With so much choice when it comes to a crowded West End, how do you know what musicals and plays are worth forking out for? Well, luckily we’ve been to see most of them and here’s our top picks for 2014.
1. Once The Musical, Phoenix Theatre
It collected eight Tony Awards for its Broadway show before heading over to London last year and has captured the imagination. It’s been doing well enough for Once The Musical at the Phoenix Theatre to now be taking bookings until 4th July 2015.
Based on the Oscar-winning film, Once is a celebration of love, friendship and music. When an Irish busker and a young Czech mother meet through a shared love of music, their songwriting sparks a deep connection and a tender, longing romance that neither of them could have expected.
The cast has just gone through a big change with Arthur Darvill joining (briefly – he’s of Doctor Who fame) as the guy having previously played the role in the Broadway production. We’re afraid the brilliant Declan Bennett has now left to join the cast of EastEnders. Our loss is Dot Cottom’s gain clearly. Fear not though as the talented and beautiful Zrinka Cvitešić continues as the girl.
We’ve seen the show three times now and would go again tomrorow. Plus, you even get the chance to have a pre-show and interval drink on stage at the bar, which offers a lively busking set before the show begins properly, so get there in good time to see it.
It’s very funny, heart-warming and romantic – and we loved the music, there are some top, top tunes in the show which you’ll particularly enjoy if you like things folksy.
2. The Book of Mormon
One of the biggest openings last year was another show that lit up Broadway before arriving in London. The Book of Mormon is from the creators of South Park and so if you’re familar with the infamous cartoon series you’ll have an idea of where this show goes with its humour. It’s booking at The Prince of Wales Theatre by Picadilly Circus until 20th September.
It is very, very funny and intelligently written. However, if you’re easily offended this might be one to stay away from – certainly don’t take your granny. But the narrative has more depth to it than you might think and confronts the subject of belief in a refreshing and interesting way.
The story picks picks apart the Church of the Latter Day Saints started by Joseph Smith in upstate New York during the 1820s (“a Mormon just believes”). Now religion is usually a subject to stay clear of but this show smashes right through it. The music and routines have masses of energy and the opening at the Missionary Training Centre sets the cheeky, camp tone with young Mormons dancing eagerly in crisp white shirts and black ties; with lots of doorbell ringing for good measure.
3. War Horse
You’ve probably heard of this show by now which opened at the National Theatre several years ago and was a surprise hit. War Horse is still wowing audiences at the New London Theatre and booking until 24th October 2015.
The story is based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo and Steven Spielberg turned it into a hit movie. It’s a powerfully moving and imaginative drama but the star is the South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company which brings breathing, galloping, full-scale horses to life on the stage. It has to be seen – it really does.
War Horse is the tale of a young boy called Albert and his beloved horse, Joey, who has been requisitioned to fight for the English in World War One. Caught in enemy crossfire, Joey ends up serving on both sides during the war before landing in No Man’s Land, while Albert, not old enough to enlist, embarks on a treacherous mission to find his horse and bring him home.
This is a brilliant, brilliant show, trust us.
4. Jersey Boys
Now when we first went to see this (it’s now three times) we really had no idea about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. We didn’t really know much about the music, apart from a few obvious hits, and we certainly didn’t know about the fascinating yet true story behind it all.
It’s quite something that this show has lasted the course, so it’s clearly well worth checking out. Jersey Boys opened in London at the Prince Edward Theatre in 2008 and has now moved to its new London home at the Piccadilly Theatre. The winner of 55 major awards worldwide, the show charts the rise to fame of The Four Seasons, featuring hits including Beggin’, Sherry, Walk Like A Man, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, and Rag Doll.
A big hit in the USA on Broadway and in Vegas it’s perhaps a surprise that this has been such as success in London, but trust us – you will love this show. And if you can’t make it to the West End catch it on its UK tour, starting September and into 2015.
5. The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time
You might have read the novel. You might have only seen the news coverage of when the roof collapsed at the Apollo Theatre last year. The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time was wowing audiences until that horrible event but good news as it’s been announced that it will resume its West End run at the Gielgud Theatre from 24th June. A very different type of stage experience if visiting the West End of London, but it’s capitavting theatre.
The story follows 15-year-old Christopher. He records each fact in a book he is writing to solve the mystery of who murdered Wellington the dog. He has an extraordinary brain, is exceptional at maths while ill-equipped to interpret everyday life. He has never ventured alone beyond the end of his road, he detests being touched and he distrusts strangers. But his detective work, forbidden by his father, takes him on a frightening journey that upturns his world.
We loved it – didn’t expect to, but we did. Plus, everyone we have spoken to who’s been to see it has said the same. A bit of a flyer for some people perhaps, but this is a hot ticket.
Remember, you can get the best deals if you take a group of friends, see shows during the week and look out for deals that include a pre-theatre meal too. Some of the best places to buy your tickets include: LoveTheatre, Encore Tickets, and Ticketmaster. Plus, we really like the website from Official London Theatre too.