Phil Willmott

Celebrating the West End’s Longest Running Musicals of all Time. Part 2

Part two of our “at a glance” celebration of the twenty longest running West End musicals of all time.
Read part 1 here.

6. STARLIGHT EXPRESS, 1984 – (closed, 7,406 performances)
This was a massive hit for Andrew Lloyd Webber in the late 1980s. When ever and where ever the show visits it turns the theatre into a huge train set in which roller skating actors playing trains spectacularly sing, dance and race their way around a track in a simple story, which, like cats doesn’t require you to have much English. This may explain why it’s still such a massive hit around the world and why we can expect ALW to bring it back to the West End sometime soon.

7. DISNEY’S THE LION KING, 1999 – still running, over 7,175 performances
If you haven’t seen this brilliant combination of African inspired puppetry and Disney style fun, all drenched in African sunshine and featuring some of the best songs in the West End then do yourself a favour and book. It’s the story of how a young lion cub learns to be an adult via his adventures with a colourful gang of friends so it’s another great show that’s a hit with audiences of all ages.

8. CHICAGO, 1997 revival – (closed, 6,187 performances)
This smart and sassy adult musical about two sexy female killers was a long runner on both sides of the Atlantic and the basis for an Oscar winning score. The original production is still touring the UK offering older audiences a sophisticated night out in the company of scantily clad, great looking male and female performers telling a glorious tale of sleaze and cynicism from the roaring twenties. Offering several great roles for celebrities of limited talent, I think it’ll be back in London soon.

9. BUDDY – THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY, 1989 – (closed, 5,140 performances)
I never saw this much-loved tribute to rock and roll legend Buddy Holly. It’s still performed in theatres up and down the country but as the older rock and roll generation begin to dwindle I'm not sure there’s enough demand to see it return to a West End theatre.

10. WE WILL ROCK YOU, 2002 – (closed, 4,659 performances)
This was a ghastly mess which I hope never embarrasses itself with a return to the West End. It was based around a silly, incomprehensible futuristic plot and only really of interest to die-hard fans of the rock group Queen. Still, there was enough of them to keep the show running for many years in the cavernous Dominion Theatre whilst it wrecked the voices of performers singing the demanding score night after night.

Read Celebrating the West End’s Longest Running Musicals of all Time. Part 3