West End Review Part 2

It’s been three years since I wrote my first review of the West End. And while we took an extended break from the theater during the time with the VWSNBN*, we have been back to the theater in full force since the theaters opened back up in 2021.

I have several shows to review so it’ll be split between three different posts. This one I’ll focus on the classic theater shows, the others will be modern shows and plays (not musicals). So without further ado, I’ll crack on.

Grease

Theater: Dominion Theater
Running Time: 2 hours 30 minutes (including interval)
West End Premier: Summer 2022
Ending West End shows: Oct 2022
Closest underground station: Tottenham Court Road (Elizabeth Line), Goodge Street (Northern Line)

What a high energy show this was! We headed to see Grease just last weekend and it was so fun. I have loved the movie Grease since my mom sat me down as a young girl and said “you’ll love this movie.” (Though to be honest as a kid I was sad when the whole thing wasn’t a cartoon like the opening credits >_< ).

When I told my dad I was going to see the play he let me know that the stage production and the movie are different shows. I had no idea that the musical came before the movie. And while I wasn’t in love with the new-to-me songs that didn’t make the movie cut, I wasn’t turned off either. In all the play came across with the same sing-a-long fun as the movie, though a little more disjointed. I felt that some story lines (mainly Danny/Sandy and Rizzo/Kinicki) came off more smoothly in the movie. I also missed out on the big scenes that can only be done on the big screen, but they did a good job of trying to bridge those gaps. I still left feeling satisfied by the stage production. We even got a sing along medley at the end which was great fun.

If you’re in London this summer/fall, check out the limited run of Grease. It’ll leave you singing the classics.

Les Miserables

Theater: Sondheim Theater
Running Time: 2 hours 50 minutes (including interval)
West End Premier: 1985
Ending West End shows: The longest running show on the West End, this classic is still going strong in its new home at the Sondheim Theater.
Closest underground station: Piccadilly Circus (Bakerloo Line, Piccadilly Line), Leicester Square (Northern Line, Piccadilly Line)

Les Miserables, the longest running show on the West End owns this title for a reason. This classic is absolutely breathtaking. The story will have you feeling every emotion from sad to joyous, triumph to despair.

Flashback about twenty years to when I was in high school, I found my family’s VHS (!) tape of the 1995 10th anniversary Dream Cast concert of Les Mis. This was my first experience with the musical and I absolutely fell head over heels. I loved the story and the music and even sang “Castle on a Cloud” to the young girl I would babysit when I put her to bed. I excitedly watched the movie back in 2011 and was more than a little disappointed (as I think a lot of us are), so when we finally got to see Les Mis after the theaters reopened last year, I went with equal parts excitement and trepidation.

BUT! Trepidation was completely unfounded. The show was breathtaking. Every single scene, song, costume, actor and set was impeccable. It is high on our list of the best shows we’ve ever seen in person. Tim raved about the show for a couple days after and if you know him, he doesn’t often rave about, well, anything.

Mary Poppins

Theater: Prince Edward Theater
Running Time: 2 hours 50 min (including interval)
West End Premier: 2004 and revived in 2019
Ending West End shows: Shows are booking out until fall of 2022 but that doesn’t mean it’s ending then.
Closest underground station: Tottenham Court Road (Elizabeth Line), Covent Garden (Piccadilly Line)

Another classic movie brought to the stage, though this one was the book, and then the movie, and then the stage play. I was excited about this play as Mary Poppins is a classic I grew up with. It was similar to the movie but not. If that makes sense. I found it about as enjoyable as Mary Poppins Returns, the movie. I enjoyed some of the original songs from the movie but much was different. There were some scenes I found a little creepy or weird (giant puppets anyone?!) but over all, it wasn’t terrible. I just don’t feel like it had the same draw as Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. But honestly, who in today’s shows really does? Not many people. It’s one to see if you’re near London and love the classic but if you miss it in lieu of something like My Fair Lady, Phantom or Les Mis, I think you’ve made the right decision.

My Fair Lady

Theater: London Coliseum
Running Time: 3 hours (including interval)
West End Premier: Spring 2022
Ending West End shows: August 27, 2022
Closest underground station: Charring Cross (Bakerloo Line, Northern Line), Leicester Square (Northern Line, Piccadilly Line)

Come to London for a limited time this summer is one of my favorite movies brought to the glory of the stage. With an all-star cast, this is a must see if you’re here before the end of August. Unlike other movies to plays, or plays to movies, this play was almost identical to the movie! Which of course made me quite happy!

