I am a musicals junkie; no, this is not an exaggeration, I really am. I have to admit I am not fan of living abroad; but the one thing I missed most about living in London is its West End theatres.
It wasn’t the overwhelming greenery, the ability to walk in the street and not be bothered or even the actual degree I was studying that I loved most about London; it was being able to hop off the tube, book a ticket ten minutes before the show and step in the magical world of theatre.
One thing that confused me though, was the overwhelming choice available in London’s West End theatres. So if you, like me, are a fan of the theatre and going to London any time soon, then from one junkie to another, here’s a list of my top five picks from the musical theatre.
Editor’s tip: you can shop for discounted tickets online on third party sellers like timeout.com or tkts.co.uk, at discounted theatre box offices in and around Leicester square or on the day of the performance; just make sure you show up at the theatre’s box office nice and early because tickets are limited. Also, make sure your seat doesn’t have restricted views of the theatre. If you aren’t with a big group, you can also go half an hour before the actual performance and buy from individuals selling discounted tickets; but make sure you show someone from the theatre your ticket before paying to check for authenticity.
1.The Phantom of the Opera : The music is simply unrivaled, it isn’t your classic opera — well, you can actually understand what they’re saying — but the music surely is classic. After attending The Phantom of the Opera, for weeks on end I have listened over and over again to its soundtracks on my iPod, it mesmerized me.
Combine Gaston Leroux’s classic novel with Andrew Lloyd Weber’s epic music and you know you’ve got a masterpiece show. The Phantom of the Opera has long been a hit in the musical world, telling the story of a disfigured musical genius residing at the Paris Opera House and causing terror to the resident artists. Phantom, who lives his life hiding at the Opera, takes on Christine Daaé, the secondary Soprano, as his protégée.
A little warning; this isn’t exactly a ‘feel good’ show, nor is it one to impress with choreography like most other shows. It is also probably not for a family with children. But if you enjoy a little classical music, then this is the show for you; it is by far one of the best musicals I have seen.
Tickets for this show are rarely ever found on discount. Tickets range from £23.00 to £86 and is now being shown at Her Majesty’s Theatre , Haymarket. For reservation call +44 (0) 161-385-1138
2.Mamma Mia : No, Mamma Mia the musical has nothing to do with the movie. Yes, it is the same story, songs and plot; but trust me, being in the live show is drastically different than watching the movie on even the widest screen possible.
I won’t go through the story details, you know, the same old Greek wedding, three possible dads sort of story. But the music of Abba in a Greek island context makes for the ultimate feel good show. By the end of the show the audience is always standing up dancing and clapping along — and I mean every member of the audience, the old, the young, conservative and even the rebel among them. It is such a feel good show that my family has seen it three times, and I, four. Even if you’re not a fan of Abba, you must be dancing and tapping your feet along the uplifting music and choreography. Mother Donna’s posse and Sophie, the bride-to-be daughter, make for a fun group and the actors, throughout the four times I attended the show, had always been dynamic and charismatic on stage; more so than Meryl Streep was in the movie, I must admit. It’s also an opportunity to sing along with Abba’s hit songs like Dancing Queen, Super Trouper, Waterloo and Mamma Mia without anyone paying attention to your off-tune notes.
What’s best, is that unlike most other West End theatres where you’re enjoying the show but can’t help thinking how crammed up your seat is, the Prince of Wales Theatre has just been renovated to offer comfortable seats with more space.
This show is suitable for families with children and discounted tickets are available but sell out quickly. Tickets range from £40 to £95 and is now being shown at the Prince of Wales Theatre ; 31 Coventry Street. For reservations call: +44 (0) 20-7812-7498
3.Singin’ in the Rain : Also a feel good show, Singing in the Rain tells the classic story of the movie, depicting the beginning of the talkies in the US. With classic songs like Singin’ in the Rain, Make ‘em Laugh, Moses Supposes and Good Morning; the show is a must-see for any retro songs lover like myself.
The show is based on the classic movie and tells the story of silent movies star John Lockwood who has to face the competition coming from the new talking movies in other studios. Lockwood falls in love with the talented chorus girl who does the voiceover for Lockwood’s silver screen duo.
Although with several theatres you can get away with the cheapest tickets in the theatre, I would strongly advise against it for this show. The Palace Theatre is very tall and steep, so our seats, which were way up high in balcony, had restricted views of parts of the stage; when actors stood in the front of the stage we saw nothing. But don’t get worked up and buy front row seats either; you will get wet, literally. Or if you do, make sure you stand away from the stage when Singing in the Rain song starts playing, not to spoil the show for you, but you would be watching in the rain.
Tickets range from £15 to £65 and £25 tickets are available on the day of the show. It is now being played at the Palace Theatre ; Shaftesbury Avenue. For reservations call 0844 412 4656
4.Stomp : If you haven’t been able to catch Stomp in Egypt, make sure you catch them when in London. To be honest, I wasn’t exactly excited about a show with nothing but bins, brooms and hammers; but Stomp really took me by surprise.
It is energetic, funny and fast; bound to keep your feet stomping along. The award-winning show is less talk, more music and features eight performers synchronized to perfection. It is definitely a different show than the usual West End suspects and has just undergone a new choreography and routine transformation. Although you can easily watch videos online, the live experience is unmatchable.
Tickets range from £26 to £49.50. The show is playing at the Ambassador Theatre; West Street. For reservations call 08448-112-334
5.The Lion King : A hit across the world, The Lion King continues to be one of the most popular music in the West End. Personally, I loved the show, although I wouldn’t put it among the top five kids if it wasn’t for how brilliantly entertaining it would be for families. This is the ultimate treat for kids; if you’re planning on dragging your kid to the theatre, at least give him something to work with. So if you have young teenagers or kids, this would be the show for you.
What is most impressive about this award-winning show is the direction. The show makes the story truly come to life through the full-sized zebras, giraffes and lions. The agility of dancers and singers and their imitation of animals’ movements is also remarkable. The show is especially vibrant when The Circle of Life is played and a parade of dozens of different species march and dance on stage. Bearing fine costumes and masks from around the world. The show truly feels like a staged carnival.
But why wouldn’t a musical featuring the sounds of Elton John and Tim Rice make for a hit show anyway? Telling the story of the ever-popular Simba and his journey towards being a king, The Lion King has something for everyone.
Last minute tickets are available on sale and prices vary between £ 22 to £70. The show is being played at the Lyceum Theatre ; 21 Wellington Street. For reservations call +44 (0) 020-7492-1561.