West End shows based on inspirational life stories
How do you learn about historical events? Maybe you curl up on the sofa to watch a documentary or an anthology series. Perhaps you listen to a podcast to delve into niche topics. Or you might go old school and read a book. But what about seeing live theatre? Yes, the West End is a place to learn a great deal about courageous figures who changed the course of history.
Find out more about incredible historical figures through theatre at shows such as Marys Seacole, Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Story and Six. Or explore the possible future of real-life political figures at new drama The 47th, a blank-verse play which delves into the next American election cycle. Here are some fantastic West End shows based on real people that you can see now.
Over the years, many singers have been celebrated with their own jukebox musical. Now, in one of the West End’s latest offerings, you can experience Bob Marley’s life at Get Up, Stand Up! The Bob Marley Musical and discover how his Jamaican reggae infusions became worldwide sensations. The religious and activist artist changed the face of live music forever through his powerful messages of peace, hope and togetherness. Throughout the musical, you’ll hear his greatest hits too including “Could You Be Loved” and “Redemption Song”, with topical political messages added to showcase just how inspirational and forward-thinking Marley was. There’s no need to shoot the sheriff for tickets, so book now.
With a back catalogue of songs including “Private Dancer”, “Nutbush City Limits” and “River Deep Mountain High”, Tina Turner’s life was almost guaranteed to be immortalised in musical form. Three years later, we’re still rolling down the river at the Aldwych Theatre to see Tina: The Tina Turner Musical. The hit show details her life and career right from her humble Tennessee roots through to global recognition as a solo artist, ending with a medley of Tina hits that could rival the best stadium concert. Plus, Tina Turner served on the creative team of her own jukebox musical, so you can expect musical greatness here.
Ralph Fiennes in a new David Hare play at the Bridge Theatre is almost an annual tradition in the West End calendar. Previously, Fiennes starred in Hare’s Beat the Devil, and now the pair collaborate once more for Straight Line Crazy. Hare’s biographical play delves into the psyche of Robert Moses, a civil servant who gained enemies and sparked outrage while transforming the New York City skyline. We know you might not be able to hop, skip, and jump over the other side of the pond right now, but you can imagine you’re in the concrete jungle where dreams are made of at Straight Line Crazy.
Get ready for a fun-filled history lesson like never before! Join Henry VIII’s six wives at Six in the West End, bringing the royal palace to the capital with glitz and sequins. During the 80-minute pop song-style musical, all six wives share their stories and heartache — some more so than others — in a competition to see who had it worst when married to the infamous Tudor monarch. But by the end, the queens realise that there’s a bigger power than royalty… girl power. There’s No Way you’ll want to miss this. Find out more about the Six wives before seeing the show.
Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow added glamour and sophistication into their lives as murderous criminals. While committing their crimes, they not only found their day-to-day activities alluring, but the pair found themselves in one another too. Discover more about the two infamous outlaws in Bonnie & Clyde. It’s a gut-punching production which charts their deadly spree, and this much-anticipated West End premiere boasts a killer cast too. Don’t miss out on this criminally good musical in London.
The finger-clicking, foot-tapping bio-musical makes its way back to the West End in sensational style. Jersey Boys tells the true story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and how they became a worldwide smash. The musical aptly unfolds over spring, summer, fall and winter, and by the end of a year (told over two hours) you’ll understand how the Jersey Boys become the indomitable musical force we know them as today. And you won’t be able to help singing along (in your head, of course!) with their indelible songs such as “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and “Sherry”.
Jukebox musicals usually focus on the artist whose music is being celebrated and sung. But what about the people who help the singers rise to success? Discover more about a pioneering female figure in The Drifters Girl in the West End. The show follows Faye Treadwell, the first African-American music manager who led the Drifters’ career, protected their reputation, and saw them become global doo-wop legends. Throughout the musical, you’ll hear chart-topping songs such as “Save the Last Dance for Me” and “Stand By Me”. Beverley Knight stars as Faye Treadwell in The Drifters Girl, so don’t go under the boardwalk – book now to hear the British Queen of Soul.
You may know of Mary Seacole as a Crimean war nurse, a contemporary of Florence Nightingale. But don’t let the history books fool you: she did a lot more than those initial stories may suggest. Throughout the 19th century, Seacole travelled and was a successful businesswoman who risked her life to care for others. In Pulitzer-winner Jackie Sibblies Drury’s celebrated Marys Seacole play, now running at London’s Donmar Warehouse, you’ll find out more about the woman behind the name and honour her legacy.
Donald Trump served as the 45th President of the United States from 2017-2021. Joe Biden currently serves as the 46th President. But who can — and who should — be the 47th? In this future-history play, The 47th examines what could happen to the USA if Trump were to run once again in the 2024 election. There’s plenty of “big, yuge” characters in The 47th, including a certain blonde-haired golfer, Vice President Kamala Harris, President Joe Biden, and Senator Ted Cruz. We’ve seen previous political plays take over the London stage, but now a gripping American dystopia takes over our theatreland.