Phil Willmott

Celebrating the West End’s Longest Running Musicals of all Time. Part 4

The fourth and final part of our “at a glance” celebration of the twenty longest running West End musicals of all time.
Read part 3 here.

16. THRILLER LIVE, 2009 – still running, over 3,304 performances
Congratulations to the THRILLER LIVE team who’s new ranking in this top twenty inspired this appreciation of best selling shows. I'm sure no one will mind me saying that what tipped this show from doing steady business to being a long running smash was the death of mega-star Michael Jackson whose life and music THRILLER LIVE celebrates. The railings outside the Lyric Theatre became a temporary shrine where people could leave flowers and the focus of much media attention fuelling an appetite to see a show that’s really just a very slick concert of his greatest hits. Every time I’ve revisited it I’ve been impressed by the standard of performers they find to give rock-star like performances and you’re guaranteed a great show whenever you catch it.

17. ME AND MY GIRL, 1985 – (1985 revival / closed – 3,303 performances)
This was a great, feel good musical comedy from the 1930s that provided so much fun for all ages. The perfect, simple boy meets girl, romantic comedy was the ideal show to enjoy with your grandparents. Having experienced the waves of pleasure similarly loveable shows like Half a Sixpence and She Loves Me have inspired in audiences recently I think we’re going to see a lot more sweet and simple love stories in 2017 and maybe even a return of this delightful piece that lit up the West End and Broadway with its good natured charm.

18. EVITA, 1978 – (original 1978 production / closed – 2,900 performances)
Make no mistake the score of EVITA is a masterpiece, Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber succeeded in turning the life of an Argentinean dictator’s wife into a stirring, heart breaking musical journey shining the spotlight on a period of history little known outside Argentina. The sophisticated lyrics and gorgeous melody of its hit song DON’T CRY FOR ME ARGENTINA will improbably make you care about a ruthless and manipulative woman who died in her prime. That said the most recent revival in the huge Dominion Theatre sapped the show of much of its humanity and if we’re to see another revival I hope it’ll be in a more intimate theatre where we can all rediscover and enjoy it’s power.

19. OLIVER!, 1960 – (original 1960 production / closed – 2,618 performances)
Lional Bart’s musical adaptation of Charles Dicken’s bleak 19th century novel of child abuse and the triumph of goodness and humanity was the LES MISERABLES of its day. If your view of it is influenced by the singing urchins and whirling street market of the wonderful film you’d have been amazed by the richness and darkness of Cameron Macintosh’s last revival. This had a very respectable run at The Theatre Royal Drury Lane but despite a series of celebrity star turns in the role of Fagin it didn’t seem to inspire the same enthusiasm in family audiences that have kept sales of CHARLEY AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY and MATILDA so buoyant in recent years. It’ll be back though. There’s no way such a brilliant show with such an incredible score will remain unproduced in the West End for long.

20. GREASE, 1993 – (1993 revival / closed – 2,529 performances)
If you’re like me even reading the title gets the show’s wealth of hit songs like SUMMER LOVING, GREASED LIGHTNING, HOPELESSLY DEVOTED to you and YOU’RE THE ONE THAT I WANT rattling around my head. I’ve got a feeling this much loved story of a high school, bad-boy/nice-girl romance is just resting rather retired. It’ll be back. We demand it!