The West End is Britains premier theatre destination. Getting a run on the West End is a dream for many actors, directors and playwrights who are active in the British performing arts scene. However, it can be very difficult for new plays to break their way into the West End scene.
Some plays and musicals have been running in the same theatres for decades, whereas other productions have remained in the West End but moved between venues. So let’s take a brief look at some of the longest running shows in the West End:
The Mousetrap first opened in the West End in 1952, and has run continuously in the capital ever since. As of the end of 2016, there have been over 26,500 performances of the play. Although it was initially performed at the Ambassador’s Theatre, the play transferred to the larger St Martin’s Theatre in 1974.
Over the years, a number of big stars have taken on the lead roles, including Richard Attenborough, who played Detective Sergeant Trotter. Despite the fact that the play has been entertaining audiences for over 60 years, audiences are still asked not to reveal the twist ending to the play, so as not to spoil it for future viewers.
You can visit The Mousetrap website here.
Les Miserables is the longest running musical on the West End. As of the end of 2016, there have been over 13,000 performances in London. The musical has enjoyed a recent resurgence in popularity following the release of a blockbuster Hollywood movie of the story.
Les Miserables is a sung-through musical which contains no spoken words. The story is based on a novel by French poet and author, Victor Hugo. The show has played at three London theatres over the course of its West End run, including spending over 10 years at its current home at the Queen’s Theatre. Anniversary shows for the 10th and 25th anniversaries have included star-studded casts of West End alumni.
If you haven’t seen Les Miserables yet then all the information you need can be found on the website.
The Phantom of the Opera
The Phantom of the Opera made its West End debut in 1985, and has now enjoyed over 12,500 performances. The musical was composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber at the height of his fame. After initial success in the West End, productions were opened on Broadway and in other locations around the world. As well as continuing its run in the West End, Phantom of the Opera has been performed in 145 cities across 27 countries.
Until the release of the Lion King, Phantom of the Opera was the most financially successful live entertainment event in history. Productions around the globe have grossed over $5.6 billion! Since its opening night, The Phantom of the Opera has played continuously at Her Majesty’s Theatre.
Click here for London ticket information.
The Woman in Black
The Woman in Black began in 1987 and has enjoyed runs at the Lyric Hammersmith, the Strand Theatre and the Fortune Theatre. It has also been made into a film starring Daniel Radcliffe. There have been nearly 12,000 performances in the West End. The play itself has been widely praised for its staging, narrative and dramatic structure. The director of the play is able to create dramatic tension and staged horror using simple but effective techniques. Because of this, the play and performances are currently studied as part of the British Drama GCSE/IGCSE syllabus. The play is also critically acclaimed for only using two actors during the performance.
Those who are easily scared are advised not to see the Woman in Black on the stage, but if it’s sounds like your kind of performance then you can find the website here.
Blood Brothers is a contemporary story of fraternal twins who were separated at birth. Although it is no longer showing on the West End, it did enjoy over 10,000 performances over 24 years.
Due to the modern musical style and themes, Blood Brothers was a very accessible musical for performers who were hoping to cross between performance genres. Many soap actors and pop stars made stage debuts performing as characters in Blood Brothers. When it was first released in London, the production helped to highlight the inequalities which were being experienced in other parts of the British Isles. Since ending its run in the West End, Blood Brothers has toured the UK, US and other international destinations.
Tour and ticket information can be viewed here.