London theatre is a world-renowned hub of culture, hosting some of the most popular shows in the world. From realist drama to musicals and everything in between, London has something for everyone. This year’s best shows include period pieces such as The Ferryman and An Inspector Calls, plus contemporary productions like Harry Potter: The Cursed Child and All About Eve.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is a play written by Jack Thorne. It is based on the Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling. The play is a sequel to the Harry Potter series and has been developing for over ten years. The script was first published as a script book in 2016. After that, it was made into an official theatrical production at the Palace London Theatre from 12 July 2018 to 5 November 2018.
The story follows an adult Harry Potter (played by Jamie Parker), his son Albus Severus Potter (Sam Clemmett), and his friends Ron Weasley (Sonny Rodriquez), Hermione Granger (Noma Dumezweni), and Ginny Weasley (Grace Milligan). They are attending their 10th year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry when they learn that Lord Voldemort has returned with even more dangerous power than he had during their attack on Hogwarts Castle nine years earlier.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
This play is based on the best-selling novel by Mark Haddon, who also wrote the screenplay. It tells the story of Christopher Boone, a young boy with autism who sets out to investigate why his neighbor’s dog has been killed. While trying to find answers, he develops empathy for others and learns about life in general. As he ages into adulthood and eventually becomes an adult (played by Alex Etel), he struggles with his own perception of reality—and it’s not always clear whether or not what he sees exists!
War Horse (running, still amazing)
War Horse is a play about a horse and its owner. British author Michael Morpurgo wrote it, and it’s set during World War I. The story follows young Albert Narracott (played by Dominic Cooper) in search of his beloved pony, Joey, after he loses him in battle.
The play opened on Broadway in 2011 and won several awards, including Tony Awards for Best Play Revival and Best Director (Tom Hiddleston). It was also nominated for 10 Olivier Awards: 2 wins, four nominations, one win = 9 total awards won over 11 years!
Wicked is a musical that tells the story of the witches of Oz. It’s based on Gregory Maguire’s novel, but it has been adapted for the stage in several different ways. In London, this production ran from 2010 to 2012 and was met with great success; it won multiple awards, including Best Musical at both the Olivier Awards and Drama Desk Awards.
In New York City (where I live), Wicked opened at the Walter Kerr London Theatre in 2003 before transferring to Broadway. It ran for over two years before closing in January 2016 due to poor ticket sales numbers during its final weeks on Broadway (a few people remain). This production also won several awards: Best Musical at both Tonys (2008) and Drama Desk Awards (2007).
The Book of Mormon
The Book of Mormon is a musical. It follows two mismatched missionaries sent to Uganda who are forced to confront their faith in God and their beliefs about Africans. The show is full of irreverent humor and profanity. Still, it’s also quite serious about its themes. Namely that there’s no difference between humans and animals (and don’t get me started on the racism). This show might be your best bet if you’re looking for something hilarious but also thought-provoking!
The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera is a musical based on Gaston Leroux’s novel. It has been running for over 30 years and continues to be amazing. The show is still running in London’s West End, where it has been since 1986.
Les Miserables (also running and still amazing)
Les Miserables is still running and still amazing. It’s a must-see in London, with its cast of thousands who sing their hearts out. The stage design is spectacular, with many moving parts that don’t take themselves too seriously but look great nonetheless. You can see it at the Palace Theatre (Piccadilly Circus) or the Hippodrome Theatre (Dover Street).
West Side Story
West Side Story is a musical about two warring gangs in New York City, and it’s set in the 1950s. The musical tells the story of Tony. He falls in love with Maria and wants to escape from his life as a street fighter. He joins another gang, The Jets, who want to take over the neighborhood from The Sharks.
The show features some amazing songs like “Somewhere” by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim. It was written especially for this production, or “Tonight” by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II, sung by Tony – one of his favorite numbers!
The London theatre scene is vibrant and diverse, with a number of upcoming shows to look forward to. You can catch classics such as The Mousetrap or try something new like Mischief Theatre’s brand new show Noises Off. With so many options available, what are you waiting for?