show, this newest revival of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” is worth the time. The performers are masters of their craft, putting on the most authentic adaptation of the play to date. This is one you truly won’t want to miss as it is only playing until the 27th of May.
What play do you plan on seeing next? Let us know what we’ve missed in the comments below!