If you’ve known me for any amount of time, you will know that I ABSOLUTELY ADORE Audrey Hepburn and her movies. My Fair Lady, another classic I’ve enjoyed since I was a little girl. I was excited but hesitant to see this one on stage as I know the original movie like the back of my hand. And while Audrey didn’t sing her own songs in the movie, I still think she was the most amazing Eliza Doolittle. But Amara Okereke was phenomenal. Her singing voice is out of this world and she was thoroughly convincing as her own Eliza. Harry Hadon-Paton (of Downton Abbey fame) was a wonderful Henry Higgins, as likable and unlikable as the character calls for. The rest of the cast was equally as talented as the leads but for me, the best part was Vanessa Redgrave as Mrs. Higgins. To see such a legend on stage just made my heart sing.

It’s such a limited run with this cast this summer but if you get the chance, please make it a priority. It was truly a magical show.

Phantom of the Opera

Theater: Her Majesty’s Theater
Running Time: 2 hours 30 minutes (including interval)
West End Premier: 1987
Ending West End shows: As it celebrates its 35th year on the West End, I doubt it’ll be any time soon.
Closest underground station: Piccadilly Circus (Bakerloo Line, Piccadilly Line), Leicester Square (Northern Line, Piccadilly Line)

For my birthday we headed to see another of the longest running shows on the West End, Phantom of the Opera.

I have loved Phantom of the Opera since I was a small girl (do you sense a theme here?). I found the sheet music in my dad’s classroom and instantly fell in love. Tim took me to see Phantom in Las Vegas twice and I cried each time as soon as the overture started. I was so overwhelmed with joy and the beauty of it all.

It’s been about a decade since I saw it live so I knew I needed to see Phantom on the West End. It took us a while to get there as there were other shows we’d never seen that top priority. But we finally made it this year and I’m so very glad we didn’t.

As with the first two times I saw the show, I cried when the overture started. In a smaller theater, halfway the way across the globe from the first time I saw this show, the beauty was unchanged. It was just as glorious as before, if not more so surrounded by the history of Her Majesty’s Theater. The costumes and sets were stellar and the cast, out of this world. If you have any love for theater, the classics, or opera, this is a must see.


Three years on from my first post about the West End. My love hasn’t dampened in the slightest. Even the plays that I didn’t LOVE were still phenomenally done. The actors and musicians are all so very talented. As well as the crew, costume and set designers. As I did before, I encourage you to catch a play in London if you can. They have something for everyone and if you’re in this amazing city for even one evening, I’d suggest spending it on the West End. You won’t be disappointed.

*Virus Which Shall Not Be Named.


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10 Comments Add yours

  1. The West End is one of the best parts about London- especially if you are a musical theatre fanatic

    I have been to England, and did see Les Mis in London- that was a date with mom. A dream come true (a love that started after giving the musical film a 2nd chance). As a matter of fact, it was my hometown’s community college’s production (which I saw 3x) that was truly the motor for wanting to Les Mis in the West End. The West End= when I saw it there, it didn’t feel like reality until I heard the first notes of the orchestra (at the time, still the Queen’s Theater with the Original Staging)

    Saw Les Mis in 3 cities and 4 theaters- as in the stage production

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pree says:

      Les Miserables would be amazing to see!

      Like

      1. It was sooooooo good.

        Like

    2. That’s so awesome! I love Les Mis so much. It’s nice to hear how it is as meaningful for others as much as it is for me.

      Like

  2. Pree says:

    Ahh, I need to go to the theater now 😂! Actually, it’s very cool you got to see all these shows at West End.

    Let’s see, I think the first (not school lol) theater show I saw was a local production of the Phantom of the Opera in Sacramento lolll. After that, I saw Wicked at the Orpheum towards end of high school.

    Then I saw Jersey Boys in Los Angeles, and Beauty and the Beast in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

    Like

    1. I saw Wicked at the Gershwin way back in 2006- first musical theatre memory. Also was a mom date

      I only saw Les Mis in The West End. My other musical visits were in the US (either in NC, SC, or MO). I rely on Broadway Tours, so luckily live in a major touring city

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re def blessed to be in a touring city! I grew up in a tiny city and LA was too far for my parents to take me to the tours. hah

        Like

      2. Charlotte is home to Blumenthal Performing Arts- the reason why we are able to have the musical tours

        Like

    2. Love it! Maybe we need to see some shows in Milan!

      Like

      1. Pree says:

        Haha yes that would be fun

        Like

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