10 Longest-Running West End Shows You Can Still See
As the old adage warns, “the only constant in life is change,” but great things are also meant to last. This is particularly true in the world of theatre, where a show only survives so long as the seats are being filled. The quality of productions in the West End is world-renowned, but some shows have gone above and beyond, remaining beloved and well-attended for years — or even decades! — thus solidifying their place in the legendary history of London theatre.
If you want to plan an unforgettable night in the West End, it should always include taking in one of these veteran productions. From classic murder mysteries to anthropomorphic extravaganzas, here are ten of the longest-running shows still raising their curtains in the heart of London.
The Book of Mormon (Feb. 13, 2013 – Present)
Irreverent, brilliant, and a favourite among audiences on both sides of the pond, “The Book of Mormon” is the satirical brainchild of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the same cheeky duo who created the hit TV show “South Park.” After arriving at London’s Prince of Wales Theatre back in 2013, the production promptly won four Olivier Awards and hasn’t looked back since, remaining one of the most sought after tickets in town.
Matilda (Nov. 24, 2011 – Present)
When it comes to inspiring young heroines with a penchant for mischief, no one takes the stage quite like “Matilda.” Although “Matilda the Musical” was first staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-Upon-Avon, the Cambridge Theatre in the West End has been home to this musical for nearly eight magical years, with no signs of slowing or growing up!
Thriller (Jan. 21, 2009 – Present)
Michael Jackson is known as the King of Pop for many reasons, and “Thriller Live” has been a reigning over the West End for more than a decade. Highlighting the legendary music of the Jackson 5 and Michael’s solo career, this spectacular production continues to rock the Lyric Theatre six nights a week. If you’re looking at the “Man in the Mirror” and wondering what to do this weekend, moonwalk over to this unforgettable show.
Wicked (Sept. 27, 2006 – Present)
Wicked cast a spell on Broadway audiences in 2003, and made its debut on the West End stage back in 2006. Since then, Elphaba, Glinda, and the colorful cast of this spellbinding production have been wowing crowds and “Defying Gravity” at every turn. You’ll leave the Apollo Victoria Theatre asking, “What is This Feeling?” and the answer is simple—Wicked is nothing but “Wonderful”.
The Lion King (Oct. 19, 1999 – Present)
Since roaring onto the stage in 1999, “The Lion King” has been a beloved mainstay on the West End roster. Boasting some of the greatest production quality in musical theatre history, this extravagant show has two decades of success firmly under its belt. The “Circle of Life” may keep on turning, but the popularity of “The Lion King” has taken on a thriving life of its own in London.
Mamma Mia! (April 6, 1999 – Present)
If you want to take a chance on an unforgettable night of theatre in London, “Mamma Mia!” will not disappoint. This jukebox musical based on the toe-tapping hits of supergroup ABBA now holds the title as the seventh-longest running musical in West End history. It began its historic run at Prince Edward Theatre before moving to the Prince of Wales Theatre and finally landing at its current home, the Novello Theatre, back in 2012.
The Woman in Black (January 1989 – Present)
The West End may be the place to find the best musicals in London, but it also offers some of the finest plays in the world. “The Woman in Black,” now the second-longest running non-musical play in West End history, is a spine-chilling play-within-a-play that has kept audiences jumping at shadows for more than three decades. This production bounced between four different West End theaters during its first year, but has called The Fortune Theatre home since August 1989.
The Phantom of the Opera (Sept. 27, 1986 – Present)
If you are a theatre lover and have yet to hear the “Music of the Night”, book your tickets for “The Phantom of the Opera” at Her Majesty’s Theatre immediately. One of the most celebrated musicals in history, this dark romance has captivated audiences for more than three decades, so “All I Ask of You” is to pencil in a performance next time you want a mind-blowing evening on the West End.
Les Misérables (October 8, 1985 – Present)
Despite being based on the Paris Uprising of 1832, “Les Misérables” remains one of the most timeless and impactful musicals in history. First appearing on the London stage in 1985, the iconic John Caird and Trevor Nunn production closed July 13, 2019 as the longest-running musical in West End history, but a new revival will be premiering at the Queen’s Theatre later this year!
The Mousetrap (November 25, 1952 – Present)
When it comes to lasting power on the London stage, no production even comes close to “Mousetrap,” Agatha Christie’s murder mystery masterpiece. Boasting more than 25,000 performances in its 77 years on the West End, this St. Martin’s Theatre staple is the longest-running play in history. Whether you’re seeing it for the first time or the fifteenth, the world-famous twist ending still thrills.