Iget asked for theatre recommendations by friends and family fairly often. It sends me into a sort of panic that is usually reserved for realising you’ve left your phone at home or you have your phone, but you are running late and the maps aren’t loading. Yes, I am pretty reliant on my phone and yes, I go to the theatre often and I see a lot. Knowing what is showing is not the problem, but knowing what would appeal to you without playing 21 questions first is and not to mention the expectations that my recommendation has to be good, which is pretty weighty. It’s especially worse when someone is visiting London and wants to see a show, by which they mean a big flashy musical.
There are so many to pick from and it can be overwhelming, so for my own sanity and so that I have a go to place next time someone asks, I am going to share my favourite musicals that are currently playing in London. A sort of starter pack for the uninitiated. If you occasionally see a musical, chances are you would have seen most of these. This list isn’t for you. (But my next post will be, so come back in a few days!) If you haven’t seen these, but would like to, there is hope for you yet.
No musical rec list can exist without Les Mis. It’s the world’s longest running musical for a reason, it’s epic in the true sense of the word and seriously awesome. I may be speaking as someone that has the soundtrack on her phone (it honestly brightens my daily commute) but you can trust me. If you are a history buff, just remember that musicals are not known for their historical accuracy and let it go.. (wrong musical, but you get the point). Just writing about it is enough to get “Do you hear the people sing” in my head, where it’s likely to stay for hours.
Note: It’s not one I would recommend taking small children to, because they won’t like it and the people sitting near you will not like you.
The Lion King
This one you can take small children to, but I would also recommend it to big adults, it’s a wonderful magical show that is seriously memorable. And unless you live under a rock, (instead of on one…geddit? Sorry.) you will probably be familiar with at least half the songs. The first time I saw it I was 12 years old (I remember clearly sitting in the stalls and having the animals walking right by me) the last time was last year on my 28th birthday. It has a great soundtrack for climbing a mountain, but it works equally well when driving up one if you are less athletically inclined.
The Book of Mormon
One for the boys. Not that girls won’t love it, but this is a good one for taking someone who mistakenly believes they don’t like musicals. It is funny and rude and catchy and it will probably change their mind. If it doesn’t then make sure to take them to the Angus Stakehouse across the road for a debrief and that is guaranteed to be the thing they complain about instead. (note to non-Londoners: this is a joke, not a recommendation, avoid an Angus Stakehouse like your life depends on it!)
(For the record, I prefer Avenue Q, but it’s not currently showing.)
Wicked is my favourite and I love it and you should love it too. It has a combination of a great and engaging plot, really memorable and spectacular songs, a fabulous set and the comfort and familiarity that comes from knowing the Wizard of Oz. It’s hard for me to be objective, blinded by my love as I am, but I just think that a lot of new musicals only get one of these things right and to see them all is such a treat.
Matilda is my favourite of the recent crop of new musicals and the only one that I think will stand the test of time. It’s another one that is great for the whole family and truly magical. If you are picking between that and Charlie and the Chocolate factory, then you should go with the one that is on this list, because it is on this list for a reason. This reason is that it’s great, whilst Charlie is sadly average at best.
That’s it. Please let me know if you agree, and especially if you disagree. Next time I will share the brand new (or just new to London or very old, but recently returned to the London stage) musicals that I am most excited about seeing in the coming months.